Monday, 30 August 2010
Battle Royale II - A Snap Decision.
Author - MrCraiggy
I would like to point out, I only decided to review this movie forty minutes into watching it. I make a note of what happened at this point later in the review which was the catalyst for prompting me to do so.
WARNING!! Spoilers ahead!
- This review will reference plot material from the movie and as such, may spoil the story for you should you ever intend to watch this movie of your own volition.
That being said, let’s move on to the review. BRII is the sequel to the 2000 Japanese cult classic, Battle Royale. This movie was released in 2003 and is coincidentally also set 3 years after the events of the first film. It was directed by Fukasaku Kinji, the director of the first movie, but he sadly died part way through filming and so his son, Fukasaku Kenta, writer of the screenplays for both films, took over the directing role.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Battle Royale, I suggest you go out and watch it or read the manga, as the original book the story is based on is very difficult to come by in an English translation to my knowledge, but until then, here’s a brief synopsis and the filler between the two films: Japan’s school system has fallen into disarray and the youth are degenerating with lower test scores and uprisings of rebellious behaviour against adults; as such, the Battle Royale program was created. This program allowed teachers to nominate their classes of insubordinate rapscallions and one of the nominated classes would be selected at random and transported to an abandoned island to kill each other for the rest of Japan’s entertainment (Seriously, Japanese TV just gets weirder and weirder...). The kids would then have explosive collars fastened to them. Usual deal, tamper with them = boom, break the rules = boom, linger for too long in a designated ‘danger zone’ (sing it with me now) = boom. The students had a set period of time to kill each other until only one remained and were each given randomly allocated equipment bags which included rations, plus a random ‘weapon’ item, some good, some bad, some plain useless. Anyway, long story short, two kids in love survive and refuse to kill each other, manage to escape, hurrah, thus ends a great movie. Then the second one begins with our hero from the first movie, Shuya, explains that he’s formed a terrorist group called Wild Seven along with his girlfriend Noriko and they wage war on the adults of Japan. We also find out that the Japanese government has created a new program, Battle Royal Two...
Our film then starts with a shot of what looks like two skyscrapers being blown u- wait, what?! Okay, seriously, this film got lucky. It didn’t get banned from distribution in America, however, it never originally was scheduled for a distribution order IN America, though bootleg copies still found their way over and eventually other versions crept in, so, it’s a touchy subject, but moving on, we get some generic classical music expected of this genre (Dies Irae from the Verdi Requiem if anyone’s interested).
Cut to Shiori. She’s the daughter of the teacher from the first movie and, upon finding that her dad held a student of his (Noriko) in higher regard than her, she gets all moody and signs her school up for BR2. Cut to a scene of the school kids playing rugby (union rules I have to point out, sadly...) which, I honestly never knew they played in Japan, go figure. And so our class are on a coach passing around and signing a rugby ball as a sign of their friendship and bonding etc. But then, the coach enters a tunnel, kids get gassed, pass out, they’re at a military compound.
So, wouldn’t you know their teacher is put in charge and explains the rules of the new BR2 program, saying that it is designed as a game again, but the class would be working together to hunt down and kill Wild Seven, especially Shuya. Oh yeah, and the kids have all got explosive collars again, but this time there’s a twist. One of the kids is killed because he doesn’t want to take part and we then hear a beeping from one of the collars to which the teacher points out “Oh, by the way, these things are paired now, so whoever your seating partner is in class, if they die or move outside of fifty metres from you, you go boom too.” Seriously, somebody needs to CRB check these teachers more thoroughly!
So yeah, the kids’re sent out to attack Wild Seven’s base in a scene much like the beach from Saving Private Ryan only with Japanese teenagers with machineguns and skate helmets (Yeah, skate helmets. Goggles too). One kid - I didn’t catch his name, but more on that later – cops a bullet to the neck and dies, triggering his partner’s collar. Boom! One landing craft sunk. Another kid jumps off, breaking the fifty metre rule. Boom! Another landing craft gone. My word! Like the first movie, the audience gets a kill count whenever somebody dies and are told how many are left. We started with 42 kids, so far 14 of them have snuffed it, we’re a half hour into the movie... Hell, I’m not even sure half of those kids had names!
