All right, so against my better judgment, I finally wrote a short review of
Battle Royale II
. I am probably not the ideal reviewer, given my less
than stellar Japanese
skills that only allowed me to grasp a rough 80% of
the dialogs, but considering the only "review" to this day is solely based
on the tidbits
read on some rumors website
, I figure it won't do any
As a meager disclaimer to what follows regarding the sequel, allow me
first to precise that I really loved the original Battle Royale. Although
"love" is probably the wrong word, seeing how it made me nearly physically
sick the first time I saw it, and brought a complex mix of violent emotions
every times I watched it after. And I am not exactly the type of person
who cries when the hero dies at the end of a movie.
The mix of kids' innocence and cold-blooded killing, the gore, the
relentless underlying sexual tension, the pathetic exhibition of human
weakness, the unfathomable smugness of Takeshi Kitano's character...
all these elements made BR1, one of the most powerful movie I have
Now, on to the sequel, and why my hopelessly high expectations were
Rough Synopsis (spoiler warning)
As mentioned in the WU above, BR2 starts a few years after where BR1 had
left off: Nanahara, one of the surviving boy from the first episode, has
"declared war on adults" with a bunch of other kids. He has gathered a
terrorist faction called "the Wild Seven", responsible for the bombing of a
bunch of Shinjuku buildings and ensuing death of thousands people. Another
class of particularly messed-up kids is selected to enter the
"revised-rules" Battle Royale program, which basically consists of equipping
them with all kind of weaponry and sending them to take over the island where
Nanahara and his terrorist group have barricaded themselves.
The premise of their kidnapping/mission briefing is rather similar to the
first movie. Except Kitano's role is now assumed by sensei Takeuchi Riki
(both the actor and the character's name, in an interesting parallel with
BR1's Kitano). After some rather confused and confusing geopolitical exhibit of the
situation, Riki basically gives them the choice between joining the
terrorist fighting effort or ending up missing some rather vital part of
their neck. After a quick demonstration on some hapless free-thinker, most
of the class quickly enrolls. This time, the explosive necklaces do not
detonate after three days. However, all the students are matched by pair and
the moment one dies, his assigned companion's necklace explodes.
From then on, the pace quickens considerably while the plot loses most of
its substance: the kids are sent on their semi-hopeless crusade,
immediately decimated from the moment they set foot on the island. They play
war-games for a little while, until a handful of survivors eventually makes
it into the terrorists fortress, where they are captured, freed of their
deadly necklace (some special electronic signal jammer or something) and
more or less assimilated to the cause.
Ensues more people (adult commandos, this time) being sent against them,
more stuff thrown at them (including a missile, fired by an unnamed "all
powerful", "aggressive" nation). And most everybody dying.
The movie closes on a few survivors making it to some remote country
(presumably Afghanistan) where Nanahara gets reunited with Noriko (her
companion in BR1), who's been training troops for their resistance movement.
Among the (rather under-exploited) scenario twists are the fact that
Kitano's own daughter is part of the new BR2 team (after trying and failing
to kill Nanahara, she joins their fight and ends up dying in his arms). We
also learn that Riki's daughter was killed in the terrorist bombing and that
he himself is wearing one of these necklace (although the reason why remains
a mystery, at least to me).
Well, first, if the plot seems a bit simplistic in the above synopsis,
it's because it definitely is: while BR1 did not have such an elaborate plot
either, it had a certain geometry in its execution, skillfully balanced by
unexpected twists, that turned the rather "straightforward" premise of its
scenario (a bunch of kids forced to kill each other) into a captivating and
satisfying narration. Here, we get served a rather traditional war movie
(with open tributes to such war movies as Saving Private Ryan, not
to mention the very obvious Seven Samurai) with all the gore but none of
the psychology from the original.
In no particular order and without excessive developments, here are a few
- First, Riki's character is honestly unbearable. His overacting seem
completely out of place in the middle of dying teenagers and heavy
- Characters do not get given any development whatsoever. Most get
killed in the first few minutes anyway, but as for the surviving few, it is most
often limited to a couple lines uttered between lengthy fighting scene and
flashbacks sprinkled here and there. Contrasting with the diversity of BR1
is the bland "rebelling"-bad-ass-kid mould in which all of BR2's kids seem
to have been cast.
- The political message, or what seems to be one, is just so twisted and
meaningless that it's hard to even get worked up on its stupidity and rather bold arguments in favor of "some" terrorism. I personally did not have such a huge problem with the underlying argument: "terrorists are not the only one who've been bombing other nations left and right: just take a look at the US", though I know others have. But the whole "kids vs. adults" war theme, taken without the slightest hint of tongue in cheek: c'mon now.
- Overall, the editing is so choppy and the camera work so bumpy, that they are far more likely to induce nausea that any of the graphic gore sequence. I suspect this can be accounted for by the fact that Fukasaku Shuji died of cancer and was replaced half-way during shooting by his son Kenta, who, though he did write the screenplay adaptations for both BR episodes, had absolutely no experience in directing whatsoever. Probably a matter of taste, but I think the overall technical execution was very much lacking, whether compared to the first episode or to any movie in general.
Although I would full-heartedly concur in placing Battle Royale (the first one), among the most significant (and most underrated) movies of the decade, I would have a hard time giving any props to its sequel. It comes as no news that most movie sequels do not even come within range of the original, but in the case of Battle Royale II, it's not even worth a mention as a movie of its own: barred from its unoriginal premise, it would be utterly unlikely to appeal to anybody save for die-hard fanboys and people fancying watching a bad remake of Saving Private Ryan with Japanese snotty teenagers in place of American GIs...