Battle Royale II [retro review]

“What people fear isn’t death, it’s being forgotten.”

The Scoop: 2003 NR, directed by Kenta Fukasaku and starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ai Maeda, and Shûgo Oshinari.

Tagline: We declare war on all adults!

Summary Capsule: The oppressive Japanese government once more drafts in an unsuspecting school class to take part in an involuntary war game; this time, pitting them against the survivors of the previous Battle Royale.


Rich’s Rating: This is why you don’t sass your teacher.

Rich’s Review: When I heard that the innovative and brilliant Battle Royale was due for a sequel, I must admit to having mixed emotions about the whole thing. Part of me was turning cartwheels at the prospect of a sequel to one of the best films I saw in 2000; but the darker, more cynical heart that beats within my chest soon let me know that surely there was no way they could make a sequel that was worthy of the name. I mean, after pretty much butchering the cast of the previous film there wasn’t a whole lot they could do continuity-wise; and while they could just show another Battle Royale with a different class, they’d just be chewing old soup, which is never a good thing.

So, when my import copy of Battle Royale II dropped through my letterbox this weekend, I was half afraid, half excited; kinda like the feeling you get just before you’re about to ask out that girl who you like in your class. You know the one I mean. The cute one. She’s way out of your league, by the way. And like that same cold hearted woman who laughingly rejects you in front of your friends and classmates, I was prepared for a big disappointment when I finally got the guts to load the DVD into the player and hit the remote.

Boy, was I wrong. Battle Royale II achieves the impossible feat of being completely different and innovative in comparison with the original film, while at the same time maintaining all the elements of the first one that everyone liked. It might also be a contender for that rarest of accolades “A sequel that’s better than the original”.

If you don’t know how the first Battle Royale worked, then you haven’t read my review, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m a little hurt by that. The short version for those of you too lazy to click the link and read the original review is that the Japanese government institutes a programme whereby a class of kids is selected at random, placed on an island with weapons and explosive collars, and left to kill each other for three days for reasons beyond normal human comprehension.

Battle Royale II is set 3 years after the events of Battle Royale. Shuya, the hero of the first film, has gone underground, forming a terrorist group called Wild Seven, opposed to the oppression of his fellow teens by the adults who control the system. They’ve even gone so far as to declare ‘war’ on all adults, and are holed up on a small fortified island.

The Japanese government, showing the kind of ingenuity that only they can, come up with a great idea; if Wild Seven want a war, then the Japanese government are happy to give them one. But rather than send actual soldiers to do the fighting, they simply pass the Millenium Anti-Terrorist Act, also known as the BR2 act, which allows them to take the class normally selected for the Battle Royale, kit them out with weapons, and send them off to assault Wild Seven’s island base. If the kids win, then a dangerous terrorist is dead. If the terrorists win, then another class has been wiped out which is exactly what the BR act is designed for in the first place. Either way, its gravy.

So initially, BR2 follows the same pattern of the first film. We see the kids of Class B, 9th grade in their natural habitat, where all the usual school crushes and feuds are there for all to see. Then the kids get ‘volunteered’ through the use of some knockout gas, and pretty brutally schooled in the rules of the Battle Royale. However, there’s a new twist to this years game; instead of working alone, the explosive collars all the kids are fitted with are now paired, boy and girl. And if one dies, the other collar explodes automatically, which gives everyone a pretty good incentive to work together.

If Battle Royale was Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale II is more Black Hawk Down, or Saving Private Ryan. After the initial explanation of the rules and the indoctrination of the kids, the majority of the film details the exploits of these confused and frightened teens as they are forced to play soldier for real against people who are really shooting at them. Like the first film, it’s amazing and compelling viewing; both in terms of the real quality of the acting from everyone involved (well, the kids anyway. Their teacher, who is the co-ordinator for their Battle Royale game, is exceptionally hammy and overacted, as only the Japanese can be) and the way the film is shot.

Also, so many of the things that make Battle Royale great are back in the sequel. The teacher explaining the rules to his class is just as darkly funny as last time; the scrolling death announcements as the students are picked off return. In a nice twist on the random weapon idea from the first film, the students get an ammo drop from a helicopter once they land on the island. Some of the ammo boxes contain ammo, some have a manual which actually tells the kids how to shoot the guns they’ve been given, and some of them contain toilet paper and a little card that says ‘You lose’. Nice. The filming is first rate; the battle scenes in particular are shot exceptionally well – I guarantee you will feel every bullet hit in that film, particularly the scene where the kids first land on the island. Messy, bloody, body parts action for all the family, and a great reminder, in case anyone needed one, about why its really not a good idea to get shot anywhere on your body.

Morally, the film is a quagmire of issues that a lot of people will find troubling. The conflict between the adults and the teens could be seen as superficial and overly angsty; though I suspect that it makes much more sense in the context of a nation which is far more oppressive in the raising of its children than people like me could conceive. The moral centre of the film, Shuya and his Wild Seven, are admitted terrorists who are known to have committed terrible acts in the name of Shuya’s war; and there are some anti-American sentiments expressed within the film that a lot of people might find disturbing. But don’t let those things put you off…not only do they make great post-a-few-drinks discussion items, but you would be missing out on a genuinely good film.

Geekouflage


Intermission!

  • The kids really look like the Mobile Infantry from Starship Troopers when they’re in their military garb
  • How did Shuya manage to get hold of all those candles?
  • The EMB must be some Japanese acronym for ‘Worlds Most Obvious Plot Device’.
  • If someone could explain to me what on earth is going on at the end with the teacher, the rugby ball, and the collar, I’d be very grateful.
  • After director Kinji Fukasaku’s death during filming, the production continued with his son Kenta Fukasaku as the new director.
  • The name of the terrorist group, “Wild Seven”, is Nanaharras nickname in the original novel. It is also the name of the brand of cigarettes that Kawada smokes in the novel.
  • Quentin Tarantino was offered a role but couldn’t do it because of scheduling. He said, “They wanted me to play the President of the United States.”

Groovy Quotes

Shiori Kitano: The thing people fear most isn’t dying, it’s being forgotten.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Battle Royale
  • Black Hawk Down
  • Versus
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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Battle Royale [retro review] « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

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