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Sunday, 22 April 2012

REVIEW/THOUGHTS [Movie] -- Battle Royale

Format Watched [Specific Edition, if any]: Blu-Ray + DVD [The Complete Collection]
Approx. Runtime (Battle Royale: Director's Cut): 122 minutes (2 hours, 02 minutes)
Approx. Runtime (Battle Royale: Theatrical Cut): 114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes)
Approx. Runtime (Battle Royale II: Requiem): 134 minutes (2 hours, 14 minutes)
Language Watched: Japanese with English subtitles; English
Other Language(s) Available: None
DVD Extra Content? Yes
Type of Movie: Bloody, Suspense, Action, Psychological
Overall Impression: I have loved Battle Royale ever since I first watched it. It is totally worth seeing. The sequel sucks, though.



Note: Even though this Complete Edition contains Battle Royale I and Battle Royale II, for this blog, I will only review at length Battle Royale: Director's Cut [which I will refer to as just Battle Royale]. Battle Royale: Theatrical Cut, Battle Royale II: Requiem, and Battle Royale in other media will be briefly mentioned.


PERSONAL STANDING (Pre-exposures, thoughts, etc.)
I've watched Battle Royale many years ago (maybe 2004?) in Japanese with English fansubs (because it wasn't licensed back then). Even though bloody movies aren't really my thing (sometimes I have to cover my eyes during really gory scenes), I really enjoyed this.

I honestly never thought that I would own a licensed copy, due to Toei's (the company that owns the rights to Battle Royale) condition years ago that the movie had to have a mass theatrical release. I don't know if that condition was relaxed, but it is now licensed. And it's in my hands. And I'm blogging about it right now.


STORY
Before I start, check out the original trailer for Battle Royale. I think it sets the tone quite nicely.


Now, in a bit more detail: At the end of the millennium, Japan's economy drastically fell and millions became unemployed. Losing respect for the adults, 800,000 students boycotted school and juvenile crime went up. Fearing how the children would turn out, the Millennium Education Reform Act (AKA BR Act) was passed. The BR Act is as follows:

One Grade 9 class is randomly selected. The students are then placed on a deserted island and have three days to kill each other off until there is only one survivor.

Kitano telling Class 3-B their lesson plan.

Battle Royale follows Class 3-B who are selected for the BR Act.

"GAME" DETAILS
In Battle Royale, every inch of the "battlefield" is divided into zones. Every now and then, the higher-up (Kitano) will announce who has died and which zones will become "danger zones" at which time. If a student is in a "danger zone", then their electronic collar (every student wears one) will activate and explode.

Before the game actually starts, each student gets to take their personal bag and another bag that contains food, water, a compass, a map, a flashlight, and a random weapon.

After that, it's pretty much anything goes during those three days. If there is more than one survivor by the end of the time limit, then everybody's collar will activate and nobody "wins".

I am still unsure if Battle Royale is televised. I think only the results are televised, nothing else.

MORE THAN JUST A SHOCK, TEEN BLOODFEST MOVIE?
YES! If Battle Royale was such a movie, I don't think I would be able to watch it as often as I have (I have it playing right now while I am blogging). Of course, I do enjoy it when I see the characters I hate meet their "Maker". There is a lot of substance in this movie -- through character interactions and seeing how each of them deal with their current situation.

Battle Royale addresses so many different issues. If you were placed in that situation, what would you do? Would you be willing to kill your students? Your friends? Can you live with yourself if you do? Would you team up with somebody and try to find a way out? And if you do team up, how much will you trust that person? How would you know if that person would trust you back equally? Many, many questions come up, and Battle Royale looks at many of them. I think these issues make up the real core in Battle Royale, not the bloodiness.

PACING AND STRUCTURE
When I first watched Battle Royale years ago, I thought the pacing was a bit slow (maybe I was too hyped up by others into thinking this would largely be a gorefest of a movie and was then expecting that). I also thought the structure was a bit disjointed. A few times throughout the movie, the screen goes black and shows a character's thoughts in writing. The very end also features a few scenes. I didn't understand why they were at the end of the movie instead of being integrated in the movie.

Now I have no issues with either the pacing or structure. I think the very last scene is touching (now that I understand it better -- I think I was too young to really get it before). Though I still don't have much care for the basketball scenes. For those who haven't watched Battle Royale, you're probably wondering, There are basketball scenes in a movie about students killing each other off?

At times, I almost wish the movie was longer -- I get a little sad now whenever it ends.

BATTLE ROYALE VS. THE HUNGER GAMES
I know I mentioned this in my blog about The Hunger Games, but I'll say it again: Battle Royale came before The Hunger Games! It is not the other way around. I will also say that they are not comparable. That's all I wanted to say here. A more detailed "comparison" between The Hunger Games and Battle Royale is in my blog mentioned above.


ACTING/CHARACTERS
The acting is great. Almost all of the students were played by 15 year-olds (about how old they should be in the movie), and they did a great job. Very convincing. Beat Takeshi was really good as Kitano. I think his subtle humanness added a lot of complexity to his character.

CHARACTERS
There are very few characters in Battle Royale that I outright hate. I can't really fault the characters for doing what they're doing to survive. But for the characters who were annoying (there are only two I can think of -- will mention their names at the end of the blog), I was quite glad when they hit the bucket. By default, I do not like Mitsuko Souma or Kazuo Kiriyama.


