Battle Royale (Complete Collection)
Director - Kinji Fukasaku
Cast - Takishi Kitano, Chiaki Kuriyama
Country of Origin - Japan
Discs - 4
MSRP - $39.99
Distributor - Anchor Bay Entertainment
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (4/5)
It was a long time coming, but Battle Royale has finally received a stateside DVD/Blu-ray release from former genre powerhouse Anchor Bay Entertainment. Of course, how much does this release mean when most fans have probably spent the better part of the last decade importing copies from foreign shores, will those same fans be ready to hand over more cash for a truly official Region A/1 release?
Anchor Bay certainly seems to think so. They have put together a quite definitive package for the film. This was more than like done to capitalize on the thematically similar The Hunger Games, but also to entice long time fans of this popular Japanese splatter epic to buy it one more time.
Conceptually Battle Royale feels more relevant now than it did upon it's initial release. The world is becoming an increasingly violent and chaotic place, and the events of the film while still seemingly unrealistic do occasionally seem like something that could be within reach. That being said, as much as I love Battle Royale, it has never fully made sense to me.
Let me clarify.
Every year a group of Japanese school children, for no reason are randomly chosen to be put on an island and kill each other. This is in response to increasingly bad behavior on the part of the modern youth. However, does that mean if the crime rate were to drop Battle Royale would stop, as the fear it instilled in children would have worked, or is this an ongoing facet of modern Japanese society? No matter what these children do in there lives, they may one day find themselves on the island, prepared to kill.
There was an 80's Twilight Zone episode, one of the few I can remember called "Examination Day." In this a young child must take an intelligence test to find his place in society at a certain age. At the beginning of the episode his parents drop him off, and at the end they find out he was killed for being of exceptional intellect, too smart for his society. I saw this episode 20 years ago, and never ever again. And yet conceptually the mere thought of it has always sent chills down my spine, but the one thing it has that Battle Royale doesn't is a way to resolve the conflict. If the boy were to get an average score on the test he would survive to live his life.
Of course, I am taking Battle Royale on a conceptual level at this point, but that is what great science fiction is really meant to do, create a world that you can expand on in your mind once the movie is over, or the book is closed. I, however, tend to view the film on a more visceral and emotional level. The film takes 42 children, and places them on an island with one instruction kill or be killed, and yet even with that large of a cast there are stand out characters that become developed, and you find yourself caring about. Even smaller characters come to the forefront as the tragedy of their circumstances bring out the best and worst in their humanity.
That is where Battle Royale succeeds. This isn't a movie you watch solely for the gore, although it can be done at that level if you so choose. Battle Royale is a movie about characters, put into a shocking and terrible situation, and forced to find themselves in response to it. Some of them will do anything to survive, others band together to try and overcome.
Battle Royale is 12 years old at this point, and feels like it hasn't aged a day. It is a film that continues to feel relevant and remains immensely watchable with each passing day. It is a film that entertains, shocks, and delivers a great helping of real human emotion. This is why after over a decade it still is a favorite of many film viewers who have had the opportunity to absorb it.
Both the director's cut and theatrical versions of Battle Royale are presented on this Blu-ray in a solid 1:78:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer. The transfer is solid for the most part, and honestly, this is the best Battle Royale has ever looked on home video. That being said, Battle Royale has never been the best looking of films and this transfer does reflect that. While detail is significantly increased from prior DVD editions (and even slightly over the Arrow Blu). There is quite a bit of softness and haziness abound on this transfer. I would, of course, chalk a lot of this up to elements from the actual production and not the transfer in, and of itself. There are some decent colors at play here, especially the greens in the grassy areas on the island, and the reds (blood). The flesh tones are reasonable accurate, and the black levels are decent. Battle Royale is far from reference quality, but for what is it it looks really good.
Each version of Battle Roylae is presented with 2 Audio Options. The Director's cut is presented with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 in Japanese and TrueHD 5.1 in English. The theatrical cut is Dolby True HD 5.1 in Japanese with the same in English. Battle Royale II: Requiem is given one option a Japanese Dolby True HD 5.1 Track. While I do admit some minor issues with the video, the audio sounds marvelous. Every explosion, stabbing, chopping, gunshot comes across extreme loud and clear. The dialogue is crisp, as does the music, and everything is mixed together nicely. I did not pick up on any audio anomalies such as pops, cracks, or hissing on these tracks.
I don't mean to slight the efforts of a group of filmmakers, but I highly doubt many people are picking up Battle Royale: The Complete Collection Blu-ray to see Battle Royale II:Requiem, so I am considering it a peripheral bonus feature in this package from Anchor Bay. The film was the last film worked on by original Battle Royale director Kinji Fukasuku, who died during the films production. The reigns were taken over by his son, and the film honestly is an absolute mess.
The film follows the original by about a year. Shuya Nanahara survived Battle Royale, and escaped the island with his life, he has now become a terrorist, and is trying to take down the Japanese government. In response to this the Japanese government have expaneded the BR program to teach a new class armed combat with a new mission, to kill Shuya Nanahara. The film tries to take blend elements of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan with post 9/11 politics, and put it into the Battle Royale world, and it simply doesn't work.
As far as the actual supplementary material all of that can be found on the sets fourth disc. It kicks off with the Making of Battle Royale, a 52 minute documentary on the making of the original Battle Royale. This is followed by 12 minutes of footage from the press conference at the films premier. We then get a 12 minute Battle Royale Documentary that features various cast and crew interviews. This is followed by a parody of the instructional video that plays during the film this one is centered around celebrating director Kinji Fukasaku's 70th birthday. There is also 7 minutes of audition and rehearsal footage.
There is then a 4 minute special effects comparison segment which shows has the effects in the film were enhanced with CGI. The Tokyo International Film Festival 2000 is a 4 minute spot with the cast and crew at that particular festival promoting the film. We then have rehearsal footage from the director's cut basketball sequence, a 10 minute behind the scenes featurette, and an 11 minute featurette called Filming on Set. The disc is rounded off with the original theatrical trailer, and 2 TV spots, one called the Tarantino version.
Battle Royale has finally made it over to Region 1/A territory with a pretty substantial release courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The Video transfer accurately reproduces the look of the film, which was never that great. Nonetheless, this is the best Battle Royale has ever looked or sounded on home video. There is a nice elaborate slate of extras included, and you also get Battle Royale II in this set. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
*Also, comes in a single disc release with the director's cut.