battle royale II - a brief review

Discussion in 'DVD' started by andrew markworthy, Feb 9, 2004.

  1. andrew markworthy

    Sep 30, 1999
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    I'm posting this here instead of the films on DVD section, since the movie is at the moment only available in R3. Warning - it contains spoilers about the first movie and some mild spoilers about Battle Royale II.

    I received the R3 2-disc set yesterday. Battle Royale II takes place a couple of years after the original movie. The two survivors from Battle Royale I have formed a terrorist group responsible for blowing up entire office/apartment blocks in revenge against grown ups for allowing BR. They are now hiding on an island.

    The next class of schoolkids are conscripted into BR, but now the rules have changed in two main ways: (1) they are placed in pairs so that if one of the pair dies, so does the other (via the deadly necklaces as in the first film); and (2) their goal is to storm the island and kill the rebels. The movie is largely concerned with whether they achieve this.

    Okay, so how good is the movie? The answer is 'not very'. The shock and originality of the original are not there. The gore is just as bad, it is arguably better photographed, but to what purpose? The original had a warped logic all of its own, whereas this time it is very confused. Some of the premises are likely to be deeply offensive (particularly to an American post-9/11 audience) and the ending is IMHO a huge cop-out and totally implausible.

    On a technical side, the transfer is superb and the DTS track excellent. However, I'd treat this one with caution.
  2. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

    Jul 19, 2003
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    I enjoyed it, politics aside. Nowhere near the level of the 1st, but I still liked it. The transfer is pretty good, sound is good. I was glad to see the extras subbed in English, doesn't happen too often, Twins Effect comes to mind....
  3. Charlie O.

    Charlie O. Supporting Actor

    May 13, 2003
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    I'm just wondering if this release it uncut. I remember when 1st Battle Royale came out an director's cut was released about a year after.
  4. Matthew Chmiel

    Matthew Chmiel Cinematographer

    Apr 26, 2000
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    Here's a brief review of Battle Royale II I wrote on a LiveJournal community:

    In the winter of 2000, due to a fancy invention called the internet, I heard of a little Japanese film called Battle Royale. The film, being released that Christmas, involved the simple plot of a bunch of ninth graders being thrown on an island and they would have to kill each other. I was amazed at such a plot line, but I quickly forgot about the film.

    In the Summer of 2001, Movieline (or Premiere, it was one of the two) devoted an article to Battle Royale labeling it as one of the most controversial films that America will probably never see. The article went into detail about how the film would never get a release in America as Toei (the distributors of the film) wanted the film to have a wide theatrical release (after it's success in Japan), but due to the film's content (children killing one another), that such a film would never have a release; especially after Columbine. The studios who were interested in the film (such as Lions Gate) wanted to get the rights, but couldn't devote themselves to giving the film a wide release. From that moment on, I knew I had to see this movie.

    Battle Royale was the movie that would introduce me into Asian cinema (the only brushes I had with Asian cinema prior to BR were a few anime flicks like Akira and Grave of the Fireflies). I bought both the VCD and R3 DVD from DDDHouse (the VCD for my old DVD player and the R3 DVD to play in my computer) and two weeks after ordering them, they arrived at my doorstep. I put the R3 DVD into my computer and I quickly fell in love with what in my opinion is one of the best films ever made. But this is not a review of the first film. This is a review to the 2003 follow-up.

    I heard about a sequel being in the works in the Summer of 2002. The film was slated for a Summer 2003 release which called for Nanahara and Noriko getting captured by the Japanese authorities and being placed in another game of Battle Royale in which the students were even more vicious. That didn't happen, and something deep down inside of me tells me that is the sequel that should've been made instead of what was presented to us in July of 2003.

    I went into watching the film with an open mind. I heard many negative reviews about the film prior to the DVD release from Universe in Hong Kong. I tried not to read tons of information involving the film (other than the basics), but I knew before hand that Battle Royale II was an entirely different vehicle than the first film. Half of me was hoping the film would be good (I had surgery earlier in the week, it's probably the medicine making me expecting that I'd enjoy it) and half of me was expecting the film to suck. Battle Royale II has been one of my most anticipated sequels in the past few years, so I was awaiting the moment in which I could finally see the movie. I didn't care how bad the reviews were, I knew I was going to watch this movie and maybe hope to enjoy it.

    The plot for this film is fairly simple. Taking place three years after the events of the first film, Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara reprising his role) has started a terrorist organization known as the "Wild Seven." Nanahara proposes a war against adults which causes his terrorist organization to take some of Japan off the map. People die and the Japanese government creates The BRII Act in their defense. Similar to the BR Act, this time it pits 42 students against Nanahara and his terrorists buddies. Instead of the students killing each other off, this time they have to work together as a team. That's as basic of a plot summary I can give without giving spoilers.

