Battle Royale – Two Disc Special Edition
December 12, 2004
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takako Baba, Shirou Gou, Satomi Hanamura, Shigeki Hirokawa, Hirohito Honda, Hitomi Hyuga, Sayaka Ikeda, Aki Inoue, Satomi Ishii, Eri Ishikawa, Ai Iwamura, Sayaka Kamiya, Asami Kanai, Tukari Kanasawa, Misao Kato, Tsuyako Kinoshita, ,
A group of 40-or-so school kids are packed off, against their will, to a remote island with a heavy arsenal of weapons, with the only way off the island is to kill all their mates. You’d be forgiven in thinking that this was the pitch for the next crazy Japanese reality game show, but it’s actually the synopsis for renowned Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku’s 60th film, Battle Royale.
Fukasaku is well know for being an inspiration for the likes of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino, and for his work in the ‘yakuza’ gangster and wacky sci-fi genres. This movie has the first time dream pairing of Fukasaku and legendary actor/director/writer/editor/artist “Beat” Takeshi Kitano. Takeshi is brilliant and gives a truly intense performance as the emotionless ex-teacher who enforces the island games. Takeshi performance is greatly let down by the under developed characteristics of the teenagers, as they all seem to be eating from the same bag of clichés we’d expect from a Hollywood teen farcical. Not at all perturbed by the appearance of slightly older, wiser and blatantly more deadly students, the little brats all seem to have the same agenda of wanting to tell another class member that they fancy them before being off’d in some gruesome manner, which is more laughable than heart-warming. In-between the spraying of blood we actually manage to see some of the outstanding scenery available from the island location and the camera seems to be more in love with the green hills, cloudless sky and the crashing of waves than the visceral damage in the foreground. This combination of violence and a harmonious battleground makes for some of the most artistic and possibly poetic visuals ever caught on film.
Although set in the bleak, near future Battle Royale’s themes are more commenting on current social problems by addressing the issues of a failing economy, high unemployment and adults fearing an unruly youth; but you’d never know it with the amount of glamorised blood and carnage on show. This glamorous eye candy is definitely appealing to the young audiences of today; unfortunately it buries the subtext that was so evident and welcome in the original novels. Seeing teenagers slaughtering each other with relative ease will prove uneasy viewing for some and you cant help but hold comparisons to the work of ‘Alex’ in ‘Clockwork Orange’. The back cover proudly boasts ‘The most controversial Japanese film of the millennium’ and many are inclined to agree, including the Americans, as Battle Royale has yet to see a Region one release and is considered to be banned.
This Special Edition 2 Disc set is considered the perfect version of the film available in the world. This is not a directors cut version of the film; this is a special version, which includes an extra five minutes of film that was shot after the theatrical version had been released in Japan. At first glance these extra scenes are not obvious and not easily distinguishable from the original, but they are there and make for a better film. The additional scenes include, a new title sequence, added CGI blood to the crimson soaked death scenes and more, closer shots of corpses, but the bulk of the new scenes come in the form of flashbacks in an attempt to develop the characters that are quite bland.
The second disc has been packed with all the usual extras we’ve come to expect, including footage from Press Conferences, rehearsals, trailers, TV spots, an entertaining Documentary, but most importantly a 45 minute Making Of… which isn’t that easy to come by. Extra Features on a foreign language title are quite rare because of the translation problem, but the 2 hours plus extra features all contain English subtitles which really goes to show that ‘Tartan’ has gone to measures to make sure that this a quality package.