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New Escapist Column! Twenty Years Later, “Battle Royale” Still Stands Apart…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Because Battle Royale is twenty years old this month, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the iconic Japanese film.

In the years since the release of Battle Royale, there has been an explosion of dystopian young adult fiction based around similar premises: the idea of children forced to kill other children to survive. There are plenty of examples of this subgenre, most notably The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. However, Battle Royale has aged better than these other films for two core reasons. First of all, it acknowledges the horror of its premise, rather than sanitising it. Second of all, it understands that this social decay is perhaps more mundane than sensationalist.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay, Part II

As with the rest of the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II has an admirable sense of ambition.

There some bold ideas here for a young adult series, some of which are increasingly relevant to twenty-first century political realities. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II feels like very old-school science-fiction, tackling big issues through metaphor and allegory. While the final film in the series is very much an action spectacular, the script offers any number of observations about terrorism and state power, about media and revolutionary politics. It is nice to see such a big-budget high-profile film tackling these ideas.

Straight arrow...

Straight arrow…

At the same time, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II feels a little too clean and tempered for its own good. The script is willing to engage with complicated questions of moral relativity, but the problems frequently feel superficial. The movie frequently suggests that political and military realities are not as clear-cut as they might appear, before offering a rather clear-cut solution to what was presented as a moral quagmire. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II does not follow the path of least resistance, but it follows the path of second-least resistance.

Oddly enough for a story that has been split across two films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II feels rather incomplete and rushed in places. Certain sections of the expansive ensemble are casually brushed aside towards the end, with the film tying its major plot threads up quite hastily and efficiently. Still, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II is impressively produced and anchored in a few great performances from a very experienced cast. The result is a smooth-running film that perhaps might have been better to embrace a few more bumps and hiccups.

As the world burns...

As the world burns…

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