There has been a lot of comparison between the 2000 film Battle Royale and the hit new book/film series The Hunger Games, two books-turned-movies that deal with societies where young kids are forced to fight to the death until one victor remains. And after a rewatch of BR I can see why the two have been compared beyond just a surface plot analysis. It’s hard to believe the claim that Suzanne Collins, writer of THG series, had never seen or heard of BR before. It’s also a shame that the film adaption didn’t take a few pointers from it before filming.

I did something last week that I don’t normally find myself doing: succumbing to an internet deal and purchasing a Blu Ray online. I don’t really buy DVDs/Blu Rays often at all actually, mainly because I feel like there are so many films I’d like to own that I wouldn’t know where to start. With that shitty logic, and the fact that I almost always regret not buying media while it’s on sale, I made the leap and bought Battle Royale off Amazon for what I decided was a good deal.

Then just yesterday I did something else I don’t normally find myself doing: I opened up my package and immediately watched the film. Honestly, I’ve had a real issue going on lately. Working on this site, seeing screenings every week and podcastsing has put me in this weird state of film watching. I am almost always watching something in theaters, something I’ve seen before or something I know I don’t really care about. I guess it’s because I feel like watching something I care about will require my attention and most of the time I just want to veg out. I miss that real art though. I miss seeing amazing indies and foreign, and running through my favorite horror directors works or even some other director’s filmography that I am not familiar with. That’s really where my obsession with film started and why this blog is even here. So to make a long story short (too late) watching Battle Royale again reminded me of all that. All those films I was seriously missing in my life. That and the fact that I don’t really like The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games wasn’t just a movie, it was an adaptation of a tremendously popular book series that carried with it a huge fan base, one that seemed to grow larger every day. My entire life I have always seemed to be one day behind on whatever the latest trend is, like in 5th grade when literally ten kids had Yo-Yo’s at the same time like all of a sudden. “Did you guys get these at some event or something you all went to together?” I was always baffled why some fads caught on so quickly. Normally I stick to what I like and not what’s cool but I was intrigued enough by THG craze to listen to the first book on tape, hoping to catch the fever as well. Jess liked it, my boyfriend/Wunderclaus liked it. There must be something going on. But while I enjoied the story enough to make it to the end of the book, I kept stewing on a few issues I just couldn’t make sense of. The fact that it had become such a hit across all age groups made me question these issues even more, scrutinizing every problem on a big scale. Then came the film, which I like even a little less but again was comparing it heavily to the material in the novel. I mulled it over time and time again until I finally discussed it with someone that was as wishy washy about it as I was and I determined then that I just wasn’t down with it. It wasn’t bad but it didn’t spark enough fire in me to like it as much as the other fan kids did. The film/story’s cultural presence created more of a talking point for me than the actual content did. Over and done with it.

But then I rewatched Battle Royale. Remember? I just said it at the beginning of this post. Seriously people, keep up. Anyway the film has always been one I’ve admired. As a Tarantino fan, It’s hard not to love a film that has had such an impact on his work. But after the movie was over and I had got over all those good feelings I normally get after watching it, I started to think about all the painfully close similarities it shares with THG. Without getting too spoilery with either film, some of the actions of the characters and overall feel of the environment is very close in spirit. The biggest difference in these two seem to be more of a thematic difference than anything else. While both films deal with issues of society, power, and survival, BR is more concerned with relating broader scale adolescent vs. adult issues while THG is more concentrated on personal identity within one character.

So what does The Hunger Games do wrong? Why can’t I connect with it as well? The cop out internet message board awnser would be to say the BR is a way cooler and totally did it first version of THG. And I mean hell yea, Battle Royale is way cooler in title alone but I really think it’s because Games didn’t take away anything from Battle. It’s a weird thing to say/think out of the gate. Especially considering Collins was adamant she hadn’t seen the movie/read the book before hand. But upon learning of it’s existence, the filmmakers really should have watched it and payed attention. I’ll concede that THG does answers a few things better than BR, mainly in regard to how the ‘playing field’ operates, but it’s victories stop there. If both films come from a teenage perspective, why does one seem to completely miss the point? I guess Hunger Games is after all a young adult novel, but why display adolescence as having a giant dose of optimism? At the end of both films, there are similar outcomes for similar characters and even though there are ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ messages in both, THG seems too preoccupied with making us feel ok about everything. The bad people are bad and the good people will make it through. But this story and subject matter shouldn’t give us the warm fuzzies. With so many opportunities to create something fresh, THG never does anything with it. I guess they had to make sure that whole ‘love’ thing made enough screen time.

