BATTLE ROYALE (3 DISC R2 SE)
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano
What's it about
In a future where kids are out of control and adults are helpless, they of course do the sensible thing - take a whole grade 9 class to an isolated island, fit them with explosive collars, give them weapons and make them fight to the death! It's every adult's dream come true! This Japanese modern cult classic is back in an overstuffed Region 2 special edition from Arrow Video.
Is it good movie?
Of course it is! If you're a fan of genre movies (and if you aren't, why are you here?), and of Japanese cult films in particular, then you've seen this bloody, insane movie already. There has been volumes written about Battle Royale, so I'll just say a few words and then jump to the meat of this boxed set. With inventive and just plain mean kills, a visual sense that keeps the action flowing, a controversial premise (42 fifteen year olds fighting to the death = Awesome!), the awesome title cards that countdown the 42 kids, a lot of super villainous acts and loads of cool wrapped up into one package, it's no wonder that this movie is a modern cult classic. And to see one of my favourite movies given such an awesome DVD/BluRay treatment is great.
While the extended cut of the movie doesn't add too much more to the narrative or action, it is a superior version. The fact that the scenes were shot well after the movie had been released was nice to see, and the features that Arrow Video had heaped on these three discs is full of meaty tidbits such as this. There are five extensive documentary features, covering everything from casting, rehearsals, production, effects, score, marketing, release, reshooting for the extended cut a few festival events. More trailers than you can shake a grenade at are also included, as are trailers for some of Fukasaku's movies. I especially liked the interview with Beat Takeshi, as the dude has a unique perspective on his varied career, and his place in this particular movie. There are even some funny "in universe" extras, like the hilarious "Correct Way to Fight in Battle Royale", where the peppy and hyper cute Japanese girl explains more of the rules of the game like a cheerleader with serious developmental and drug issues. I wanted to garrote her, but I loved the laughs!
There is so much to see and watch in this edition that it will eat up multiple nights on you, I guarantee it. But is it worth the time to watch? For fans of the movie, and for fans of the filmmaking process, hell yes. There is a lot of detail here, especially watching how a master of old school Japanese cinema operates on set. Fukasaku is like an indifferent general with raw recruits, or rather a puppeteer working with dead wood and props. He knows what he wants and the actors better damn well have the respect to do exactly as he says, how he says to do it! I loved watching the man work the set.
Now some of the features are lacking in the production value department, but they are still informative and interesting to watch. They feel like they were for an old video release, dredged up for DVD and not cleaned up very well (if at all), but at least Arrow Video is doing the job of collecting definitive collections of features for classic and almost forgotten genre films to create amazing releases. Kudos to you guys, keep it up. I will most definitely be hitting up more of their boxed sets in the future.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1. Both cuts of the movie look awesome, Arrow Video did a great job of beefing up the visuals for this release.
Audio: Japanese Dolby 5.1 Surround and Dolby 2.0 Stereo, with English subtitles.
Disc 1 has the original theatrical cut of the movie, plus:
- Original theatrical trailer
- The making of Battle Royale: The Experience of 42 High School Students
Disc 2 has an extended version of the film (8 additional minutes), Plus:
- Special Edition Trailer
- TV Spot: Tarantino Version
- Shooting the Special Edition
- Takeshi Kitano Interview
- The Correct Way to Make Battle Royale [Birthday Verion]
- Tokyo International Film Festival Presentation
- Conducting Battle Royale with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra
Disc 3 contains more special features:
- Opening Day at Marunouchi Toei Movie Theatre
- The Slaughter of 42 High School Students
- Premiere Press Conference
- The Correct Way to Fight in Battle Royale
- Royale Rehearsals
- Masamichi Amano conducts Battle Royale
- Special Effects Comparison
- Behind the Scenes Featurette
- Filming on Set
- TV Spots, Promos and Commercials
- Kinji Fukasaku Trailer Reel
The Boxset also contains:
- 2 panel reversible sleeve containing original artwork
- 32 page comic Battle Royale: Parent's Day
- Collector’s booklet by Tom Mes, author of ‘The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film’ illustrated with stills, artwork and a printed interview with director Kinji Fukasaku
- Fold-out reversible poster of original artwork
What we have here is a massive collection for serious fans, well executed (pun intended) for a great price. It would be great to see it released for other DVD regions, but with so many players region free these days that's hardly an issue. An awesome movie experience, packaged in an exhaustive and informative edition that will have any fan sitting in front of the screen long after the movie ends, this release of Battle Royale is a must have.