By Dave B.
This is my first time watching Battle Royale (2000, currently on Netflix). I have heard of it, of course, as the book and movie that provided the inspiration for Hunger Games (that’s my polite way of saying that Suzanne Collins stole and Westernized the plot of Battle Royale, but I digress). Briefly, in Battle Royale, due to a massive wave of youth criminality and disrespect for authority brought about by high unemployment, the government institutes a law that requires one 9th grade class be randomly selected every year to compete in a three-day battle to the death on an abandoned island. If more than one student is alive at the end of the three days, all of the remaining survivors are killed. With that plot, it’s easy to see why this movie caused so much controversy when it was initially released.
Battle Royale is a hell of a ride and it works because it takes the characters from typical teenage dramas and drops them into an inescapable killing field. The result is sublime. Battle Royale is fast-paced and fun. It’s overly melodramatic parts are kept in check by a current of dark humor that runs throughout the movie. The acting isn’t always great (except for Ko Shibasaki who plays Mitsuko to perfection), but the movie is well-directed and generally well-written. It’s runtime is nearly two hours, but the film is so energetic and action-packed that it felt like half of that. Yes, the plot is thin and there are there are logical inconsistencies in the story (for example, it seems implausible that these kids had never even heard of the Battle Royale tournament) but it's easy to overlook the film's flaws because to its frenetic pace and high bodycount.
A lot of critics search for deeper meanings Battle Royale, likely because they feel guilty about enjoying a movie where kids brutally slaughter each other. My suggestion: Don’t bother. Do you go out of your way to find the true meaning behind The Expendables? No, of course not. You just enjoy the carnage. If you really need for Battle Royale to have some purpose beyond pure entertainment, I can suggest two for you: people are capable of doing ANYTHING under the right circumstances and a lot of people (meaning we viewers) will watch them do it for the sake of entertainment. Neither one of those is a moral judgement. They’re just part of what makes us human.
I definitely recommend watching Battle Royale. Besides being a classic dystopian film that has aged extremely well, it’s a great diversion.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.