With the success of the American THG film, there will never be a remake of Battle Royale. At a glance that’s something to be thankful for but the reason it wouldnt find an update here in the U.S. isn’t because it’s a classic (even though it is) it’s because it will only be named a cheap Hunger Games knock off. But it wasTHG that took the story from BR and watered it down. It stole all the potential for improvment away from other adaptations. If you had asked me a few years ago, I wouldn’t be against something along the same story line as BR, I mean the concept of young adults offing each other by the government’s hand is a scandalous and juicy concept ripe for elaboration. But now, THG has ruined that thought, by toning down all that could be and replacing the tempting possibilities with mid grade, family friendly entertainment.

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About Linds

Lindsay is the site's founder and main contributor. She is also the individual on the FTS Podcast that speaks with an odd sentence structure, can't properly pronounce names and sounds like a 12 year old boy.

26 thoughts on “Why Rewatching Battle Royale Made Me Mad At The Hunger Games

  1. In my opinion the biggest difference is that in The Hunger Games all the kids have to kill people they don’t know and they have time to prepare and train for it. In Battle Royale the kids are chosen at random and it’s their classmates and friends. It’s not right, but it’s a little easier to kill someone you don’t know. Being forced to kill your best friend is a much more difficult desicion to make and I think Battle Royale holds up higher for me. It is more of a statement against war then The Hunger Games.

    Having two movies that deal with similar themes is nothing new. Just look at Stir of Echoes vs The 6th Sense or Antz Vs A Bug’s life. People are going to latch on what they think is better. I’m glad that Hunger Games got made, because I don’t think we would have gotten a great adaptation of Battle Royale. Unless of course Quentin Tarantino directed it.

    • That’s another really good point about the plot line differences and how Battle Royale is also a statement against war. Taking those differences one step further, BR relates a lot better to adolescent struggles and the structure of teen social classes.

      And I do agree, it’s definitely a very very good thing that BR was never remade!

  2. Listening to you try to warm up to THE HUNGER GAMES sounds a lot like when I tried to warm up to Nirvana. Everyone worshiped Nirvana — especially back in the day. I never got it. All I heard was some guy mumbling and whine-singing about vaginas or whatever.

    TheVern brings up a good point. Here’s another: THE HUNGER GAMES was clearly set up to be the launching point for a much bigger story. The story is the journey of this one character — from how she survived the Games to how she’ll adjust to a life of awkward conversations with boys and illicit squirrel-hunting afterwards (I’m guessing — I haven’t read the books).

    As such, I don’t think many of the themes and ideas so wonderfully fielded in BR were of much concern to Collins — at the end of the day, she’s telling a different story.

    [Also, for what it's worth, I'm willing to buy Collins' claim to never have heard of BR when writing her story -- variations of "The Most Dangerous Game" have been around for a long time, and for an aspiring YA writer, BR probably wasn't on her radar. The filmmakers, on the other hand, have no such excuse.]

    [Also, also, Hollywood would screw up a remake of BR soooooo hard. It's a blessing in disguise if they never remake it -- though I don't know that THE HUNGER GAMES necessarily ensures it won't happen.]

    • The ‘different story’ point is solid but I wonder if she always had a series in mind. Probably. And from what I have heard about the other two books in the series she seems to explain some of the things that struck me as unclear in the first novel. I think I was just disappointed because I really tried to like it but ended up being really upset that it missed so many boats and was even more upset that no one else was feeling that way.

      If they were to do a BR remake NOW, I would try to kill that shit with fire because to quote you “Hollywood would screw up a remake of BR soooooo hard.” Yes.

  3. While the main points here have been addressed– those details which distinguish one film from the other despite the similarity in their conceits– the one thing I’m curious over is the perception of optimism. I don’t think the film wants us to buy into any sort of happy ending here (because that’s completely against the point and very much what the Capital would expect from us), despite Katniss’ victory over the system designed to leave only one of the standing. Applause at the end isn’t inappropriate per se, but it’s also very clearly not the end– that final shot confirms it. (Though as a point of fact, I dislike that shot. It’s cheap.)

