Similar to Transformers, watching this movie elicited a response so strong, I started feeling the need to create a blog, just so that I could write about it. Not that this is relevant...
I remember adding the movie to my Netflix queue, because there was some stupid Stone Cold Steve Austin movie playing in theaters that was getting poor reviews. A large percentage of the reviews compared it to Battle Royale (typically, unfavorably, although since many critics didn't like Battle Royale, either, it's a little less clear cut). So, because I'm stupid, I decided to rent it.
And I saw it. Alone. On a Sunday afternoon. Afterwards, I no longer felt capable of interacting with fellow human beings on any meaningful level. I took a cold shower. I didn't feel any better. I went to church. Still didn't really feel well. I went to bed early (didn't sleep too well, either). Obviously, I've since managed to recover, somehow.
Battle Royale was crazy. Like super crazy. Like the kind of crazy that makes you go crazy not only by witnessing it, but just by thinking about it hours, days, even weeks later. This was some serious shit. Seriously serious.
Here's a quick summary: In the future, the shit hits the fan in Japan. Youth violence is on the rise, so the response is to have an annual "battle royale" where a single class, randomly chosen, from a trouble school will be sent to an island, armed, and told to kill each other. Last one standing gets to go home, and only one is allowed to return.
The movie is Japanese, and I have to admit that helps. They did an amazing job of getting a cast of kids who really look like they're only 13 or 14 years old (insert comment noting that I can't really differentiate ages of Asians, and so I just believed the given age by default). It also helps that they're not the best actors, because this movie celebrated the over-acting and cheesy dialogue of 13 year olds brilliantly.
The premise sounds ridiculous. It sounds over-the-top. Most people wrote the movie off as the worst kind of exploitation possible, especially with such young actors. A depressing number of people recommend this movie to others because they only see it as exploitation. I don't know what's wrong with them.
The movie is not about exploitation. It's about life during those terrible developmental years called adolescence. It's about the stupid things we believed when we were that age, and all the things that seemed so important until we finally grew up a little bit. Because, these kids don't get to grow up a little bit.
The movie is very violent. But none of the violence is cool. This violence is scary, unwanted, and inexplicable. We're treated to friends turning on each other with only a moments notice. And all of them are crying in fear and shock at what they are doing. But, friendships in middle school do sometimes dissolve at a moments notice. The only difference, is that these dissolutions are permanent. Screaming your sorrow to the corpses of your friends does not bring them back to you.
Of course, as these are middle schoolers, nearly all of them want to join with their current crushes. Over and over again, we see the children die in the arms of their current lovers, pledging their undying love. Is it cheesy? Of course. But the idea is that they haven't learned any other form of interacting with each other. To them, this is how they want to die. There are no thoughts of parents, or home, merely the person who is so important to them right now (and would typically be forgotten in just a few weeks if this were school).
That's what this movie's about. And it's unforgiving. By the end, the emotional weight of the characters is something almost tangible and finishing the movie is challenging. I'm not even sure it's worth it.
So, who would I actually recommend this movie to? Well, definitely my enemies. They totally deserve to experience that. Hmm, not too many other segments of the population. People who are heartless will probably be alright. I think the safes way to go is: people who liked Oldboy. If you don't know what that is, then Battle Royale is not for you.
So, if my description of Battle Royale caught your interest, then go find Oldboy. Then, and only then, should you seriously consider going out and finding this movie (and, personally, I would probably recommend just avoiding both of them). I guess if you need another Asian movie barometer (or you want a movie that's in the same language as Battle Royale, I don't know why) then you could also go find Suicide Club. If you still want to see Battle Royale, then more power to you. You've been warned.
That is all.