1990 Silicon Dreams Games and Movie Reviews: Battle Royale: 1999: Life is a Game

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Battle Royale: 1999: Life is a Game

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Battle Royale is a 1999 movie from Japan that deals with a fictional world where the Japanese society has been hit by a recession, with a 15 percent unemployment, several million people have been left without a job, the students have started boycotting schools, and in response the military clique has organized a yearly event, where one class of forty two students have to fight to the death. The film gained popularity for a short while and has come to attention recently because of its similarities to The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins and the recent 'Hunger Games' film, that came out only a few days ago.

watch the trailer below

Battle Royale starts with a class of students celebrating their last days in school with a field trip, on the bus, they're drugged by their teacher and transported onto a remote island, where the game is going to take place. They're instructed that only one out of the forty two is allowed to survive. They're all fitted with explosive collars that track their every movement and there's only three days for them to kill each other off and if there's no winner by then, everybody dies. They're each given a bag of equipment, water food and a randomly chosen weapon, which could be anything from a pot lid to a set of binoculars to a sub machine gun.

It turns out later on that between them, there's one who joined for the fun of it, posing as a transfer student, arguably the most deadly of them all, and another one who's got some history with the game. The movie itself is a brilliant exploration of how quickly the mindset for survival takes hold, as they quickly learn that nobody's joking, and nobody's a friend any more. Every now and again a group of the students will try to organize to better their odds, but eventually it all breaks down when suspicion sets in. A couple who refuse to fight die off almost instantly, another two commit suicide, and the daily briefings that their teacher gives them over a loudspeaker system, set up across the island, are a gruesome reminder of what they're all fighting for. Someone or another's death is shouted out through the speakers, by the teacher himself with a sense of demonic satisfaction in what he believes to be a valuable lesson that should eventually bring Japan out of stagnation by forcing its people to deal with reality as if it's kill or be killed.




With that premise in mind, the movie doesn't push too hard to be overzealous in shocking its viewers. There's none of the dramatized editing, that's typical in Western movies, to stress the tragic death of someone or another. In other words what Holywood often sees as an opportunity for a B rated flick, Japan has turned into an exploration of the mindset of the hunter and the hunted, in a game where there can be no trust whatsoever and nobody is left completely innocent. 

Battle Royale is based on the novel, by the same name, from Koushun Takami, the novel is said to be even more controversial than the movie itself. 

22 comments:

  1. I do love Battle Royale, and yes, I had noticed that about The Hunger Games, and I'm glad I'm not the only one.

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  2. Batlle Royale looks epic!

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  3. I like this! It sounds like a great movie! (I can't believe its been out for 12 years and I'm just hearing of it now!!)

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  4. I have to go watch Battle Royale and Hunger Games!!!
    Thank you for this wonderful post!

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  5. I loved this manga, haven't watch the movie though!

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  6. I read the manga, it was bloody amazing.

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