I saw Battle Royale about a while back and loved it, so when I heard of Battle Royale 2 I anxiously awaited for it’s arrival. It took Netflix a while to get BR2 in, but once it was it went immediately to my queue. With that being said all the waiting wasn’t really worth it.
BR2 starts out three years after the events of the first Battle Royale, and we see a series of explosions level all the high-rise buildings in a Japanese city. The guilty party is the terrorist group known as Wild Seven led by Shuya Nanahara, one of the two survivors from the first film. Nanahara has declared war on Japan on behalf of young people everywhere, and rallies them to rise up and join the revolt. In response to Wild Seven, the government passes the Battle Royale II Act, which results in the creation of a brand new Battle Royale game. Once again, the players are a high school class, but this time they’re drafted to assault Wild Seven’s island fortress rather than kill each other. Thrown into the mix are the familiar explosive collars which are on a three-day timer, but this time the collars are also paired up according to the class roster. If one blows for any reason, his or her Battle Royale buddy’s blows too.
The players of Battle Royale 2 are a bunch of misfits and juvenile delinquents, the lowest rung of the academic and social ladder. As before, the students are abducted and introduced to the teacher who will lead the game. After a quick rundown of the new game rules, the players are given their orders and it’s here that the movie fumbles, as unexplored questions about the merits of the film’s logic surfaces.
For instance, why send untrained teens to eliminate a terrorist stronghold, and then fit them with explosive collars that will double their KIA numbers? The obvious thing to do would be to bomb the living hell out of the island in question. By way of a feeble explanation, Takeuchi informs us that because Wild Seven considers young people their allies, the government will use the students for the attack instead of trained soldiers. It makes sense in a perversely logical way, but it’s a half-assed explanation at best, especially considering that the entire movie rests on this plot device. The game begins with the kids storming the island in a sequence blatantly ripped off from the opening of Saving Private Ryan, right down to the scenes of the soldiers dying on the beachhead. It goes without saying that a good chunk of the students are predictably decimated by Wild Seven.
Not surprisingly, both Nanahara and BR2 prove to be both heavy-handed and superficial. Wild Seven claims to be freedom fighters, yet they commit terrorist acts that target the general public, some of which must be the teens they are presumably fighting for. Once we meet the Wild Seven members, you can’t help but notice how trendy J-Pop/Total Request Live hip they are. Everyone has perfectly highlighted hair and an immaculate sense of color and texture. In other words, they look exactly like teen idols playing dress-up revolutionaries. Sorely missing in the new cast is the average, unglamorous quality of the kids from the first film, something that highlighted the lunacy of their predicament.
There’s a running theme throughout the movie and it has a very anti-American stance, listing countries the US has bombed over the years (even though their list is based in fantasy) blaming the US for all wars and more. A number of the characters throughout the film use the US as a bogeyman when trying to paint the other side as evil.
But BR2 isn’t a complete mess. If you’re looking for a loud, mindless action movie, Battle Royale II is certainly that. Following the trend in Japanese films, CG blood is used in place of squibs and blood bags. The partner collar gimmick makes for some frantic scenes where kids react to their inevitable deaths. The movie has definitve echoes of Red Dawn and The Dirty Dozen thrown into the mix. For a movie that is so venomously anti-American, Battle Royale II takes an awful lot from American movies.