Monday, March 26, 2012

Movies: "Battle Royale"

Wow! I couldn't have planed this better if I tried. No sooner do I see, and post about "The Hunger Games" than Google goes and puts up a legal release of the Japanese cult classic "Battle Royale". 

From the Google Play site:

"In a future where society is on the verge of collapse, the government takes drastic action against the problem of rebellious teenagers in this violent sci-fi opus from Japan. In the year 2002, Japan's economy has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, and massive unemployment and inflation have thrown most adults into a state of chaos; the nation's youth culture responds with unprecedented violence, delinquency, and truancy. Desperate to restore order, the Japanese parliament responds by creating the Millennial Reform School Act, in which groups of junior high students are selected at random, sent to an isolated island, and forced to play a rigorous war game, in which all but one of their number are killed. Kitano (Beat Takeshi) is an embittered school instructor who guides the 44 students of the Zentsuji Middle School's Class B through the deadly game known as "Battle Royale," as they struggle to survive against the elements and each other."

Let me make no bones about it, when Kinji Fukasaku put this film together, he said to himself "lets pull no punches", and the audience was shown no mercy on the topic of what teens would do when forced to compete for their own survival at each other's hands. But not only is the film violent, it is also an unyielding study in characters, some heroic, some honorable, some desperate, some depraved, some pure evil, and all of them, uniformly terrified. You're given a array of characters to watch, and with nearly every on-screen death, you're left asking yourself what could you have have done in the same situation... and then,  more importantly, what would you have done.

The comparisons between "Battle Royale" and "The Hunger Games" are inescapable. I, for one, don't consider the latter to be a rip-off (see fourth paragraph of linked article), or plagiarized idea of the former, but rather consider-them artistically different takes on the same abominable, unthinkable, horrific idea. The films appeal to polar opposite perspectives of society, yet somehow manager to both present us with a triumphant, remarkable, and most importantly, honorable, pair of victors in the end.

Though I will add that Battle Royale cut to the heart of the matter much faster, and much more brutally with its Japanese release tag line.

"Could you kill your best friend?"

And for the record, I felt like "Battle Royale" was a sold 9 out of 10, far surpassing "The Hunger Games" on nearly all marks. 

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