Saturday, February 15, 2014

When Sequels Suck: Battle Royale II - Requiem

A continuation (of sorts) of this post.

So, I finally got around to watching the sequel to Battle Royale. Expectations were not high, considering the general 'meh-ness' of follow-ups. Unfortunately, this film did not shake that notion. This review is not kind.

Not rated in the US, but it received the 'R' equivalent in other countries.

The story takes place 'three years later' and is no less dramatic. Writers follow the original equation and use just as many participants which, at the high number of 42, can be difficult to keep straight. That was something the first film pulled off remarkably well, but not so much in this case. An added element involves the students being forcefully paired with one another via their linked collars. They both explode if one partner dies or travels more than 50 meters away from the other. This, along with the continued use of danger zones, acts as a semi-plot hole considering that the goal of this game is not to murder one another but to track down and kill Shuya Nanahara—you know, the protagonist from the first film?—who is now the leader of terrorist organization "The Wild Seven." This elite group comprises previous BR champions...except for Noriko, who only shows up toward the end of the film. Fans will perhaps appreciate the nod to Shogo's brand of cigarette, but do not expect to get attached to any members. Interactions between characters are mild even where the new recruits are concerned.

Plot-wise, it's contrived. The 'adults' want Shuya dead, but they still desire Battle Royale to continue on in that children are killed off one by one. You would think they might prioritize. Even more bizarrely, the entire film has Christmas overtones with Westernized carols being played at sporadic intervals. Things carry on only to become more and more confusing to a point where viewers might not know who has been killed, who is bombing whom, or why they should care. There is also the unnecessary subplot of Kitano-sensei's daughter signing up for the BR program so that she can face both Shuya and the strained relationship with her now-dead father; just one more item on a long list of Why?

This new direction makes things seem less like a 'battle' and more along the lines of warfare. Entertained sponsors are integrated to provide funds for military combat gear (sound familiar, Hunger Games aficionados?) while the film itself is separated into 'missions' like "Getting Ammunition," "The Assault," etcetera. Students also have the added benefit of telecommunications via handheld transceivers together with government 'gifts' of ammo in keeping with the whole Xmas spiel.

Deaths are, if you can believe it, more gimmicky than ever before. Most are just unconvincingly acted. Blood squibs are painfully obvious at times, distracting the audience from the seriousness of character injuries and causalities. The participants die so quickly that any sense of suspense is eliminated. That was an aspect with which the original film did really well, so it was a major disappointment when even that didn't pan out. Worse still, some characters seem to magically resurrect in the second-half. Wasn't bespectacled Osamu Kasi killed during the original assault, just after Shiori Kitano's freak-out? No? I could have sworn he was shot... o_0 At any rate, he dies a second time by blowing himself up martyr-style. (There are lots of troped-up explosions in Requiem.)

When the few remaining participants have their collars taken out with an EMB, real troops are sent in to take them out. Events start to stagnant at this point. Shuya comes out with a lengthy speech on child wars and tries to tie in international conflict by mentioning war refugees in the Middle East. He feels the need to justify his actions despite the fact that the audience is already completely cool with removing from power any arseholes who think it is entertaining to have children fight to the death—acts of terrorism included.

The new sensei doesn't offer up any redeeming qualities, either.

In the end, the film is overly long (2.5 hours!), has a confusing plot that is definitely not aided by random flashbacks again copied from the first film, and possesses a poorly written script. There were only two good things Requiem had going for it: First is the reconciliation of terrorism in the face of directed atrocities. I harped on Shuya's perceived need to defend his actions in the previous paragraph, but his conflict is actually one of the few highlights. Seeing that inner struggle and remembrance of excruciating experience feels true. Second, there is the idea of confronting adulthood and the inevitability of growing up. In such a society as displayed in the film, children are terrified of turning into monsters once they reach a certain age. They cannot comprehend why their elders would force them to take part in such barbaric rituals—the Wild Seven proclaim war on 'all adults', after all—so it only makes sense that they yearn to stay forever young in order to avoid such a fate. Even their barracks resembles a child's fort or jungle-gym. Apart from these two concepts, however, this sequel is not worth the time.

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