The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Battle Royale – more for giggles than for scares

with 29 comments

A human head flies through the air and lands on the ground. The people on the screen start yelling, tossing themselves to the sides. I can’t blame them; the head has got a grenade in the mouth. Me? I giggle.

I used to describe myself as a squishy when it comes to violence on the screen, believe it or not. For years I’ve been avoiding the most gruesome horror and violent action movies knowing that unless I cover my eyes during the gory parts, they’ll make me feel nauseous. And what’s the point of watching movies with your eyes closed?

Since I picked up movie blogging, I’ve began to push my boundaries, challenging myself to watch movies that I know will make me feel uncomfortable. If I didn’t, I know that I’d miss out a lot of really good movies, but I’d also lock myself out of the conversation in the community.  Instead I’ve decided to grow a thicker skin and so far, so good. You can stomach more than you think if you make an effort and Drive ended up among one of my favorite movies last year.

But I don’t think I can attribute my cool reaction to Battle Royale to my skin being thick. There’s something else to it.

The theme of this movie is creepy, no doubt. There’s this future where the government for unclear reasons want to make a statement and keep people under control by arranging a yearly game where a number of teenagers are sent to a limited area where they fight each other until only one person is alive – the winner of the game. Sounds a bit familiar, huh? The difference is that it’s a school class that has been randomized to go there, not representatives from districts. And there are more of them, about 40 from the start.

But for how repulsive the idea is, the execution is so over-the-top that it never really gets scary. I didn’t scream of anxiety once; I just giggled at the absurdity of it. I didn’t watch real people that I knew and cared about; I was watching a video game or a comic book. Think the scenes in Monty Python where they chop off the arm of a soldier and he continues to run about fighting, the blood splashing from the arm. Not that scary.

I giggled as the cute girl with the ponytails cut the throat off her friend with an axe, I giggled as the kids looked through their packages to see what kind of weapon they had gotten (everyone had a different one) and one of them got a pot lid. Tough luck! 🙂 The only deaths that didn’t make me giggle were the suicides, and there were quite a few of those too. But they were soon forgotten. More slaughtering was waiting. More giggles.

I don’t know if this is how I’m meant to react. At IMDb it’s presented as an action, thriller and sci-fi movie, not as a comedy or satire. I wouldn’t rule out that the original intention was dead serious. I couldn’t take it that way though.

I still can’t wrap my head around what kind of a film this is. Perhaps I shouldn’t bother trying. It’s one in its own kind, it was entertaining in a weird way and I won’t forget it anytime soon.

And would you believe me if I told you that the director Kinji Fukasaku was 70 years old when this movie was shot? Just… wow. It’s time that I ditch some of my prejudices about elderly people.

Battle Royale (Batoru rowaiaru, Kinji Fukasaku, JA 2000) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

May 14, 2012 at 7:28 am

Posted in Battle Royale

29 Responses

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  1. I definitely think that Battle Royale is a fun movie and with satirical elements, but very broadly so. It provides just enough to not feel completely mindless or exploitative so that you’ll accept the rest of the ride.

    Bondo

    May 14, 2012 at 8:17 am

    • Yeah, the fun isn’t just in the ridiculous violence, but very much in the things around it. Like the video where a cheerleader type girl gave instructions to the particpants. Oh, I loved that!

      Jessica

      May 14, 2012 at 9:47 am

  2. One film I have’t seen but really would like to. A lot of my friends praise it, but somethign keeps stopping me. I think it is mainly the long running time…

    Great review matey

    • It didn’t feel long at all. I think you should give it a go. Great fun and while I won’t obsess over the similarities to Hunger Games, it’s still interesting. I liked Hunger Games well enough but in my world this one comes out as the more interesting one that will stick with me in the long run.

      Jessica

      May 14, 2012 at 10:51 am

      • … with Battle Royale being at least 10 year older.

        Harmen

        May 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm

        • Indeed. I think the questions whether Hunger Games is inspired from Battle Royale or not has been disussed enough. But yeah. It’s prett obvious. It being a coincidence doesn’t make sense.

          Jessica

          May 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm

          • When someone told me about the Hunger Games, my response was “so it’s a remake of battle royale”?

            It’s just annoying that the author claims never having seen Battle Royale. A nice way to avoid having to pay royalties I suppose.

