Kuya Bodjie: Ruining my childhood since "Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros."
If you've known me for longer than a month, you'd probably know that one of my favorite films is Battle Royale. Based on the novel by Takami Koushun, this follows the tale of a class of students sent to an island to kill each other off. Needless to say, the premise alone has incited a lot of controversy, and more than a few people have accused Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games" series as nothing more than a rip-off.
That being said, the premise isn't particularly unique, but the execution could always very well be switched around to make for variety. Sipat Lawin decided that this meant a good Filipino adaptation could be produced based on the premise, and from what I heard, the initial CCP run was actually pretty good, albeit that wasn't the one that I got to see.
There's still one playdate tonight, and I'm contemplating if I should try to shoot for a walk-in ticket, seeing how awesome the whole experience was last night, despite all the imperfections.
In any case, I don't want to get into spoilers, but the premise for the live-action game does away with any attempt at explaining how the Philippines could possibly ever be party to a Battle Royale game. That's fine, really, since we hardly need that backstory just to get to the core, and the core naturally has to focus on the key students, and how they develop themselves over the course of the game.
I'm rather desensitized to gruesome deaths after Final Destination, so my eye was trained more towards the character arcs in the play. I don't know if it was because of the way the whole play was set up, where three separate groups would mobilize and then watch the play from three different vantage points and then at the last moment, be free to choose one of three endgame scenarios play out
The ever-reliable and amazingly talented Kuya Bodjie Pascua played Frazer Salomon, the teacher of the class who facilitates Battalia Royale. Throughout the play, several character arcs were developed that both mimicked as well as played on the expectations of people who saw the film, and assuming that they don't change the endings for every game, I have to admit that the way the play ended for me last night left me cold because I couldn't really identify too well with the winner of the game.
I don't know if it's the weakness of doing the game in this setting, or if it really was just scripted poorly, but whether or not the frenetic running and herding of the audience had anything to do with it, nearly all the characters in the game felt raw and underdeveloped, especially if they did not parallel any of the characters from the movie.
Set inside an abandoned high school building, the atmosphere really lent to a gritty and realistic feel for the game. With ghost house rules guiding the whole audience as well as the cast, you get to see the players of the game up close and personal and try to gain some semblance of affinity for them, yet very few of them manage to pull that off.
I liked it, because I was a fan of Battle Royale. I'm sure many others would like it because of the themes they played with were brilliant and there wasn't really a dearth of talent going around that night. Despite that, if you aren't easily dazzled by gory faux-death scenes, you might find the entire game to be rather weak. It doesn't have the punch of the film because there were no clear ramifications for the winner of Battalia Royale after the fact, nor did it have any catharsis when it comes to a very important character who was dealt with in the film. This terrible combination of an anti-climax and a non-resolution left me cold and expecting more.
Ultimately, though, I enjoyed the game, despite my rather high standards. I think the realistic feel of running around the abandoned school to get a good view of what was going on really helped, and so did having Radioactive Sago Project play live music during the game.
Much love to Dang Ching and her friends, as well as all the random people I ran into during Battalia Royale last night. It made for a very great experience, and if they ever do another run of this in the future, I will certainly be on hand to support it.