June 8, 2006

Movie News: Battle Royale Through a Hollywood Filter?

I read about this earlier today, and I am having trouble coming to terms with it. Now, I don't have anything against remakes, but this film always struck me as something that you would never see coming from Hollywood. The concept is a little more controversial, and I don't think that the America at large would find the story all that palatable. I know that is a sweeping generalization, but I am thinking of that from a high level, if you break it down to the individual level, you will find many people who either really like this, or who are genuinely interested.

The original Battle Royale is based off a novel of the same name, took Japanese theaters by force back in 2000. It was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who also directed the Japanese portion of Tora! Tora! Tora!. It has developed a large worldwide audience, and even spawned a sequel. Now it seems that New Line is looking to remake it in America with Neal Moritz producing. The report at Ain't it Cool News says that the plan is for a hard R film, something I'll believe when I see it. I am not sure I believe this will ever come to fruition, or at least in a form that does the original justice.

For those of you who have not been initiated to the world of Battle Royale, allow me to tell you a little bit about it. The story is set in the near future, the government is trying to find a way to control the younger population. In response to the increasingly unruly young generation the Educational Reform Act is instituted, it is then dubbed the Battle Royale Act. This act allows them to take great lengths to subdue the youth. Think of it as a combination of Lord of the Flies and The Running Man.

It begins with the kidnapping of a random high school class. Every student is drugged and taken to some remote location, in this case an island. Once there, they are outfitted with explosive collars, handed a bag with some type of weapon, and sent out into the wilderness one at a time. The goal is to kill your classmates and be the only one left alive at the end of 24 hours, or you all die. Makes me glad I'm out of school!

The film is violent, bloody, subversive, and damn entertaining. The kids all have different reactions to this. Some of them refuse to take part, others take to it a little too easily, others team up to watch each others backs. Obviously, there is more to it than that, but I do not wish to give too much away. Hopefully, I have piqued your interest in seeking it out. Or you could head over to BattleRoyaleFilm.com for more information.

The Japanese film has never been released in the US, but it is readily available at any number of sites to import. Yes, there are good Region 0 editions with English subtitles that will work fine in your DVD player. I got mine through HKFlix.com a few years back.

I really have a hard time seeing a Hollywood production featuring a story that centers on government sponsored murder of teenagers. It strikes me as something that will end up being made in a highly compromised fashion in order to appease PC sensibilities, and executives who are afraid of offending anybody. I will also say that I am intrigued as to what the end result will look like. I know, I'm contradicting myself a bit, but it is hard not to be curious how bad this will become if it comes to be.

If this does get beyond these early talks and rumors, I hope they go with a cast of unknowns as the kids, with maybe one or two recognizable faces among the adults. I think I could see someone like Gary Oldman or Rutger Hauer in there. We will see, until more news comes out I will remain highly skeptical.

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