I was both eagerly excited and nervously hesitant about finally getting the opportunity to watch BATTLE ROYALE 2: REQUIEM. I had previuosly read soooo many bad things about the movie prior to seeing it for myself. And not to even mention, the first film (and my favorite movie) had my complete undying devotion so anything with the same name that followed had Herculean-sized shoes to fill. But I gotta admit, just the thought of a sequel possibly dishing out some similar level of enjoyment that I received from the original was clearly enough for me to take my chances with it. So as soon as they started surfacing on the net, I promptly bought a fan subtitled DVD and sat down to watch the film.
As you probably already know, BATTLE ROYALE 2, the story, goes something like this...
Shuya Nanahara (actor TATSUYA FUJIWARA) and many of the other surviving members from the earlier BR games have banded together calling their group the anti-BR-law organization, THE WILD SEVEN. They've declared a terrorist war on the evil adults that head up Japan's govenment. After a massive bombing (similar to the real 911 attrocity), the "Special Anti-Terrorism BR2 Act" is passed and a whole new gaggle of kids are selected (against their will, mind you) to hunt down and kill off this terrorist group. While still confined to particular elements of the game (the explosive collars, random weapons or items located in ammo boxes, the ever-popular "Danger Zones", and the 3-day time limit before everyone goes pop), they are now armed with snazzy high powered automatic rifles and clothed in niffty looking camouflaged riot armor. Oh, before I forget, let me mention the new twist to the game. The students are paired off (boy & girl) and linked together by their collars. And what happens to one, happens to the other. Example, if boy student #3 dies in combat, his partner's collar (around the neck of girl student #3) will detonate as well. So there's a definite lesson to be learned here, KEEP YOUR PARTNER WITH YOU AND SAFE AT ALL TIMES! Okay, after being equipped for combat, they're shipped off via chopper and boat to invade the Wild Seven's island base of operations and take care of Nanahara and company once and for all. So, as you would imagine, you can start inserting the names of dead Japanese kids now.
However, some questions need to be answered before we continue, right? First, if the government already knows where the Wild Seven hold up at, why not just bomb the hell outta the island to begin with? Hmmm, I don't know. Secondly, if the government wants Nanahara dead so badly, why send in kids first instead of the trained soldiers that show up later? Well, I don't that one either. And since they are sending in kids after all, why hinder them in their mission with apects of the game (ie: random weapons, "Danger Zones", etc)? Again, I don't know. But don't worry, there's a-plenty of other ridiculous gaping plot holes that can be found throughout the movie so I'll leave the rest of those for you to discover on your own.
Anyway, back to the story, the unlucky class of cannon fodder (er, I mean, youngsters) make landfall and before you get the chance to figure out who's who, nearly all of 'em are eaten up like a bad dog's chew toy by the island's defenses. With only a handful of hapless students left, they surprisingly manage to storm the compound only to get caught and taken prisoner by the Wild Seven posse. After disarming and removing their collars, Nanahara begrudgingly allows some to join his rag tag terrorist group as the others prepare to flee the island before the government launches it's final attack, which is something they should have done from the start and saved us (the audience) the eye strain of watching the entire film.
And now, my thoughts about the movie...
As for the film itself (and all other things aside for the moment), the opening hour of BATTLE ROYALE 2 was actually soooo much better than I thought, or expected it to be. Don't get me wrong, it's NOT the first movie, but it did have it's share of good moments. There were a couple of things I really liked about it. First was the reaction of Nanahara when he heard the familiar "Beep Beep" of the government collar again after all this time. Secondly, I enjoyed seeing the struggle the students had to endure while attempting to keep their linked partners close by and out of harm's way. That's something I would have surely tried to do. And along that same theme, I can only imagine the hopeless feeling they must have had when their comrade was killed, and with nothing left for them to do, they simply had to wait for their own collar to explode next. That's certainly a chilling moment if you were in that real life situation. And of course, let's not forget what I like to call "The Poor Man's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Beach Assault Scene". Indeed, it was short and sweet, fast and furious, and simply chock full of juicy red squibs just ready to burst on filmmaking cue. It was wonderful, even if it was alittle hoaky. Yet don't be fooled by these early kind words, BR2 had alot to be desired as well.
