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All Words: Riley Croghan

If Avatar taught us anything, it was the joy of finding ways to describe it that also perfectly matched the plot of Pocahontas *. Orson Scott Card made a point of playing this game with his classic Ender’s Game and Harry Potter**.  And if you’re a fan of The Hunger Games and you are friends with hipsters (which google analytics informs us you are), someone has probably played this game at your expense, comparing The Hunger Games with 2000’s Battle Royale. It’s not their fault; comparing the two is actually really, really fun to do.

In the spirit of fairness, then, here is a description of the plot of Battle Royale that doesn’t even mention The Hunger Games.

In the hyperviolent movie (and the popular book it is based on), a totalitarian government abducts a group of teenagers and forces them to murder each other in a natural arena, as part of a widely publicized gambit to keep the terrified populace from revolting. The children are forced to fight to the death until only one remains, and disobedience is not an option: their participation in the game is ensured by a set of twisted rules, deadly traps that force them out of hiding and into the fray, and the participation of several strong players who volunteered for the game. They are taunted by regular updates of which of their fellow students has been killed, and can form only fleeting alliances, with the knowledge that they will eventually kill or be killed by their friends.

I lied. That plot completely summarizes both movies. There are key differences, though, that make Battle Royale worth watching beyond being able to say you liked the original child-death-brawl story to your doubtless very impressed friends. The kids in Battle Royale are not pampered and paraded before the event; the students of class 3-B are gassed on the bus of a field trip and wake up already on the recently-evacuated island, with bomb collars strapped to their necks. Disobedience, attempts to escape, or taking a step outside of the few “safe zones” on the island will cause their collars to explode.***

The movie is very decidedly rated “R” and, despite featuring children killing each other just like The Hunger Games, is not in the slightest bit intended for young audiences. Battle Royale does not skimp on violence (Quentin Tarantino called it his favorite film made since he became a director, and even wrote the character of Go-Go Yubari in Kill Bill for an actress in Battle Royale.**** ). Certain horror movies have made an elaborate point of being as disturbing as possible without showing any violence on camera. Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is terrifyingly unsettling, although almost no violence occurs on camera. Imagine Battle Royale as pretty much the exact opposite of this, and you have a very good idea of how the movie unfolds.

E Street Cinema is screening Battle Royale this Friday and Saturday as a midnight movie. Presumably, unlike other cult midnight movies, this one will feature minimal amounts of throwing props at the screen, as I can only imagine that  most of those would be weapons.

  • *Indians “Natives”, war, the white man’s destructive tendencies
  • **flying games at a school for special student, inappropriate contact between children
  • ***Possibly inspiring a “life imitates art” kinda deal in which a man claimed he was being forced to rob a bank, and that his collar would explode if he didn’t obey. It ended about as well as the movie did.
  • ****Side note if I have not completely overwhelmed you with asterisks yet: Kill Bill was initially meant to feature another actress from Battle Royale as Go-Go’s sister Yuki, who would stalk the Bride in an ice cream truck. The opening moments of the first movie still feature an ice cream truck jingle as she pulls up to Vernita Green’s house)

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