Battle Royale ( Japanese Hunger Games ) Review

This weekend will see the release of the much anticipated Hunger Games. At least other media tells me it’s much anticipated. I just assume they mean anticipated by someone other than me. It’s probably no coincidence that this week also marks the BlueRay release of Battle Royale, a film that needs no introduction to genre fans but to the general public we’ll call it “the thing that precedes the hunger game in every conceptual way.

Released in 2000 over in Japan and based off the 1999 Novel by Koshun Takami battle Royale would come out at a time when (at least in the West) children killing eachother in a massive death-match with only one survivor was incredibly taboo.

Most of us remember that in April of 1999 the notorious Columbine shootings occurred. The media tried desperately to make sense out of a senseless act. They attacked music, parenting, modern society and of course movies. They took aim (pardon the pun) at everything from Marilyn Manson to The Matrix for being the source of the bloodshed. Talk about bad timing. I say bad timing because who could have predicted that in less than a year a movie about a group of junior high students forced to kill eachother off would be made on the other side of the world. As such this film never received a region one release and it forced us to find it bootlegged or on region free DVDs.

So what’s changed? Have we become numb to this sort of thing? School shootings happen more frequently than pre columbine but it has been over 10 years. Surely fan demand (and the chance for profit) would circumvent any moral issues you’d have. Let’s not forget the very fact that a movie like the Hunger Games which is a complete rip-off of Battle Royale (the book came out almost 9 years after the fact) is not only getting the big screen treatment but it’s being sold as “the next big thing” I don’t blame Hollywood for scrambling. They ran out of Harry Potter and soon going to run out of Twilight. Next time they should wise up and just make every chapter of these books its own movie. That way it could last for decades.

The saddest thing is that if you sit back and watch Battle Royale, you’d realize it’s more of a black comedy than anything else. It’s satire. Sure it deals with some uncomfortable subjects and does have some touching moments between some of the short lived characters but it’s totally irreverent and can seem self aware at times. Certain scenes are really tragic while others are so over the top you can’t help but laugh. Of course many of those moments come from the benefit of it being uniquely so Japanese. That being said it does have chilling moments where when pushed comes to shove anybody can be a killer.

It’s really no wonder people were so hesitant to translate it over here. But now they have. The real question is, is it worth your money?

Well my bias opinion is yes, I’ve had my awkwardly translated Korean boxset with un-translated extra features long enough and am eager to sit back and watch a quality version of the movie. You can get the movie and its sequel (yup there’s two) in a sweet set with a tonne of extras.

The next question is will I go and see Hunger Games? My answer is, they already made that movie twelve years ago and it was awesome.

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