    The books certainly aren’t about making us feel okay about the mayhem, but that’s another story.

    The thing about Battle Royale: it’s a lot of fun. But it’s also not as thematically rich. There isn’t a world here, not a fully fleshed out one, just a vague sketch outlined just clearly enough so that we can get to the island successfully; the main event here is the kids killing each other in gruesome fashion. THG is far more about world-building and subtext. So while I would rather watch Battle Royale for entertainment, I’d rather watch THG to chew on something. They’re both great, but for different reasons.

    I’m also willing to believe Collins when she claims she hadn’t seen BR when writing the books. I mean, I didn’t see that movie until a year or so (or more) after it came out, and I’m a guy who loves movies. For a non-mainstream foreign release, that claim is pretty easy to buy.

    • I do think THG takes a much more optimistic approach because in the end it wants to be family friendly. Her ‘victory over the capital’ nonsense is one of my biggest complaints about the story because while it makes sense in the moment and feel like a strong idea, it plays right into the over arching issue of the entire material that all of these concepts are brand new for the 74th installment of the Games. I couldn’t buy a lot of what happened in the film because it seemed really unrealistic that things like this are happening 74 years into this tradition. They don’t explain a lot in the movie, but in the book it gives off an even bigger impression that all these concepts are very new. I could go into more detail of this issue but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it so I don’t feel comfortable with the argument. Apparently there are explanations to some of these issues in future books but honestly, I don’t feel like that justifies it.

      Maybe my other big issue with THG is that it didn’t give me enough to chew on in the first book/film for me to care about continuing with the story. Everything I took away from it seemed problematic and I wasn’t willing to overlook it in hopes that they would help explain it in further novels or film installments.

      Perhaps BR wasn’t as deep thematically but I think that less is more concept actually helped punctuate the point of the film a lot more. THG had an opportunity to expand and grow with the concepts it presented but ended up not being able to support itself.

      • You clearly haven’t read the rest of the books so I don’t see how you can say that they are about ‘optimism’ because they aren’t. AT ALL. and if you read the rest of the books, you would definitely see that.

        • Yeah, I have mentioned several times already that I haven’t read the rest of the books in the series. Also, this post is mainly about comparing film.

          I appreciate the comment though, and I’ll definitely have to reevaluate after the film series is completed.

          • Having read these comments, my concern with THG is the Disneyification of the Dystopian novels / movies of a generation or two ago.

            Dystopian stories are about how war, violence, even the very basic premise of authority is to keep us all fighting against ourselves while those on top do what they want – now those elements are clearly in THG, but the message is more about the individual development within the exaggerated world, not the fact that the exaggerated world is just a metaphor for our own.

            When one sees Brazil, 1984, etc… one should see the ultimate danger of government, police, war, nationalism is to keep the peasants in line – and then understand how our current situation is just that.

            After seeing THG, I feel like Ive seen the news about protests in Egypt or a rap video about protests – I don’t see any connection to my own life or where I live – and that is the ultimate failure of the movie – yeah, its kind of entertaining I guess, but the theme is like listening to a prius driving valley girl who lives in a 5000 foot mansion and owns 4000 pairs of shoes talking about how she is saving the environment from the evil oil companies – the oil companies exist and are evil because of us …

            After seeing THG I was asked at work about what it was, I said it was 1984 for the family channel …. 3 co workers said to me, what is 1984? So while Orwell turns in his grave, I would say THG is a dystopian story for people who didn’t realize 1984 is a fulfilled prophecy – kind of joke for those who made our world into 1984, that we are so clueless that they can make a kids version and we still don’t get it.

            Sorry but not interested in reading / seeing anymore, if you want to read the real thing, there are 50 years worth of books that put this to shame!

  4. Watching The Hunger Games made me mad at The Hunger Games. My BF and I were squirming in our seats waiting for it to be over. There wasn’t a single surprise in it. I was reciting the dialogue before the actors said their lines. (Yes, annoying, I know. I did it quietly to pass the time.) We hadn’t read the books. The other people with us had, and they loved it. Apparently you have to have read the books to love the movie. That means it was a bad movie.

  5. This just in: Looks like you can add BATTLE ROYALE to your “At-Home Alternatives,” cuz I just stumbled on it in the Instant Watch section of Netflix.