The fact that it's a direct sequel to BATTLE ROYALE is terrific but the overall story just wasn't good enough to elevate it from being semi-standard exploitive action-movie fare with an overwhelming desire to have lots of people shoot guns at one another. Whereas the original film was more thrilling (without big explosions) and it's cast certainly captured the viewer's attention with the various character's individual plights, BR2's ensemble is almost quickly and utterly forgettable. I mean, other than a quick mentioned name, a number slapped on the side of their helmet, and a wacky haircut or hair color, there's just no real identifiable characteristics to most of the lot here. And personally, I thought a couple of the more interesting characters with potential (namely KUROSAWA and SHUGO) got offed waaaay too early where as some of the others managed to survive alot longer than they really could, or should have. Even key Wild Seven members such as the sniper babe (actress NATSUKI KATO) hardly had more than a few sentences of script to work with throughout the entire film.
But that's nothing!
The second half of the movie (the plodding period starting after the EMB), well, that's a whole different animal completely. Simply put, it's a meandering mess of silly dialogue, nonsensical far fetched combat scenes, and it blatantly flounders around in it's own self-importance. Also, an ungodly amount of screen time is devoted to each dying cast member as he or she rambles on giving some lame "Don't forget me" or "Keep up the good fight" speech before finally deciding to give up the ghost. As for the rest of the time, Nanahara, who twitches more than a cold Chihuahua, thinks aloud with preachy monologues as the others stand around, mouths agape, waiting for the government soldiers to bust in and end the awful boredom for the viewer who probably has already thought of hitting the fast forward button on the remote several times. And last but not least, Riki, oh Riki (refering to actor RIKI TAKEUCHI, who plays himself in the film), I hate to say it, but damn man, did you have to OVERACT in every scene you had. Now granted, some of your antics really fit the part but then there's others where you completely ruin them by hamming it up as much as you did. And what hell was up with the aspirin, dude?! Also a nominee in the over exaggerated acting department was the obnoxious new blonde lead character Takuma, (played by actor SHUGO "Shyugo" OSHINARI). Oh, let me tell ya, did I get soooo tired of seeing him grind his teeth and stare wild eyed in anger at someone. Give us a break, will ya, little man?!
Well, other than the woeful so-called artistic merits of the movie, I guess the most resounding unknown element concerning BATTLE ROYALE 2 is the question of whether or not it's an anti-American government film as so many other reviewers have described it as in the past. There's certainly undeniable evidence that can be found in the film to back up these theories. A prime example is their mentioned list of likely terrorist countries that they say the US has attacked at some time or another and how the American government likes to impose it's will, ideals of peace, and society structure on others. But, I believe on the flipside, and alittle more in tune to the original BATTLE ROYALE motif, one can agrue that perhaps the movie is using the modern day terrorist situation as a comparison to be considered as another remark about the youth of Japan feeling that they're being oppressed and misunderstood by the current adult population who's concerned about the generational age gap that has caused so many problems in their culture. Reportedly, KINJI FUKASAKU unfortunately died during the early stages of filming so you gotta wonder if the entire script and story had already been completed by him or did his son, KENTA FUKASAKU, snatch up the reins and take the movie in a totally different direction with new messages and meanings. Or just as easily, on a simplier note, perhaps he just wanted a controversial image to accompany an already controversial concept, knowing that BR2 would most definitely be one of the most highly anticipated movie sequels in Japanese film history. I mean, I can think of no other emotionally stirring modern image than the destruction of two skyscrapers resembling the Twin Towers of New York. Was this his intention? Who knows. Was it in bad taste? That still remains to be seen.
But sadly, after all is said and done, BATTLE ROYALE 2: REQUIEM falls short of being anything other than, in essence, a straight forward "action" film with the intent to carry out a heavy-handed message about terrorism. If there's still room for a third film in the future of this series, perhaps a prequel might be a better choice to bring to the screen than a continuation of the current storyline. BATTLE ROYALE ZERO (my choice for it's name) could easily be made depicting a previous contest between a class of students that takes place well before the events of the first movie. Alittle history behind the reasons that brought about the formation of the game could be included as the first class ever selected to play takes the stage. But then again, that's probably just wishful thinking and honestly, other than the whole idea of simply making money off of the franchise name, do we really NEED another BR movie? That's the real question. We'll just have to wait and see I guess.
In closing and to possibly grant BR2 a stay of execution, as I said earlier, the first BATTLE ROYALE is my favorite movie of all time so maybe I might be alittle too hyper-critical about the sequel. In it's defense, BR2 has it's own style and I felt that, for the most part, it kinda knew where it wanted to go even though it seemed to get bogged down in the latter half. But it's just too bad we didn't get to know most of the characters before they died. That would have certainly had you interested in them, and in the final ALAMO-styled showdown with the waves of government soldiers, you might have actually cared when they met their demise. So, my final thought, BATTLE ROYALE 2: REQUIEM, it's one of those many movies you've seen over the years where you say "Well, it's pretty good but it could have been soooo much better if..."