So yeah, we get a brief bit with this movie’s ‘badass’ character called Ryo who runs a bit, shoots a bit, watches people die, gets angry. I reckon he’ll make it almost all the way to the end of the movie and then die saving the protagonists. A few more deaths, a cut to the other group who are scavenging the island for ammo drops for their guns. A guy called Shugo dies trying to save a girl called Naomi (Nao) who, the way people keep referring to her and the fact that she is also friends with Takuma (Taku) (My guess at the main protagonist), she’s the love interest of the movie. Anyhoo, Shugo’s collar beeps and they can’t figure why because he’s still alive, they’re trying to first-aid his ass, but then they notice his partner who’s in one of the ‘danger zones’ (Encore!) and then does a runner and then goes boom, causing Shugo to run for it to save the rest of his team and gives a big morale speech to Taku about how they were always a team, how they were friends, blah blah blah, look after Nao, one final heroic stand, sniper pops his head.
This brings me to my previous mentioned point about forgettable characters. According to my video player’s clock when I paused it at the latest kill count after Shugo dropping we’re 37 minutes into the movie and have lost 18 of the original 42. Now, I can kind of understand what the film’s trying to do here; thin the ranks so the audience can focus on the more important characters, it’s red-shirt syndrome. But! And this is a big but; when you try to have emotive, character developing moments (Like with Ryo on the beach and just now with Shugo, and back near the start with the collar explanation) the audience just can’t feel emotionally attached to the death of a character who has been on screen for all of two, maybe three minutes... Depth cannot be added to a character if they then immediately die! This doesn’t make for a detailed plot, it’s just poor character development... I bet those kids only had two days ‘til retirement too. I was going to create the “Battle Royale 2 Drinking Game.” Every time someone pointless dies, take a shot, but we’d be wasted before even the halfway point, that’s 14 shots so far (I’ll count the ‘character building’ deaths and the ‘plot filling’ deaths as purposeful)
Right, so the story continues, and we get an update from the teacher in this film, Riki. He tells us that 18 have died so far and that he’s disappointed and that these deaths lacked individuality... I know what he means. Also, this guy’s nuts. He’s really opposed to the calm, collected insanity of Kitano - the teacher from the first film (Oddly played by Kitano Takeshi). I like Riki so far, he’s just crazy, and for some reason is also wearing a collar himself.
So yeah, film progresses, people die, not giving away the ending. If you want to, go and watch it yourselves. This film is very, average. There were good bits, don’t get me wrong, and the deaths are very well designed (The Japanese do gore very well) but they just didn’t have the edge or the suspense of the first movie. Sure the first movie had its own share of needless characters who just died for the sake of dying, but this film seemed to go way over the top, especially because almost half of the new characters are dead before the movie’s halfway done. From an actual plot point of view, this is actually a half decent sequel; it answers questions, it progresses the story from the previous film. From a structural point of view however, it peaks too soon. Too many deaths at the start to clear the path for the ‘meaningful’ characters later on leads to less action in the second half of the movie; well, in my opinion at least. And for the record, it's a predictable plot, so without giving away spoilers, you can still probably guess the end. Oh, and for the record, my guess about Ryo was semi right; he died, but it was just in a normal skirmish, this further proving my point about pointless character development.
My final opinion is this: If you enjoyed the first movie, then I would definitely recommend watching this one if only for the plot progression, but do not by any means expect to enjoy it anywhere near as much as the first film. If you haven’t seen the first movie, then why the hell are you watching this?! Go watch the first one, NOW!
This is Mr Craiggy, signing out for Three Guys.