  6. I have to say even as a reformed Japanophile who’s been living in Japan for years, I was not impressed by the Battle Royale movie. The novel and the manga were superior products, I’m sure, but the movie was embarrassing to watch. My fav Japanese movies are Kurosawa films, and since they’re old movies, the acting style can be excused. Of modern films, I only really liked the Chakushin Ari series. To be honest, I find the modern Japanese acting style embarrassing to watch. :o/ I’ve seen anime that were excellent, but when they became live-action, I’d wonder why that awesomeness (SD & violent humor withstanding) couldn’t be translated as well onto the live action screen. Japanophiles hate when things like this are mentioned, but there it is.

  7. I can understand how you felt that way at the end of the first book, especially without moving on to the subsequent books in the Hunger Games series. Yes, at the end there was somewhat of a warm fuzzy (not so much in the book as there was in the movie). I still think the movie did not capture the message of the book as it should have. The movie is more of a companion piece to the book. But, if you get through the whole series, there is no warm fuzzy. The end of the series is quite sad, and Collins does things that most authors would be burned at the stake for. The end of Mockingjay almost feels fractured, just as all of the characters and relationships end up being. Its a fantastic commentary on society and revolution. I understand that you didn’t become attached to the book as many did, but I would recommend reading the entire series (or seeing all of the movies once they all come out) before stating things such as “But this story and subject matter shouldn’t give us the warm fuzzies”. Remember, at the end of The Hunger Games (book 1), Katniss feels as though she is safe. She got to the end of the games, she never has to go in again, her family is safe, and she can go home and become just a figure in the back again. Unfortunatly, if you continue in the story through Catching Fire and Mockingjay, she learns very quickly that is wrong, and that her stunt with the Nightlock has basically ruined her life. Everything changes, and the story quickly becomes more elaborate, and a constant battle to do what is “needed” to protect those she loves. Again I would suggest getting through the whole series….

    • That’s a solid point and I do have a feeling that if I went on with the series I would enjoy it more. My boyfriend finished the trilogy and didn’t give away specific details but basically relayed what you said and it sounded much more appealing. I’m definitely going to continue with the film series with an open mind.

      Thanks for reading.

  8. To simplify things, I just visualize Hunger Games as a Battle Royale + Twilight (absurd teen love triangles/ reverse harem) hybrid produced by the current cookiecutter trend prevalent in most of the female children/young adult focused circle of writers that came into prominence since JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer came blipping into the radar.

    You can usually gauge the skill of a writer (male or female) through the variety and unconventional application of the tropes and concepts that they use. But sadly, despite the unusual settings, most of their plots and character development are blatantly predictable and linear, so I usually just count the number of times the author pulls out a “deus ex machina” out of their word processors just to save their supposedly “smart” characters from ridiculously cliched and poorly made decisions that the audience can see from a mile away.

    Seriously, I had more fun and got some learning experience about surviving in a dystopian future from real-world accounts of survivors of war, accidents, or natural disasters as well as the discovery/NGC specials about fight science or the ramblings of survival experts than the entirety of the Hunger Games series. But that’s already to be expected. A zombie survival guide seemed more intuitive with a flair for outlandish sci-finess than this over-hyped teen drama.

    baaw + emo + action + love triangle + slight jab on celebrity beholden society + implied guro = ??? profit?

    What it lacks would probably have been the self-conscious cynicism that comes from a broader perspective if the author just bothered doing more research on the subject they chose to write. Maybe finally add some gut-wrenching realism if they applied more plausible observations in mass psychology to elicit genuine reactions from the society that they were trying to craft in their fiction, rather than presenting their pompous gameshow high-society which was only as believable as the folks in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie “The Running Man”.

    I would’ve written more.. but blah.. it’s getting boring.

    Off to the next whatever.

  9. Note*** I’m only comparing the movies and not the books.

    The one main thing I liked about Battle Royale is that it at least attempts to tell the back stories of some of the students besides the main characters. (At least in the Special Edition) All I got from The Hunger Games was just Katniss and Peeta’s relationship. I really don’t know much about any of the other contestants, and why should you. Their lives have nothing to do with the plot of the story. They are meaningless. At least B.R. tries to show us that these kids were once friends and are forced into doing something horrible in order to survive. Also the villian From T.H.G.whom I’m assuming is President Snow didn’t feel very threatening. I’m sure he becomes more menacing later on, but I didn’t get any emotion from him at all. Kitano from B.R. is a sadistic person but there are other layers that are not seen that keep him interesting.

