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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Battle Royale: Cult Japan at it's best and Avengers Arena, Hunger Games and More

Battle Royale

Ever since I started my blog, I must have watched about a 100 or more films (new and old, English, Hindi and other languages, ones I've watched and ones I hadn't). That's context. 

Rarely does a film stir me so, that I decide to write about it beyond the short or long boring review. Battle Royale is that rare exception, a masterpiece and a pure example of thrilling yet thoughtful cinema. 

Recently I completed the first two volumes of Marvel NOW's Avengers Arena, a comic that made no bones about being an homage to a the aforementioned Japanese cult classic. I had heard about Royale before, when Hunger Games the film was being promoted. Games was said to have taken influences from the concepts in Battle Royale.

As such I thought I would check out the film.

Battle Royale has an exciting narrative to it that is perfectly paced. Unlike Hunger Games (the movies), the thing it does perfect is deride itself of the initial set-up or doesn't lengthen it as much and gets right to the meat of the action. This way we avoid the long excruciatingly detailed exposition, rather building the main protagonists and then some through flashback sequences. 

The writers only use exposition as a means when they really need to and thus the film doesn't falter from providing its message without bogging down the bloodfest. 

One of the issues I had with the first and to an extent the second film in The Hunger Games, was that much of the political and social subtext of the film was heavy handed and on the nose especially when we visited the one note villains specifically the malevolent President Snow.

In Battle Royale these themes are ever present, and the ambiguity of the world at large in the film keeps you intrigued on what is a somewhat skewed reasoning for the Battle to take place. Of the subtitles I got the understanding, that in this future setting children refuse to go to school as such the Battle Royale act is passed on. 

A randomly selected class of students is brought to the island and given equipment to fight each other until only one survives. The film here gains more resonance simply because the people fighting with each other are not of different districts but rather friends/enemies/class mates who know each other, thus making the killing that much difficult and once they go through with it that much more harrowing.

It juggles the ideas of friendship, parenthood, adulthood, responsibility and overall a broken social structure well enough. Specially how it makes a commentary on education and the overbearing idea of a competitive world eating up the youth. The writer Kenta Fukasaku and Kenji Fukasaku adapt from the novel well and keep those themes intact but in such a way that they are shadows to much of the emotional arc of the film, yet also manage to shine and highlight aspects of the feature that make it compelling to view. 

Beyond that this is one hell of an influential film. Besides Hunger Games, films such as Kill Bill and shows such as Lost picked up concepts from it. Of course my favorite is the comic that made me pick up this film; Avengers Arena.

Arena has the same logo as the film, and explores the themes present issue by issue until it's completion at number 18. Each issue takes a Point of view concept from each of the characters involved. I've read up to number 12, where the second volume finishes. 

What's great about this is that the characters are well known. Most of them come from the then (when Arena was set to release) recently concluded Avengers Academy, picking up a lot of threads from the teen comic. 

These youngsters are further developed each issue making most of their deaths poignant and unable to bear (even though they might come back to life in future). It's quite a dark series in the Marvel NOW! rejuvenation that has been particularly light in most aspects.

If you're a comic fan, I suggest you pick it up as it is a real interesting read and one of the best Marvel had produced in the past few years. The third volume I realise is also out thus completing the set. 

From here onwards, the survivors of the battle will go onto star in Avengers Undercover. As pissed of heroes at their mentors, taking shelter with Baron Zemo Jr. and the Masters of Evil. 

On another note, also do check out Battle Royale. It's an epic bloodfest, not for the weak of heart or stomach yet it has a great love story at it's center and some complex issues spoken about. 

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia

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