Several years ago CBS came up with a great premise for a show. Leave a group of people on a stranded island and see who can survive. I tuned into the first season of Survivor but all I saw was lame contests and the people who got voted off were “punished” by getting to go home and sleep in the comfort of their own home. I quickly lost interest in Survivor. Now if they really wanted to make it a good show then they’d make it so the contestants actually had to survive something tough and the winner would be the one who got to go home. Well if you’re with me on this then the movie Battle Royale is for you.
Battle Royale was originally a very popular and controversial Japanese novel by author Koushun Takami and was later turned into a movie and that even spawned a sequel. Then it was turned into a 15 volume manga. In 2003 Keith Giffen, who is probably best known for his work on DC comics’ Legion of Superheroes, later adapted the English version of the manga.
In the movie version of Battle Royale forty-two ninth graders are selected to compete in a contest. It’s like Survivor for ninth graders, except there are not any lame games, no counsel meeting, no teams and the only way to win is to eliminate the other forty-one students. And by eliminate I don’t me vote off, I mean kill off. Now that’s a reality show I want to see!
The students of Shiroiwa Junior High School were told they were going on a class trip but shortly after their departure the bus filled with gas and everyone aboard passed out. When everyone finally wakes up they are inside a building they had never seen before and are all wearing metallic collars. The students are then informed that they are chosen to be a part of The Battle Royale. Each student is then issued a survival backpack. The backpack includes a map, some bread and water and most importantly each backpack has one randomly drawn weapon. The weapons range from some heavy artillery like a shotgun and Uzi to some pretty weak weapons like binoculars or a pot lid. So why not just refuse to fight? Well that’s where the collars come in. The people in charge of The Battle Royale can detonate the collar of a specific player at any time. They will detonate the collars if: a) you refuse to fight b) you go to one of the forbidden zones on the map or c) you try and remove the collar.
The story is very compelling to begin with but it becomes even more compelling as the stories play out. How will the kids who are always picked on react when they are confronted with those bullies? How will the bullies act? Are they all talk and no action? What do you do if you encounter your own boyfriend or girlfriend or best friend? Some of the students decide to play the game. Some of them are good at the game and some are not so good. Some of the students decide not to play and try and band together to find a way out. But how will they avoid not getting killed by the other students or by their collars? If you want to know the answers you’ll have to watch it yourself.
Battle Royale is packed with two of my favorite things action and characters. The movie focuses mainly on seven of the students. There is Shuya Nanahara, the hero who promises to protect Noriko Nakagawa, the girl his best friend had a crush on. Shuya’s two closest friends Hiroki Sugimura and Shinji Mimura are both also featured. Hiroki Sugimura’s goal is to find two of the girls, his best friend and the girl he has a crush on. Mimura on the other hand takes the offensive by hacking into the Battle Royale’s computers while attempting to build a bomb. Another main character, Mitsuko Souma decides early on she is going to play the game and is very good at it. Lastly the Battle Royale officials have brought in two ringers, Shogo Kawada and Kazuo Kiriyama, to also play the game. One of them decides to play the game and the other decides to try and find a way off the island. Don’t worry though, you get to see all the other students in the Battle Royale too and they don’t cheat by just announcing who has been killed. You actually get to see what happens to each of the 42 students.
There is a lot of action in this movie and despite all the violence none of it is really bad. There is nothing gory that’s going to make you sick to your stomach. In fact, most of the characters die via guns although there are a few stabbings as well. You may have noticed that all the names are Japanese and like I said it’s based on a Japanese novel. Well this movie is also in Japanese. The version I rented did not have dubbed voices so if you don’t know Japanese you’ll have to read subtitles. Because of this it’s hard to judge how good the acting was as far as delivering their lines however the actors are very good when it comes to reactions and facials expressions. The scenery is really nice too, you really get the feeling they actually shot the movie on a deserted island and the music is also very good and adds to the suspense. Really the foreign language is the biggest obstacle. If you don’t like reading subtitles then don’t bother renting this. But if you don’t mind reading the subtitles then this is a very intriguing and action-packed movie with a great story and an assortment of great characters.