For everybody else, though, it was rough watching them go. Many of the characters are relatable -- even Kitano. I really like Kitano -- I have a lot of sympathy for him, despite his actions. I also really like Takako Chigusa -- her conviction is really awesome. I like Shinji Mimura's intellect. I could go on for a while, so I'll just say that I like Shogo Kawada, Nanahara Shuya, Hiroki Sugimura, and Nakagawa Noriko as well -- they are cool, likeable characters (for me, at least).


MUSIC
The music fits nicely. It's pretty much all classical, orchestrated pieces that enhances the atmosphere. I love the opening track -- so intense! Many times I don't actually hear the music, but I know it's there, and I know it's doing its job well.


ENGLISH DUBBING/SUBBING
ENGLISH DUBBING
Yes, I took the hit for everybody and watched the English dubbing of Battle Royale just so I can tell you how it was. There is no English dubbing available for Battle Royale: Theatrical Cut or Battle Royale II: Requiem (thank goodness, haha...).

The English dubbing was... ugh. There were some voices that worked and some that didn't. Kitano's voice was horrible. He sounded like a froggy drill sergeant. Shuya sounded spaced out and ambivalent at times. Noriko's voice was pretty close to the original, but it clashed with the dubbing of everybody else. Chigusa's voice was too high. Pretty much, the more distinct the dubbing was, the worse it sounded. The generic English dubbing for the lesser important characters actually sounded better, in my opinion.

ENGLISH SUBBING
I have one beef with the English subtitles. There is no extra layer for subbing for just Japanese text. That means that if you were watching the English dubbing, you have to have the English subtitles turned on if you want the subbing for Japanese text (for those times when the screen goes black and all you see is a character's thought in writing, for example).


DVD EXTRA CONTENT
Overall, I think some of the segments could have been lumped together, because not everything stood out, and some of the same footage showed up in different segments. I think more English subbing would have been great as well. Here are all the extra content with some comments from me (if any):

MAKING OF BATTLE ROYALE (50 mins)
This was interesting. You get to see how the director (Kinji Fukasaku) is like -- very energetic and quite strict. He tends to be very specific for certain scenes, even to how some characters should move when taking their bags. It was neat to find out that some of the cast members did their own stunts. I have new appreciation for the lighthouse scene, after seeing how taxing it was on some of the cast members emotionally.

 The director (Kinji Fukasaku) adding more "blood" to a prop.


BATTLE ROYALE PRESS CONFERENCE (12 mins)
A press conference with Fukasaku, the author (Koushun Takami), and some of the cast members before the advanced screening of Battle Royale. Beat Takeshi was very funny.

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO: BIRTHDAY VERSION (3 mins)
A short, cute clip of the cast and crew celebrating Fukasaku's 70th birthday.

AUDITION & REHEARSAL FOOTAGE (7 mins)
This should have been longer. I would have loved to see more. It was neat to see rehearsals for scenes that got changed in the end.

SPECIAL EFFECTS COMPARISON FEATURETTE (4 mins)
This was okay... but not that interesting in the end.

TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2000 (4 mins)
About the same thing as the Battle Royale Press Conference segment -- just a different location, cast members, and event.

BATTLE ROYALE DOCUMENTARY (12 mins)
Here Fukasaku and some of the cast members talk a bit about the movie and some of the characters. This should have been longer.

BASKETBALL SCENE REHEARSAL (9 mins)
This was okay. I never realized that the basketball scenes were shot months after they finished shooting Battle Royale: Theatrical Cut.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTE (10 mins)
All I remember from this is how one girl was trying to get into a sad state to play her part. And that I really want to wear the school uniform (guy or girl's, it doesn't matter).

FILMING ON-SET (11 mins)
This should have just been lumped in with the Audition & Rehearsal Footage.


PACKAGING
The packaging is sleek and cool-looking. I do have one beef with it, though. Here are a few pics from the packaging:







This is my beef: why were the discs placed in this way? For me, personally, I found it difficult to take out the discs.


BATTLE ROYALE VS...
BATTLE ROYALE: THEATRICAL CUT
Battle Royale: Theatrical Cut was released before the Director's Cut. The Director's Cut is Battle Royale: Theatrical Cut, but with some added scenes. I would recommend watching the Director's Cut to get the full story because some of the scenes add character development.


BATTLE ROYALE: NOVEL

The novel came first. The novel and movie are slightly different from each other. I personally prefer the movie, because I like Kitano's characterization in the movie much more. In the novel, Kitano is just an authority figure -- not connected to Class 3-B in any way. There is more characterization in the novel, though.


BATTLE ROYALE: MANGA

The manga has more character development than the movie, and it follows more closely to the novel. It is also much more gory and graphic -- more nudity and sex as well. I'd probably say this is the most "adult" of all Battle Royale media.


BATTLE ROYALE II: REQUIEM

 The sequel sucks. Just saying. The premise sucks. The acting sucks. The script sucks. The whole "game" system sucks (they changed the rules around). It is almost like the adults don't want to give the kids a fighting chance at winning or anything. Beat Takeshi was great in his scenes, though!


CLOSING THOUGHTS
Battle Royale is a movie that's full of substance. I highly recommend this movie to everybody, even if bloody movies are not your thing. Even with all that happens in the movie, it somehow still manages to stay very human.


Thanks for reading! If you want some more input about something I didn't cover, feel free to ask. :)

Usually I would have a "Spoilers" section here, but I think I covered everything I wanted to talk about.

These are the two characters I found really annoying (stop here if you don't want to find out):
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Kazushi Niida and Satomi Noda

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