    The first act of the film (which includes the bombing of a few famous Japanese buildings, the gathering of the kids for a new game of BR, and the infamous "Saving Private Ryan" rip-off scene) is not even all that bad, it's actually the best scenes the film has to offer. What I enjoyed mostly about the first act is the film's fast-paced energy. The film quickly sets the plot up (in under fifteen minutes, similar to the first film) and gets right into the action. Once the plot is established, students are dying left and right, shit is just being blown up, blood is being pumped by the gallons, and the ever great Riki Takeuchi shows how great overacting can be when done right. The first 45 minutes of Battle Royale II actually gives the watcher hope that this sequel might be on par with the first film, if not better.

    Then comes the film's second and third act. Then what hope one had that the film would be good will be taken back immediately.

    Once the film's first forty-five minutes are done with and the remaining students who are still alive run into Nanahara and the "Wild Seven," the film quickly goes off the deep end and never looks back. The film's second act is unbearably awful. The second act has many problems that it cannot simply overcome. One of the problems with the second act is when the film starts to promote it's message on terrorism and how it's good. Instead of just having one character telling us this terrorism is good (like Nanahara) and letting us move on with the story, we're dragged through over forty-five minutes of the students grasping the fact that they have to contribute to terrorism to survive. The second act is a character driven piece, but the problem with this is that you don't give a shit about any of the characters.

    The first film created characters that one could identify with. They were just normal teenagers thrown into a game where they would have to kill each other. Most of them didn't want to be in the game and we got to see all their emotions when they would have to kill one of their friends or when they were being killed by a friend or an enemy. With the sequel, the students (along with the "Wild Seven" gang) are just sitting ducks. From the start of the film, they're established to be losers, the rejects of society. When the game begins, each character is simply killed off one by one. The script never even evolves any of the characters. They're all one-dimensional characters just waiting to be plucked off. When someone else dies, the characters whine, but never do anything to help the situation. Instead of wanting to see the characters survive and beat the game, you just want them to die just so the film can end. All the time that could've been devoted into developing the characters was wasting on promoting terrorism. How sad.

    When the film's third act comes (along with even more America bashing, this time it's just more blatant), the viewer doesn't even care what the hell is going on anymore and just wants the movie to end. The film tries to save itself with an action sequence involving the Wild Seven and the remaining students going against the Japanese military, but as the sequence is nice to look at, there is no substance to it. It's just people killing each other.

    That's the entire problem with Battle Royale II. Unlike it's predecessor, the sequel has no substance to it. The film dwells too much on undeveloped characters and situations the viewer doesn't care about. If Battle Royale II was under ninety minutes, the film might've worked. Instead we get a film that is over forty-five minutes too long.

    Oh well.

    Overall: ** out of ****

    The DVD does sport a nice transfer and great sound, but the 30 minutes of extras are boring (but at least their subbed).


    The Battle Royale II HK R3 DVD is in it's uncut theatrical version.

    All versions of Battle Royale on DVD, as far as I can tell, are uncut. There are however two versions of the film. The original "Theatrical Version" which came out at Christmas time of 2000. Then in April of 2001, Toei released a 121 minute "Special Version" which added more CGI gore, fixed a few errors, and included more back story. The director's cut is the "Theatrical Version" (I prefer this cut of the film as it's more "tighter" of a film) as the "Special Version" was something made completely for the fans of the film (kind of like the extended cut of Leon).

    Battle Royale DVDs for English Speakers (everything below contains subs):

    R3 NTSC Universe HK DVD - Theatrical Version (Uncut)
    - Non Anamorphic Widescreen Transfer, DD and DTS 5.1, and Trailer

    R0 PAL Tartan UK DVD - Theatrical Version (Uncut)
    - Cruddy Anamorphic Widescreen, DD 2.0, and Trailer

    R0 NTSC Tartan UK DVD - Theatrical Version (Uncut, Now OOP)
    - Great Anamorphic Widescreen, DD 5.1, and Trailer

    R0 PAL Tartan UK DVD - Special Verision (Uncut, Two-Disc SE)*
    - Anamorphic Widescreen (but has a ghosting problem), DD 5.1 and 2.0, 2 Hours of Extras (all subbed)

    R3 NTSC Cream Korean DVD - Special Version (Uncut, Now OOP)
    - Anamorphic Widescreen, DD 5.1 and DD 2.0, 1+ Hour of Extras (not subbed)

    R0 NTSC Starmax Korean DVD - Special Version (Uncut)
    - Anamorphic Widescreen, DTS 5.1 and DD 2.0, 1+ Hour of Extras (not subbed)

    I know in Aussie they currently released Battle Royale on DVD, but it's the same transfer as the first crappy PAL

    *Tartan is re-releasing their 2-disc PAL edition of the Special Version at the end of the month by fixing the ghosting problem and adding a DTS track.

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