The reception to Kinji Fukasaku’s filmic adaptation of Battle Royale was exceedingly critical from members of the Japanese parliament who publicly decried the work as unnecessarily crass and viewed the subject matter as inappropriate, the film detailing the struggles of a high school class forced by government initiative to murder each other so that one survivor might earn their freedom from a remote island. It was probably politically difficult for any of them to put it on their Top 5 list for that year.
It was only in 2012 (over a decade after its initial release) that Battle Royale was able to find a distributor in North America, entirely due to its inability to receive an age rating. It has been banned outright in Germany. Though it’s always been available in the UK I saw it for my first time as a compressed-to-shit .avi that a friend had downloaded after hearing of its noted depravity. I would have never been able to rent it at the video store. My mum’s a nice lady and is pretty relaxed about this sort of thing, but something tells me I might have had a hard sell.
Battle Royale is a fantastic film. It is one of the Capital ‘G’ Great films. It is a shocking piece of work that utterly justifies every graphic depiction of violence in its roughly two hour run-time. It is a deeply satirical text which uses its abundant bloodshed and death as an attempt to admonish violence. It does not revel in any of its content, despite deriving gallows humour from some of it. Violent acts are committed out of a forced necessity spurred by a power that is larger than any of the people involved.
Its reading specifically as a political allegory is all the more relevant now, with current government programs set about with little forethought result in meaningless and ongoing suffering, forcing others to do undue harm to others.
The trailer for Destructive Creations’ “Hatred” was released today to a mixture of dismay, outcry and some yawns. Hatred purportedly places the player in control of a spree-killer gunning down innocents. It starts with a Jackie Estacado-type monologuing and continues to an isometric view of gameplay followed by Skyrim-like Kill-cam shots and closing on a stylised logo, later some release-date information.
Before any of the killing starts I’m already calling it hackneyed. I’m confused by the premise with just a few words from the lead.
The protagonist, rattling off a manifesto as VO to him tooling up by placing too many items into his seemingly bottomless and sideless left jacket pocket, admits to two separate and disparate forms of motivation. His actions are described as being brought on by both an angry nihilism and also as a form of “vengeance”. That’s impossible. I’ve gone over it 20 times since. You can’t take “Vengeance” when no one has done anything.
If pushed, I can try and work around the language there. He’s angry at everyone and wants to kill them and then die himself, but labeling that as revenge isn’t really in keeping with his other words. He never admits to a cause for his anger nor actively blames the people he’s choosing to hurt who’ve done nothing at all. By his own admission, he’s always wanted to die violently. He’s wanted to die violently before anyone could have possibly done anything to make him want that. In what way is he enacting revenge?
I’ve been thinking about that turn of phrase for just a few hours and I didn’t even write it. Did the actual scribe have some uncomfortable time pressure for completion or was it just getting close to lunch?
Is that the killer’s house, by the way? Like, does he live there or has he broken in? I ask because there are neatly stacked beer bottles still in their cardboard carriers dotted around the environment. It’s to show that he’s a drinker, clearly. It’s part of his Edge that he drinks to numb the pain of the world around him. There’s a lit cigarette smoking away on the table for the same reason (Why didn’t he finish his cigarette before he started tooling up? Is it for show? Who is he showing off for?). If he’s shown to be a drinker, he’s the neatest drinker in earth’s history. Finishing bottles and putting them right back into the things he carried them home in. Either that or he hasn’t gotten around to slamming them into his tum-tum yet. Why not? Your plan is to die during this escapade. Drink the booze you’ve bought before then. Is the rampage taking place a day early or something? Could it not wait until the weekend?
Why is this happening at, judging by the clock, either around 3:45 or 8:20? It’s night time, so it’s either early evening or before the sun’s up. Why so late? Does that mean he went to work that day and is starting the rampage afterward? He has to have a job to afford all the guns, right? Why not take a sick day and start the rampage in the afternoon? There’s better visibility, dude! You’re not intending to deal with the consequences of an unauthorised absence.
I’m not intending to be petty, I’m trying to make a point that Hatred seems thoughtless and trite, it seems like a po-faced and ridiculous attempt to garner controversy. It looks fucking terrible. It looks like a teenager might have bragged about it to a friend as their game design plan for when they finally got that job at Nintendo, but made all the more ridiculous knowing it’s the product of fully grown men. I’ve seen the photo of the team. All of them are settling into their 30s or are readily approaching it. And I’m sad about that. I’m sad about all the doors that these men have shut in their life in order to get to this point. And perhaps without even knowing it.
There’s your criticism instead of at all discussing the game’s violence. I’m sorry if you thought I was going to. I can’t be bothered. What I’ll say is I can appreciate a piece of art using difficult theme with meaningful intent. I think Hatred looks terrible, and I say that not as a criticism of its graphic content, I say that in a really formalist way where art’s only really successful if the content works as deliberate attempt to convey a message. And what I gather from the trailer itself and some notes from the team’s website, the only real aim is to make an isometric shooter where you kill innocent people.
That’s an okay goal, I guess? It already seems like Mission Complete. It seems like you start burning the .exe onto CDs and start handing them out from your trunk after some Grindcore gigs. This team wants to make a game where you shoot people and the mechanics they’ve put in place allow the player to do that with little issue. 10/10.
But without any larger statement, without any mid-game turn-around where suddenly there’s some statement about our willingness to enjoy a game despite its devoid morals, without it turning out to be Frog Fractions 2, it’s a pretty straightforward attempt to do something that’s been done before. That’s bad art. That’s the sort of art that people with monocles and degrees look at and call juvenile. Derivative, even.
I don’t think Hatred seems like shit because it’s overly violent. I think it seems like shit because I’ve seen it done better already.