Is The Hunger Games a remake of Battle Royale?
I’ve seen people ask the headline question, and having recently watched the 2000 Japanese movie Battle Royale, I can completely see how someone one familiar with that movie would assume that the makers of the 2012 The Hunger Games movie would have paid for the remake rights.
Now, to be clear, Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games series, has said that her work was uninfluenced by the Japanese movie (and the 1999 book on which it was based). That may certainly be true: I’ve had those sorts of “paralell creative evolution” things happen personally. For example, I wrote an updated version of Sherlock Holmes, in which Watson was a blogger. There was a later creative work that used the same idea…I think it highly unlikely that my work influenced the other, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been similar works (of which I was unaware) before mine.
However, there are really striking similarities…and significant differences.
There really isn’t a way to discuss this much further without some spoilerism, so
Similarities between the movies
Young people are forced to battle each other to the death until only one remains alive
Television covers both events (although it doesn’t appear that people watch Battle Royale live…we do see a TV crew rushing up to a survivor of the games)
There are a series of games
Contestants are given a backpack (or the opportunity to get one) with random contents…they may be good or bad
There are a small number of contestants with superior skills (the “careers” in The Hunger Games, the “exchange students” in Battle Royale)
Poison figures in both
The battle takes place in an arena, with changing hazards that complicate things
Relationships between the players are important, including an at least potentially romantic couple
A male and female couple of participants are mentored by a previous player of the game…who drinks alcohol when they apparently don’t
There is a saccharine female television personality…Effie in The Hunger Games
One of the key things is that Battle Royale basically takes place in our culture. The Hunger Games is an entirely different society, and the dystopian government seeks to keep outlying districts in line. The motivation for Battle Royale has more to do with teenagers not respecting their elders
The contestants in Battle Royale are all from the same school…the fact that they all know each other (although some much better than others) is very different and influences the movie
There are certainly other differences, but those are two of the key ones.
Let’s get down to the key thing here: I liked Battle Royale better than The Hunger Games movie. In fact, it was the best movie I’ve seen in some time, even though it was at times over the top.
Yes, it was violent…although in a somewhat cartoony way. The part that really made it work for me was how the contestants behave. The dialogue (I saw it with surprisingly well done English subtitles…I don’t speak Japanese) was reasonable to me. The mean girls were mean, but they already had been.
Now, The Hunger Games books are superior, and I haven’t read the Japanese book. We get a lot more into the character of Katniss…but given that she knows the games are coming for some time (but not if she will be a participant) makes that logical. The students in Battle Royale just have it sprung on them (although they apparently could have been aware of the possibility, they weren’t).
For the movies, though, I found a lot more emotional depth in BR. We aren’t just following a few characters: I could see real relationships between many of them. President Snow was a great literary villain…but the villain in BR had me more moved.
I think more people would enjoy The Hunger Games, in part because it isn’t as harsh or graphically violent. If you are comfortable with being uncomfortable, though, I’d suggest you give BR a try.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.