Thursday 5 April 2012

Devouring Films: Battle Royale

I think I need to talk about Battle Royale. Because OMG, it's so awesome- like, much more awesome than I expected it to be, and I expected it to be pretty good because Quentin Tarantino said so. BUT I was expecting it to be good in a kind of violent, bloody way, and while that was definitely involved (spurting blood is basically an art form in Japanese cinema, I'm fairly sure) it also involved some real head thinking which, I have to say, I do like from a film.

As I'm sure is fairly obvious, I watched Battle Royale because of the whole Hunger Games thing. I mean, I had heard of Battle Royale before then, but I was fairly horrified by the whole concept- kids killing each other, what the hell?! Obviously reading and seeing The Hunger Games basically broke that taboo for me, and so I became a lot more interested in watching Battle Royale (plus they had it on Netflix, so how could I not watch it?!) And I don't really want to get into a whole Battle Royale vs The Hunger Games thing because 1. It's not as simple a comparison as you might think, and 2. I haven't read the book of Battle Royale so I can't make a fully informed decision. Also because I don't want to be mean about The Hunger Games, because Battle Royale is bloody AMAZING.

Seriously. Ok, so I don't want to tell you too much about it because I want you to watch it for yourselves and figure it out, but I'll say this. The basic premise of Battle Royale is that the Japanese government has collapsed, and all these kids walked out of school one day (like, 800,000, not just a few kids...) and as a punishment they set up this Battle Royale thing. So far, so Hunger Games (I don't know how aware of Battle Royale Suzanne Collins was when she wrote The Hunger Games, but there are a fair few similarities). But the thing is, this Battle Royale initiative seems to be fairly secretive, so instead of being fully aware that there is a chance they might be picked for this battle to the death, a whole class is kidnapped and then told they have to kill or be killed. And I think this is SO much more horrifying than The Hunger Games (here's that comparison thing coming) for two reasons- Not having any idea that it could happen, they have no way to at least slightly mentally prepare for it, so it's such a horrifying shock of a thing to have to do; and, even worse, the people they have to kill are their classmates, or, if you like, their best friends. I mean, really, it's horrifying!

One of the things I really like about Battle Royale is the way that every single death is made clear, and you get a few seconds to absorb the shock of each of them. Rather than just being like violence porn, you really get the sense that every life was precious, and it's tragic that each of them was lost. I feel like this was something lacking from The Hunger Games, where many of the deaths were just obscure and undocumented. Even more extraordinarily, some of the children in Battle Royale choose suicide, and refuse to be part of the government's game. I mean, colour me surprised that there are suicides in a Japanese movie, but really it seems like a much stronger protest than being involved in killing anyone else, and it's something that I can't imagine seeing in an American movie- in a way, it's a far more noble action, and it's just not something that fits into an American, individualistic way of seeing the world.

But anyway- I've already said more than I wanted to say, and I really just wanted to describe this one part of the film that I thought was really fantastic, and really reflective of what would actually happen in such a horrifying situation. While it's not really integral to the plot, I'm basically going to describe it as it happened, so if you want to watch the movie then turn away now (or, you know, start reading again where I put end spoiler...) So, basically, about 7 or 8 of the girls from the class have gotten together in this lighthouse and are essentially pretending that nothing's wrong- they're just on a nice school trip and are hanging out and everything's fine. Only one of the girls dares to say: ''we're all going to die tomorrow, aren't we?" (I should explain- if after 3 days there isn't a winner, everyone dies) and for this she gets scolded for being so negative! Everything's fine! And they just keep kidding themselves that this is the case, until one of their number is accidentally poisoned (and it is an accident, but to explain would be to give too much away) and everything goes INSANE. All the girls just snap, everyone starts accusing each other, and then they all end up shooting and killing each other. Which, obviously, is horrible, but also feels like something that would actually happen- delusions that everything's fine, followed by one little thing (ok, a poisoning isn't a little thing, but if it wasn't that, it would have been something else) that makes everyone distrust and hate each other, and, eventually, everyone killing everyone else. It's messed up, but it's probably the position that most real people would actually take in the circumstances. END OF KIND OF SPOILER.

