Battle Royale The Complete Collection Blu-Ray
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
Starring:Tatsuya Fujiwara,Aki Maeda,Taro Yamamoto
The Hunger Games, the uber popular book and upcoming film, has been accused of being a washed out PG rip off of the classic Japanese film and novel Battle Royale. Honestly the accusers might be right because the plots and underlying social commentaries are just so damn similar. That though, is the subject of a completely different article. We’re here to take a look at the new first time on blu-ray ultra-special edition of Battle Royale and Battle Royale 2.
It’s a nihilistic future in Japan where unemployment rates are through the roof and schools are a disaster. The government approves the Battle Royale Act to try and quell the rampant criminal activities and general misbehavior of the country’s youth. A random group of 9th graders are chosen by lottery to be dropped on an island with a bag of weapons and some rations. Their goal? They have three days to kill or be killed. The last student standing wins his/her life as a prize. If no one fights then everyone dies. Each student is also fitted with a collar that will explode if they choose to break a rule or try to escape the island. The proceedings are overseen by the class’ overly excited teacher.
Some of the students accept their fate with a shocking level of zeal, other students simply give up, and still others try to play the hero and protect the ones that they care about. A small group of the 42 students focuses on surviving long enough to try and figure out a way to escape the island. The problem for this group is the overall number of students still alive is quickly dwindling so their time to fight and kill is quickly approaching.
Battle Royale hit theaters in 2000 to much critical acclaim and vehement hate and fear from more conservative groups. Few films prior to this one, and after it, have seen so much violence perpetrated on children. The violence caused the film to be banned in many countries including certain areas of the United States. Beyond the violence the film has a lot to say about the political and social atmosphere of Japan and it mirrors the generational gap globally. It’s smart and conversation inducing along with being an adrenaline rush. The teacher is played by Japanese super star actor Takeshi Kitano and he brings a level of dark humor to the film that keeps the film from burying itself in the darkness and allows a breather to take in just what the story is trying to say. Comparisons to A Clockwork Orange are well earned here.
Battle Royale 2 Requiem
The sequel to Battle Royale was directed by the son of the original film after that director died part way through the making of BR2. The sequel saw the introduction of more CG based blood fx that were just distracting. This film focuses on a new group of students that have been chosen by the government to pay for the acts of the country’s youth with a side plot about a group from the previous film planning a terrorist act to make a statement to the world of their own. The new group of students has a different goal than those of the first film though. Their job is to kill the leader of the terrorists.
The whole concept here doesn’t make any sense. The terrorist group has been blowing up buildings and killing people ever since the last Battle Royale. The government has shown a willingness to use trained and fully armed military troops against the terrorists yet they choose this group of poorly armed children to do the dirty work. Had the plan been to get these kids to go under cover and infiltrate the terrorist organization and kill the leader from within the group the story would have made more sense. The problem is that story wouldn’t have been a battle royale.
Battle Royale 2 is a mess of a movie with odd pacing decisions, dumb story, poorly executed drama, and bad CG fx. It’s a real shame that the first film had to be tainted with this sequel. It would be easy to blame this on the loss of the original director but he did start the film before passing away so you have to imagine that this path was already set and his son just steered the ship to its conclusion.
Battle Royale has never been considered a good looking film and previous releases were riddled with grit on the screen, poor contrast, weak color representation, and big detail shifts in darker scenes. This blu-ray release helps a little by being the highest resolution version of the film released yet but overall the issues with the DVD releases are all still here just in HD. It’s an ugly presentation, partly due to the lower budget shooting, and also due to poor film source material used to bring the film home.
Battle Royale 2
Battle Royale 2 looks much better. The success of the first film allowed for a better shooting budget for this sequel. Detail is much higher and contrast and color are more consistent. The presentation does feel shallow overall and there is noticeable dirt from the print and some scratches here and there. This is far from a perfect presentation but it’s a huge step up from the orginal film.
Like the video the audio here is pretty basic. Now with that said the quality on blu-ray comes off better for the audio than the video. The surround mix is basic and there are times you have to ride the volume up and down but for the most part the dialogue is clean and listenable. Both films feature lossless audio which is about as good as it’s ever gonna get and overall it’s really satisfying.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging of this 4 disc set is fantastic. The 4 disc set comes packaged in a thick book resembling a school book, well other than the really gritty cover that’s also extremely effective. Each thick page inside the book features stills from the film and houses a disc. This is the way to give us a special edition!
The biggest of the bonus features in this package is a second extended director’s cut of Battle Royale. This version is really only 8 minutes longer and honestly the extra 8 minutes crushes the pacing in a few places of the film. The extra time doesn’t actually add much to the story either. If you’re a completest and you want to see exactly what the director intended to release then here you have it. Honestly, his second shorter cut, the one everyone knows, is much better.
So, all of the bonus features in this set are provided on a standard definition DVD, the fourth in this set. The first two blu-rays are the first and second film and the third is the extended cut of the original film. This leaves the final DVD, not blu-ray, for bonuses. Additionally all of these bonus features came from the previous release of the first film and there are no extras for the sequel.
There’s a making of featurette that runs nearly an hour. Within the featurette there’s rehearsal footage, behind the scenes footage, cast and crew interviews, and much more. This is a solid documentary even though it’s a little scatter shot in its assembly.
There’s a marketing press conference call featuring the cast and filmmakers. Nothing big here just your typical sound bite style information about the film.
There’s a short video taken from the film done as a gag to celebrate the director’s 70th birthday. There are brief audition videos, A special fx featurette shows how the cgi blood fx were created for a few scenes in the film (meh). There’s a completely useless on stage interview from the International Tokyo Film Festival, poorly done. Tthere are TV spots, trailers, on the set footage, and a short compilation of the best of sound bites from longer interviews with the cast and crew, also unnecessary.
Some of this material feels like filler but the majority of it is interesting and it does offer great insight into the making of the film. It’s a shame that there’s no substantial new material though.
There are a few truly important Asian genre films is in a member of that very exclusive club. Battle Royale continues to spur controversy and conversation the world over and it is influencing a new generation of filmmakers nad artists. The second film tarnishes the first but if you’re a completest then this is truly the best way to own both films.
The Movie 9/10 2/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10