5 Reasons Why Battle Royale is AWESOME
After a long, hard day, some people turn to chick flicks, or Friends reruns. Or they just get sloshed. Not me. I turn to Battle Royale. This fantastic Japanese cult classic (made in 2000) has been a comfort film of mine since high school. I can't tell you how many times I've watched it.
The premise: A class of high school students going on the sort-of equivalent of a senior trip is hijacked via a government act that randomly selects one class of students each year to battle to the death. Each student is given a bag with a mystery weapon (weapons range from machine guns to pot lids) and set loose on an island with three days to kill off his or her classmates. The students are given three days to battle it out, and told that only one survivor will be permitted to return home- and that if more than one student is living at the end of three days, they will all be killed (via explosives-enabled collars clamped around their necks).
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku and starring awesome people like Tatsuya Fujiwara (also starring in Death Note), Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Takeshi Kitano (a very famous filmmaker, screenwriter, comedian, etc.), and Masanobu Ando, Battle Royale offers the perfect combination of ridiculous violence, adventure, action, and nostalgia.
In homage to this fantastic movie, I shall now share my top five reasons for watching it again (and again and again and again).
1. Killer Awesome Death Scenes
I'm not one for violent movies. At least, not anymore. They've just gotten so... gross these days. So... wrong. Violent movies these days seem to be all about torture and the gross factor. It's kind of sick that audiences get such a kick out of them.
But things are different for Battle Royale. The violence in this movie offers the perfect balance between comedy, caricature, poetry, and drama. Each student gets a great death scene, and the screenwriters really got creative- both with choreography and with weaponry. We see people shot in all sorts of manners, stabbed, beheaded, poisoned, drowned, hanged, axed, and much, much more.
Violence is bad. Very bad. But when it is presented in such a humorous and ridiculous manner, one cannot help but enjoy it a bit.
2. High School Dynamics
One thing I hate about horror / slasher films is that the violence and killing is so nonsensical. Someone kills simply because he/she the bad guy, or because he/she crazy. How lame is that??
Battle Royale is awesome because it applies high school dynamics to the equivalent of a dystopian Japanese gladiator arena. Kids aren't just killing each other; they're squabbling over ex-boyfriends, banding together with fellow geeks, behaving like star-crossed lovers, and taking revenge on bullies.
One reason I loved this film so much in high school was because it provided a very physical demonstration of what was going on emotionally every day. High school can be a very competitive, stressful place, and watching students actually battle it out is extremely cathartic and oddly vindicating. I would prescribe this movie to any stressed out high school student. It busts stress and burnout like a charm.
3. Perfect Premise
One reason why Battle Royale is successful is it uses an age-old premise. Put a bunch of people in a controlled area. And make them battle to the death.
Humankind has been doing this for ages. We did it thousands of years ago in gladiator arenas, continue to do it today in video games, including much loved classics like Super Smash Bros. Futurist writers have even predicted the practice to re-manifest itself in movies like Gamer and books like the Hunger Games series.
In short, Battle Royale is built on a tried and true foundation. And it builds upon it exceedingly well. The characters created, not to mention the fun social dynamics, versatile environment, and varying weaponry, make for great, timeless entertainment.
One of the most surprising and delicious aspects of Battle Royale is its intense nostalgia. I challenge you to find any other film that is both this violent and warm and fuzzy.
And if you haven't seen Battle Royale yet, BELIEVE ME, this film is extremely sentimental. It's peppered all over the place with touching exchanges, nostalgic flashbacks, and even dramatic visual quotes.
Such an abundance in sentimentality is not uncommon in many Japanese films, but Battle Royale works it particularly well because the warm-fuzzies are so unexpected in such extreme scenarios. The nostalgia is at once ironic and refreshing, surprising, and appropriate. Just watch the film. You'll see what I mean.
5. Awesome Cast
Everyone in Battle Royale is awesome. Everyone does a good job dying/killing/being insane. But some of the film's actors stand out- both because of their acting in the film and the work they have done on other films/projects.
Chiaki Kuriyama - She plays Girl # 13 Takako Chigusa in Battle Royale, but is most famous for her AWESOME role as Gogo in Kill Bill Volume 1
Tatsuya Fujiwara - Shuya Nanahara in Battle Royale, Tatsuya also stars as Light Yagami- the lead in Death Note and Death Note: The Last Name.
Takeshi Kitano - Though Takeshi Kitano is a very accomplished actor, filmmaker and editor, screenwriter, author, poet, video game designer, and even tap dancer, I love him most as the host of Takeshi's Castle, a Japanese TV show that was run from 1986-1989 that was later introduced to American audiences in the form of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge- a fake-dubbed version of the old show that ran on Spike TV). When I was a baby with my parents in Japan, they recorded the original show and I watched it as a kid over and over.
Additional reasons this film is awesome...
I also love Battle Royale for the adorable uniforms, the hilarious training video the students are presented with before the battle, the film's humor and irony, and the dramatic music.
Why do you watch Battle Royale over and over? Or if you've never watched it before, do you think you will now? Share your thoughts in the comments below!