So, basically, I was super duper impressed by Battle Royale, and also when I say I won't compare it to The Hunger Games, I'm apparently lying. Good to know, I guess! Basically, if you want kind of a more fucked up version of The Hunger Games, with arguably a better story behind it AND a belief that every death counts, then this is perfect for you. And even if you think you don't want that, you probably do so watch this anyway.


  1. I assume Julie Andrews didn't put in an appearance then? Shame :)

    I had this book on my wishlist for aaaages, but I deleted it eventually for some reason and I'm not really sure why. You have made me want to read it again though, so back on it goes!

    1. She didn't- she was sorely missed though!

      YAY for reading the book! I mean, I haven't read the book, but I want to now, but I read on Wikipedia that different things happen in the book and film AND the manga, so could be worth checking out all 3!

  2. I've been meaning to watch this.

    The Japanese? Suicide? Surely not. *glares more at Murakami*

    1. Do iiiiiiiiiiiit!

      Also, I KNOW, right?! Although in this context suicide=probably the sanest thing to do, because it stops you from being an evil governmental tool. But in general, yeah, boooo suicide (but never Murakami *gives his books a big hug*)

  3. This sounds really good and one of those things I probably should watch, although who knows when I actually will. However I love the idea that they show all of the deaths and you really feel the importance of life. That was something that bugged me about The Hunger Games but I guess it made sense in terms of the story. (Katniss can't be there to see EVERY death and has other preoccupations, and then the movie I'm sure tried to keep itself PG-13)

    1. It is so so so good (just in case I didn't get across how much I liked it in the review up there!) Although if I was still at school, it would totally make me scared to go on a school trip EVER AGAIN!

      That does bug me about the Hunger Games too, because it's all just like 'oh, that guy from district 8 died but that's ok because we knew nothing about him and only Katniss (and at a stretch, Peeta) really matter'. I mean, I get that's the way that Collins chose to play it, and that's fine, but I really like appreciating that ALL the characters had like lives and friends and family and everything, and that every single one of their deaths was tragic.

      See, Battle Royale is awesome, I can't even shut up about it!

    2. Yeah I would have liked to feel all of the deaths of the other kids, because then you get a better feel for how terrible things really are. Maybe the Hunger Games would have been better as an adult book instead of a YA one.

      Also on that, why didn't they ever mention suicide (with the exception at the end) in the Hunger Games? I mean granted, culturally I believe suicide is much more widely accepted in Japan than America, but still, you'd think it would have come up in THG. Cos not one person in the 74 years the Games were played ever offed themselves to get out of the game? (Again, why THG would have been better as a non-YA book)

  4. You're making my want to watch this again. I watched it at uni one evening when it was on tv but it was late and I was tired, I didn't take in much above the gore. I could kind of appreciate it was a good film though, just thought the gore was too much for me to watch it again.


    Especially the bit where the guy who actually wanted to be in it was in the explosion and his eyes melted. Then again that whole thing of him liking it was just disturbing.

    I think maybe I would cope with the book better

  5. Yayyy for Battle Royale! My affection for this movie is one of the reasons my mom things I'm a little off.

    Battle Royale is just so much more... badass than THG. You're right, it's not too fair of a comparison, but it's the same basic idea executed to VERY different ways, and I love em both. I wanna go re-watch this now.

    Warning, the sequel to Battle Royale is not nearly as good. Well, it's just very different - more politics and less kids offing each other.

  6. Yay!! I love Battle Royale (yet still haven't made the time to read the book)and the lightening house scene is my absolute favourite! As soon as you said you were about to describe a scene, I knew it'd be that one!

    While they're hardly the same book/film, the blatant similarities between the two were the main reason I didn't really like the first Hunger Games book as much as everyone else. I definitely like Battle Royale more, but THG isn't bad for an American/child friendly (ish) version.