    I have read the book of Battle Royale and plan on reading The Hunger Games very shortly. I was just personally not impressed with the movie. I mean no offense to people who loved it. It just had no effect on me the way B.R. did.

    • I hear ya Vern! We share a lot of the same thoughts on the subject.

      I’m glad BR won MOTM this month, I can’t wait to hear the lambcast!

  10. [WARNING: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.]

    I completely agree with everything you said in your article. Like you, I really wanted to like the movie/books. Everybody I knew loved them, but once again, much how I reacted to the Twilight franchise, I just couldn’t get into it. What was the draw? And even more so, why did I not like it as much?

    Simple fact is: when you put all of your eggs in one basket, you’re going to lose people. For me, THG is such a character driven story… but they focus on ONE character. If you don’t like her or you’re looking for something more, you’re screwed. I don’t like Katniss. I think she’s a Mary-Sue (too perfect to be human; her character should have never left the publishing office in that way) in every single sense of the word.

    I dare you to tell me the name of any other tribute in THB beyond Rue and Peeta. You can’t, but Battle Royale gave you the identities of all of the other students. Even if we didn’t know them, we know the kids that committed suicide were in love. We know the geeky boys were best friends. We know the girls were striving to try to survive together but were scared.

    If you didn’t like Katniss (like me), then you were pretty much alienated from enjoying the movie. Peeta was an interesting character, but he was watered down to just make Katniss seem all that more “amazing.” I mean, he was a dude in distress 90% of the movie. It was pretty pathetic, really. And Rue? Adorable, but she was only in the movie for… 10 minutes all together? In the end, I think the filmmakers suffered the most because they tried to remain TOO true to the books.

    Yes, the books were written in Katniss’s point of view… But the writer/director/producer/SOMEBODY should have looked at this and said, “You know, Peeta is an interesting character. Maybe we should actually explain what’s going on in his head a little by showing what he’s doing?” Or “I know it says that Katniss is so damn amazing in the books that she received an 11, but maybe we should keep the movie on level with reality and just stick her with a perfect 10?” Somebody should have stepped on the breaks somewhere to make sure this character did not come across as pretentiously perfect as she did.

    At least, that’s what where I think they went wrong.

    • “I know it says that Katniss is so damn amazing in the books that she received an 11, but maybe we should keep the movie on level with reality and just stick her with a perfect 10?”

      I don’t think you really understood the movie very well. I may only understand it because I read the books, but the ‘scale’ goes up to 12. There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect ten’. And honestly, I don’t understand your accusations of Katniss being a Mary Sue. She has little to no social skills, and repeatedly would have been lost or have lost key battles without the help of Rue, Peeta, and Haymitch.

      Granted, she’s physical able, and practice has given her incredible talent with the bow, but since when does being good at something make you an unrelatable perfect being?

  11. I’m not sure where your impression of a sense of optimism comes from. Granted, The Hunger Games wasn’t as heavy in tone as Battle Royale, and that’s probably bad, but it didn’t come across as an optimistic ending to me at all. It seemed more like a celebration of being alive through terrible circumstances, and the setup for the larger story at the end sapped any real optimism from it.

  12. I have to go look up Battle Royale now, because I’ve never heard of it either. I’ve read the Hunger Games trilogy and thought they were good though. I’m a rather avid reader so I don’t think it’s such a stretch to think that Suzanne Collins hadn’t read or heard of BR either.

  13. I don’t know the author of this post, but he/she is semi-literate and has the outlook of a teenager boy (much like his/her idol Tarantino). Both films are awful and appeal to the very worst sadistic instincts in people like the author of this post. Most of the replies treat these films as if they were “art” and “serious” (referring to Tarantino’s films as his “work” as if he was Terence Malik or David Lean!). All such palaver is just a pretentious dressing up of pop cult violence that most people grow out of by the time they are 20. Those who don’t suffer arrested development and many become criminals, film directors like Tarantino, or vulgar, semi-literate blog posters.

    • Oswald, It’s a little immature yourself to make fun of a movie genre and a director that many people like. What you have said about Tarantino. I’m sure many have said about Malick and Lean when comparing them to filmmakers like Kurasowa or Bergman. It’s fine if you don’t like these flicks, but to say people who do are just childish and may become criminals is just prudish itself. Thanks for reading though.

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