Battle Royale (2000) Review

I would like to see a Battle Royale Hollywood remake. Not because I think it needs it, I don’t, I think Battle Royale is very good as it is, but because I’d be interested in how they handled it. In a time when money and reaching the largest available audience forces films like Die Hard 4 to tone itself down for a more inclusive certification, how would they handle or what would they change about a very mature film like Battle Royale.

I’m intrigued because I think the mature element is what makes Battle Royale so unique and successful as a movie. It’s not the most original of premises, we have seen aspects of the plot in films like Running Man, Lord of the Flies, 1984 and even more recently, The Hunger Games, but it presents the story in a no-holds-barred, bloody, violent and extreme way. I can’t imagine really showing the brutality of the story without actually seeing someone being shot with a bow and arrow or being beaten to death with a frying pan.

The film is bloody and realistic.

I could also see Hollywood change another of the films positive elements, the vast amount of characters and their room development. The film begins with a class of forty-two students who then have three days to kill each other until only one remains. It would be very easy to quickly skip over certain deaths, maybe cut to later in the day or the next morning and announce that twenty of the students died off-screen, but Battle Royale doesn’t do that. The film shows every death, even taking the time to build some sort of character development in, even with the students who will be on-screen for about ten minutes maximum.

This means that you actually empathise with many more of the deaths. It makes you wonder what you would do, whether you would adapt or be killed off very quickly, as we see each and every type of student we can think of. It also means that the central characters are not always the main focus. In fact, quite wisely, it takes a little bit of time to work out who our central characters will be and its only as we watch the same students slowly and against the odds, survive each attack, that we realise where the story is going.

Every student gets an on-screen death and most get some sort of character development.

Though when I say story, there is very little to it other than watching the forty-two students do away with each other in creative, bloody and gruesome ways. This seems like a negative but it’s not. The idea feels very unique and as I was mentioning before, the realism keeps it refreshing. There are moments of peace, like a section set in and around a lighthouse, which demonstrate the violence of children left to their own devises, like an 18  certificate version of Lord of the Flies.

Any attempt to build on the story can often be quite strange and there are moments that are very surreal. The climax of the film and the end of our heroes’ journey, as they confront the person behind the Battle Royale game, does get very weird and drawn-out but this feels like it reflects it Manga roots and Japanese style rather than being a drag on the film as a whole.

Some aspects of the film, particularly scenes involving this character, can be quite random.

It does make me wonder whether a Hollywood remake is coming or why a remake hasn’t appeared yet. I already criticised Hollywood for their poor remake of the Spanish REC but I think that a scene for scene remake would be a struggle for any studio looking to make money from this kind of film. They do now have Hunger Games (which I haven’t seen yet) which treads a very similar line so maybe a Battle Royale remake would be viewed as pointless… or even better, a mature Hunger Games would be viewed as unique and profitable.

Overall, a very mature, gruesome, realistic and interesting film that will keep your interest, regardless of its paper-thin plot and familiar story. There is enough here to keep anyone entertained and its success, though much more cult than mainstream, makes a remake seem inevitable. Not that would necessarily be a bad thing.

Rating 3.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

It does make me wonder what a Hollywood version with American students would be like.
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