Battle Royale II: Requiem Review by Paul

If Battle Royale is a warning of the vulnerability of democracies to overreacting politicians compromising – or even destroying – the values that make democratic systems worth defending, then Battle Royale II is an exploration of the consequences of political leaders abandoning liberal democratic values.

The film opens with what is probably its most shocking scene – the destruction of the Tokyo skyline by the Wild Sevens terrorist group, led by former Battle Royale survivor Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara). This is a deliberately shocking scene that explicitly apes the September 11th attacks and sets the tone for much of the rest of the film.

We then get into the film proper, with the inevitable busload of students, the gassing and the awakening with the horrific realisation that they are this year’s Battle Royale players.

And here is one of the places where Battle Royale II is much more overt than its predecessor. Rather than the students coming to in a deserted classroom, they awaken on the bus and have to face the sort of excitable press scrum that is usually reserved for sporting heroes of celebrities.

Whereas Battle Royale alluded to Reality TV and the consequence of constantly upping the ante among these programs, Battle Royale II makes explicit the brutal entertainment driven impulse that drives the competition.

We still have a teacher (played by an excessively over the top Riki Takeuchi) to explain the rules, which are slightly different this time around.

Instead of competing against each other, the students are sent to take out Shuya’s Wild Sevens group. Furthermore, the collars are linked into pairs so that whenever one student dies so does their “buddy”.

This seriously ups the body count in the early part of the film but also means that the students become cannon fodder rather than characters. The result is that, although Battle Royale II is more violent than its predecessor, the violence is less shocking.

In fact, the only characters that come close to being satisfactorily fleshed out are the constantly angry Takuma Aoi (Shûgo Oshinari) and the strangely intense Shiori Kitano (Ai Maeda) - the daughter of Kitano (Beat Takeshi), the teacher from the first Battle Royale. Beat Takeshi does make a couple of cameo appearances in this film which – more than anything – serve as a reminder of how little characterisation is going on in the rest of the film.

It’s worth noting at this point that the students this time around are dressed in combat fatigues rather than school uniforms. While there are both practical and plot driven reasons for doing this, it also has the unfortunate effect of making it too easy to forget that these are just kids. The result is that, for at least some of the time, the film does look like a more conventional war film.

That said the on screen mission headings and the shaky camerawork of the landing and assault does serve to underline the “war as entertainment” aspect of this part of the film.

Of course, with a vastly increased body count, the carnage can’t be kept going for a full two hours and once the handful of surviving students get into the Wild Seven’s base things start to slow down.

There is a lot more pontificating this time around and I’m not entirely sure whether this is a good thing or not.

On one hand, the film is more overtly political and does clearly get across its ideas – that violence begets terrorism and that children are inevitably drawn into conflicts.

On the other hand, I can’t help but compare the film to its predecessor which focussed on the personal dynamics of the various students and left the audience to draw their own conclusions as to what the film had to say. And I can’t help feeling that Battle Royale II has gone a little too far in battering the audience over the head with what it is about.

At a time when filmmakers have become overly sensitive and often tread too lightly to avoid controversy, Battle Royale II deserves to be applauded for the sheer unambiguousness of its message. It’s just a shame that it’s not a better film.

Review by Paul Pritchard

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