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Movie of the Day: Battle Royale

Where to Watch – Free Options Available!

What Is It?

In a dystopian, not-to-distant future version of Japan, school children are forced to fight to the death on a mysterious island armed full of dangerous traps.

What’s Cool About It?

Insanely violent action movies are always better when there’s more than just blood and severed limbs splattering across the screen. Battle Royale is equal parts social satire, cultural critique and murder rampage. Made at a time when there was increasing anxiety over a lost generation of youth in Japanese society due to an economic recession and an aging population, Kinji Fukasaku’s film turned the competitiveness of the Japanese educational system into a parable that borders on hyper-parody. While it’s definitely not for all tastes – i.e. anyone who’s not a fan of stylized cinematic violence and gore probably will hate it – the films fans have included Quentin Tarantino (no real surprise there, but still impressive) who cast Chiaki Kuriyama as the schoolgirl assassin Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill Vol. 1 as an homage to her role as Takako Chigusa here.

So, Uh, This Sounds Familiar…

While it’s old news at this point, there’s really no way to avoid discussing the narrative and plot similarities to a much bigger global action franchise, The Hunger Games series. From the basic premise – young people randomly selected to kill each other in a sporting competition – to important details – the announcing of the dead, the booby traps, the weapons as individual identity – the two films (both based on source novels) share almost countless commonalities. No lawsuits or formal claims of plagiarism were ever filed (amazingly), and it could just be a case of creative coincidence or genuine inspiration in the same way that Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress gave birth to Star Wars, but it’s hard to compare the two films side by side without noticing. That said, Battle Royale differs from The Hunger Games in several important ways. For starters, the extreme violence and psychological horror of the Japanese originator makes it completely unsuitable for a YA audience. Battle Royale also makes the link between its futuristic society and our contemporary society fairly explicit, while telling a much darker and bleaker story (yes, even factoring in the events of Mockingjay, nerds). Also, if we’re being generous, there’s a larger trope at play, the human hunting competition of films like The Running Man or Hard Target that probably originated in the story The Most Dangerous Game.

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