Battle Royale (2000)
Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル, Batoru Rowaiaru) (2000) Japanese film directed by Kinji Fukasaku based on the novel of the same name. It was written by Kenta Fukasaku, and stars Takeshi Kitano and Tatsuya Fujiwara.
In a dystopian Japan, fear of the teenager has reached an extreme, and classes of high school students are periodically selected to be shipped off to an island to fight to the death. Forty students enter, one student leaves. To ensure compliance, they are fitted with electronic collars that will explode if they escape or if they survive past three days without having killed off everyone else. One person survives or no one survives.
Oh, and they’re each given a survival pack and a weapon.
Another spin on Lord of the Flies
Half the interest in a movie like this is wondering, “What would I do?” and further, “How well would I do?” I think this is one of the big draws to modern zombie apocalypse movies, too — though I think this has not always been the case. Night of the Living Dead had no real Badass-survivor appeal. That came later in the genre.
People who look forward to apocolyptic scenarios always seem to assume they’ll be one of the survivors. This game is rigged, though. In the place of the kids in Lord of the Flies, we’d like to think we’d not only survive, but survive without losing our civilization. In Battle Royale, you don’t have that choice. Either you choose to opt out through suicide, or you fight. Even if you successfully hide for three days, if there’s more than one survivor, everybody dies. And then, of course, there are those that try to break the system, either through disruption or escape. Factions will naturally form, but they gotta know it’s temporary. Unless the system collapses, there’s only an advantage to teaming up until the end, when all-but-one must die.
We also root for our favorites. There are 42 kids to start with, and by the rules of the game, 40 must die. Mostly, it’s the slow and naive that die first, not the bad, cocky or slutty ones, which would have been the case if this were made in America.
The randomizing of the weapons is an interesting concept, a more encyclopedic version of Clue’s assortment: one student gets a machine gun, one gets a pot lid. One gets a GPS, one gets binoculars. Or a crossbow, a paper fan, a sickle, a knife, an axe, apistol, a bullet-proof vest, a taser, a vial of poison. No candlestick, but I bet there’s one on the island.
For those of us fantasizing about how we’d do, the first step is to hope really hard for one of the good ones. Failing that, finding some way to gain value from what you have, including the skills you go in with. Resourcefulness and determination will beat out weakness and a machine gun.
The island itself has some resources, and the cleverer ones find and secure them early in the game. Some hunt, some defend. What would you do?
They’re still teenagers: even in the face of death, they’re gossiping, falling in love, getting jealous, being stupid. We’d like to think that wouldn’t be us. But 41 out of 42 have to die.
This is Scix in the Back Row, with the exploding collar.
Next up: Gozu.