Big surprise kids, but Hollywood is planning yet another remake of an Asian film. Admittedly, this time it’s a bit more interesting than some J-horror flick with creepy little kids. Why? Because this time, it’s Kinji Fukasaku’s controversial and incendiary Battle Royale. Yes, that Battle Royale.
For those of you unfamiliar with the film, here’s a brief synopsis: It’s the not-too-distant future, and Japan is going to hell in a handbasket. In order to institute some measure of order amongst the youth, who are rebelling and threatening to overturn society, the government passes the “Battle Royale” act. Which stipulates that once a year, a random class of 9th graders is sent to a deserted island and forced to hunt each other down until there’s only one survivor. Otherwise, they all die via exploding collars.
The premise is certainly one to raise the hackles of any number of special interest groups here in the States, and for obvious reasons. However, the film is far more than some mere high school slaughterfest. Make no mistake, it is very violent, very bloody, and very disturbing, and it’s not a film that should be taken lightly. However, those things are not thrown in there just for shocks and thrills, but rather to deliver a dark and biting satire about all of the ways that adults(!) betray and condemn the youth.
This makes more sense when you learn a bit more about the director. Fukasaku, who died in 2003 while filming the sequel, was a 9th grader during World War 2. His class was assigned to work in a munitions factory, and in the war’s final days, to dispose of corpses. During that wretched duty, he came to realize that everything the adults had told him concerning the war had been a lie, a lie he had no part of and yet was forced to accept guilt for. That sense of betrayal permeates every frame of Battle Royale, giving it a sense of personal conviction that elevates it above simple exploitation.
The film has yet to be released here in the States on DVD — the studio reportedly refused to sell the North American distribution rights, and for good reason — but Hollywood is still moving ahead with the remake.
Supposedly, they’re promising to deliver a hard “R”-rated film. Which begs the question “So what?!?” Really, who cares if the film is rated “R” or not? It’s sad that this is how they’re trying to pass the film off as legitimate.
This might come as a surprise, but it’s not the R-rated material that makes the original such a great film. Rather, it’s Fukasaku’s sense of conviction, and even moral outrage. When you watch the film’s gruesome deaths, there’s no thrill or excitement because nothing is played for mere shock value. Rather, the whole film has a decidedly tragic bent to it, with only the darkest splashes of humor throughout to just drive home the absurdity — and the betrayal that the children suffer at the hands of the adults.
I sincerely doubt that Hollywood will pick up on any of this, or if they do, they’ll just ignore it completely. If this remake does happen, it will likely be exciting, violent, controversial, blah blah blah. They’ll push the rating envelope, I’m sure, and get all sorts of publicity while they do it. That, or they’ll end up completely neutering it. Whatever the case, it’ll be a steaming pile of mediocrity that completely and totally misses the point of the original.
More info on Battle Royale can be found at battleroyalefilm.net.