Redline (and Battle Royale)

Remember Galaxy Express 999, or Robotech, or pretty much any of the anime that made its way overseas and opened the door? For a number of people, the works of anime that got them hooked were because of the mind expanding experience. Lately, it seems like the vast majority of anime is about naked highschool girls and their panties. Not an especially new phenomenon, but there’s a chasm with ample room for an anime that reminds people of what got them into it in the first place.

Fear no more, boys and girls, we have the movie Redline full of oldschool goodness that fills every second with a visual feast. The story is simple: an eclectic mix of characters participate in a series of high stakes races in a bizarre variety of machines. Things get more interesting as this particular race is set on a bizarre fascistic planet which does not want the race to happen. As the story is very simple, it’s hard to elaborate without ruining all the crazy events which happen. That the story maintains a tight focus speaks well of it, as there is so much going on that could easily water down the kickass racing. This reminds me of one of the things which bogs down many anime with sci-fi or fantasy elements: The need to explain so much of how the universe works.

Visually, it’s an absolute joy to behold. Words cannot adequately describe how amazing this movie looks. The audio is solid, with a pulsing soundtrack that matches the action perfectly. Dubbing has gone a long way since those early titles, and that is one recent development which enhances the movie. Just watch the movie!

Battle Royale

“Could you kill your best friend?” Possibly one of the best taglines ever in cinema, and naturally the movie has one of the most memorable premises. With the nation in spiral, and the youth in revolt, the adults are so frightened of their own children they create Battle Royale to turn the youth violence inward. In short, a class of high school students are abducted, taken to an island, rigged with explosive collars, and given weapons as they are set on each other or else get blown to bits. In this free for all, there are no rules of engagement and no quarter given as the name of the game is to be the last one standing at the end.

An obvious comparison will be made to The Hunger Games for a similar premise, but there’s one detail which makes all the difference in the world: In Battle Royale the contestants know each other. Rivalries, friendships, unrequited feelings, all of these come bubbling up and are tested as the class is put in an impossible situation. At least one scene comes to mind which played out like something out of Shakespeare, but more awesome because there were guns involved.

The current version available is the Director’s Cut with additional scenes that were shot after the fact, an unusual choice. Even more unusual the extra bits were not scenes of extra violence and sex, but scenes which expanded the characters including a recurring flashback. This also includes three epilogues, which is a little absurd but it’s hard to pick one and say that it should be removed. I’m especially partial to the final epilogue and the last line spoken which even got its own epitaph. Could also be a sign of getting old that it felt especially poignant to me.

Yes, there was a sequel to Battle Royale, but one might be better off skipping it. From what I read, it sounds like a few characters were arbitrarily brought back. While the first movie has a subtext with political implications, the second one really packed it in, which wouldn’t be so bad if it had anything insightful or fresh to say. It’s pretty much: Youth good, adults bad. Watching the first movie, I got the impression that the real problem was that nobody was being an adult. The principle antagonist in the first movie was this strange blend of terrifying, douchey, and just plain sad. Overall, Battle Royale is one of those movies which a movie buff has to see at least once.

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