            Carra

            May 14, 2012 at 8:07 pm

  3. Soon after this one came out, a good friend of mine lent me the dvd, he only said ‘you’ve got to see this, you’ve never seen anything like it’. It’s been one of my favorite movies since.

    Of course it’s not the first movie or story to be based on a ‘game’ of death, but the fact that it is children, classmates who all (except for the wildcards) know each other, as well as the outrageous levels of extreme violence, made a lasting impression on me. and yes it is also intentionally a very funny film.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    May 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    • Glad to hear you liked it! It’s not on the bleeding edge of my top list of movies ever made, but who knows, give me enough time and it might climb the ladder. 🙂

      Jessica

      May 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm

  4. It’s Tarantino’s favorite movie of the last 20 years (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv0WlHbBhdc) and one of my favorites too. Unsurprisingly, he has a lot of Asian movies on his list.

    It’s a movie that they can’t make in the USA, visually killing children is not done. They made a “remake” of the movie. It ended up with replacing all the children with criminals…

    Carra

    May 14, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    • A remake with criminals? That misses the point quite a bit doesn’t it?
      I’m not sure if you should call Hunger Games a remake, but I guess it’s as close as you can get in US… I did like HG a lot when I watched it, but after watching this you can’t deny that you could see it as a watered down version. of BR. 😦

      Jessica

      May 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm

  5. It’s a strong movie. I revisited it for the first time in 10 years the other day, and it was strong this time too. I am happy they made the violence “over the top” and almost like a comic book, but some scenes are still in my head, the images hanging around as photographs in a gallery of horror.

    Henke

    May 14, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    • Actually one of the images that is strongest in my memory right now is the cheerleading girl in the instruction video. *Shivers*

      Jessica

      May 14, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      • I am thinking on the expression on the running girl’s face when she “wakes up” from her memory of running in the woods, realizing that she is back on the island, in the game, waiting to die…

        Henke

        May 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm

  6. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (because apparently, it doesn’t get said enough in regards to this particular film)… the book is much, MUCH better.

    nicholasjobe

    May 16, 2012 at 1:42 am

    • I’ve missed that, but I’m intrigued. I’d like to read it.

      Jessica

      May 16, 2012 at 7:43 am

  7. I thought the film handled rather well the eternal question in situations like these (because they do come by so often…): survival by altruism or egotism?

    Sofia

    May 16, 2012 at 5:53 am

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  9. The film is both a satire and a warning about growing government fascism. The most obvious part is the very perky woman describing how the children are all supposed to kill the others. There’s also the phone call at the end. As for the manner in which people died, no I don’t believe those were intended to be humorous. I think the giggles were actually a nervous reaction to something too horrible to contemplate being presented right in your face on the screen.

    Chip

    May 19, 2012 at 12:08 am

    • My giggles a defense mechanism because what happened was too horrible? Hm. Perhaps. But to be honest I didn’t think the violence was all that much realistic. IT was so strange to see how long people lived with injuries that should have killed them or made them unconscious long time ago. And when people behave like that I start to think of them more as cartoons than as real people.

      Jessica

      May 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm

  10. Nice review. I don’t like when people criticize Hunger Games for being a “ripoff” of Battle Royale. Yes, it’s the same basic concept, but the execution is so vastly different.

    fernandorafael

    May 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    • I wouldn’t say that it’s a rip-off. Yes, there are simularities that are such that I find it hard to believe the claims by the author that she was completely unfamiliar with it. But the movies are different enough for me to not put too much weigh on it in the review. They’re made for completely different audiences. I liked both. But BR is the one that definitely will stay longer with me, going further and sticking out more from what you usually see.

      Jessica

      May 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm

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  12. Nice Review. I also “Giggled” at a lot of moments too. The Lighthouse scene was a big one for me. I agreed that both H.G. and B.R. are made for different audiences

    TheVern (@videovangaurd)

    August 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    • Thanks! Yeah, I wouldn’t suggest to most Hunger Games fans to check out this one instead. I think you need to be pretty open to films that go far outside of the mainstream. I agree that the lightouse scene stuck out. Lots of blood shred there. But what I probably enjoyed most of all were the cheerful instruction videos. She was so annoying and so funny. 🙂

      Jessica

      August 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm

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