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A Reader of Fictions: Books Made Into Movies: Battle Royale

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Books Made Into Movies: Battle Royale

One of the things in life that I love almost as much as reading is watching movies or television shows. Imagine my excitement when good books are translated into another medium! Of course, that joy is tempered with a whole shaker of salt, as I have seen so many wonderful books turned into crap films (Timeline, Harry Potter, The Time Traveler's Wife, etc.) and do not want to get burned again. I both eagerly await and greatly fear the upcoming Hunger Games film. Anyway, the newest feature on my blog: reviews of movies based on books!


Having read the novel Battle Royale, the next step was to watch the film, which I obtained from Netflix yesterday. Those looking for some gore will definitely find it here, although perhaps less than might be expected. Many of the bloodiest scenes have been cut from the film for the sake of time, including some martial arts and a car chase. Still, there are plenty of bullets flying, and landing in human flesh (over and over, because people in films need to be shot approximately twenty times before they can die).

Most interesting to me were the elements that had been changed from the book version. There were a surprising number of changes, even given the cuts that would be necessary to turn a 600 page book into a two hour film. There were two massive changes (and a number of somewhat insignificant ones), neither of which I felt did much good for the plot.
  1. Rather than including some back story about Shuya, the protagonist, the opening sequence shows a teacher get stabbed by a student running by. A girl picks up the fallen knife and hides it behind her back as the teacher limps off. A message tells the viewer that the teacher quit after this. Having not had an introduction to the characters at this point, this scene is incredibly mind-boggling. Nothing like this occurred in the novel, so I really didn't know what to make of it. Throughout the film, the secret is revealed (although there was no real need for secrecy and the why of it remained completely unclear). Apparently, Nobu (Yoshitoki Kuninobu, Shuya's best friend) stabbed Kitano (the teacher) and Noriko Nakagawa picked up the knife. Later, Kitano is their teacher on the island. Not sure why this was added, except to explain the weird relationship between Kitano and Noriko, which was creepy, stupid, and less cool than the original ending.
  2. Kazuo Kiriyama (sporting an awesome Carrot Top hairstyle) and Shogo Kawada (now three years older than everyone else) are both transfer students. They join the class on the island. In the book, Kazuo has gone to the school with everyone else for years and is the established leader of the thug group. Shogo transferred in at the beginning of the year. While it doesn't matter too much with Kazuo's plot line whether he knew everyone already (except for it being really odd that Izumi Kanai was hanging out with the class thugs at the southern tip of the island), it really screws with Shogo's character arc. There is really no reason for the movie Shogo to act as he does. And there was even less of a reason to change when the characters transferred.
I know Kazuo doesn't care about his hair, but really? This is what they went with?

These issues were a bit annoying, but overall the movie stuck to the book on the whole. Some of the weapons were changed, but all of the ones used to kill were left the same. Actually, thinking back on it, I suspect they changed the others to add in some humor (poor Shuya with his pot lid). A couple students died differently than in the book, but they were minor characters and it hardly mattered. The other unfortunate aspect of the film was that the actor chosen to play Shuya lacked the charisma the character is meant to have (which explains why so many people really like him).

Verdict: not as good as the book, but still quite interesting. Worth the watch, if you can deal with violence. Most of the violence is so over the top it wasn't too bad to watch. I am actually finding the manga version of the story harder to watch. I will be passing on the sequel to the movie, which sounds pretty terrible.

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