There’s been a lot of talk going around since “The Hunger Games” came out that it’s a direct rip off of another book/film from more than a decade ago: “Battle Royale,” in which children are similarly forced to fight to the death by the government. Arguments across the Internet claim 2000 cult-favourite “Battle Royale” did much of what “The Hunger Games” did first.
Show me how they’re different >
Sure, upon watching/reading both texts, it’s difficult to deny the—somewhat eery at times—similarities between the two—kids chosen by lottery placed in secret locations to off each other, trackers put on each individual child and weapons provided to make the kill easier. There are even two “transfer students” in “Battle Royale” who wear the same eagerness to kill as career tributes in “Hunger Games.”
With striking parallels, it comes as little surprise “Battle Royale” DVD sales have received a boost on store shelves. The film strategically came out to coincide with “The Hunger Games” release in theatres.
However, if anything, “Battle Royale” is a stepping stone of inspiration—OK, a lot of stepping stones, a full-blown foundation perhaps—for “The Hunger Games,” but certainly not the same film.
Yet, in a New York Times article from last April, “Hunger Games” author Suzanne Collins claimed she never heard of any “Battle Royale.”
When I asked Collins if she had drawn from “Battle Royale,” she was unperturbed. “I had never heard of that book or that author until my book was turned in. At that point, it was mentioned to me, and I asked my editor if I should read it. He said: ‘No, I don’t want that world in your head. Just continue with what you’re doing.’ ” She has yet to read the book or to see the movie.
Perhaps a bit difficult to swallow.
Nevertheless, we can’t give “Battle Royale” all the credit. Plot lines in both films—bizarre lottery drawings, kid-on-kid murder and twisted exploitation of such ill-conceived games for reality television—aren’t anything new; they’ve been done countless times before. These storylines have been borrowed and changed from previous authors and are merely being repurposed for a new audience.
So, let’s settle this once and for all with our own battle royale. Sound the bell.
Why: In Hunger Games,' the country of Panem is divided up into 12 districts. There used to be 13 until the latter tried to rebel against the government. In response, their district was destroyed. The games serve as a punishment to remind the country's citizens that the government has power over them and to never rebel again.
'Tributes' are picked from a lottery of kids ages 12-18 in each of the 12 districts every year. This has been going on for nearly three quarters of a century. There are a total of 24 children who partake in the games.
Why: In the near future, 800,000 children boycotted their Japanese schools after the government collapsed. In response, the Japanese government decided to pass the Millennium Educational Reform Act (aka BR Act) for their defiance. Every year, the government picks one class (with well more than 24 children) to compete on an island to fight to the death as punishment for rebelling. All of the children are in the same age range.
Small chips are implanted into players arms before the game begins to make sure they don't escape from the game arena and to keep monitors on them for television purposes.
These trackers will explode if a player tries to rip them off or if they're in a particular zone on the island.
Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. 'The Hunger Games' is just one giant televised event where everyone's making bets on and rooting for the victor. Like 'Survivor' the 'castaways' are left with scant materials to survive--if any at all. Instead of getting voted off the island (game arena), they're slaughtered. (Slight drawback.) But, hey, at the end, the winner takes the crown--and riches beyond belief.
Another brightside: Although the games are a punishment, the players have as long as they need to declare a victor (unless the makers of the game, gamekeepers, start getting antsy and take matters into their own hands to speed up the process).
Think of it as producers deciding to spice things up to boost ratings.
'Battle Royale' glorifies death. No one's betting on a winner. Wait. There doesn't even need to be a winner. Before heading off into the arena, children get equipped with weapons, food and water to survive. Kids only need to worry about becoming killing machines. (Note the Uma Thuman-esque 'Kill Bill' huntress.)
Remember those trackers? They'll explode after three days if there's more than one person left alive. Get killing!
Before the games begin, players are polished, refined and interviewed to be displayed throughout the country ... before getting thrown to the wolves.
No one's getting red carpet treatment here. While the 'Hunger Games' tributes were whisked away on a glamourous train to the Capitol, stuffing their faces every chance possible, the 'Battle Royale' school kids were carted off against their will to a remote island with no previous training.
Sure, the Hunger Games' kids weren't jumping for joy to go--well, some were--however, they obliged to enter the arena. They were also given time to prepare for the event; some doing this their whole lives. The 'Royale' kids were tricked into boarding a bus in the hopes of going on a school trip. Oh, and they were drugged so they asked no questions.
We're not even sure if the killing game is being aired to the nation. Other than one news bit early on with a reporter naming a previous victor, television isn't brought up again in 'Royale.'
No, the murder of children is by no means humorous; however, the exaggerated blood spurts and ways in which some of the students die is laugh inducing. (See girls wielding guns aimlessly.) And, don't even get us started on the cheesy lines offered between students.
When we saw the film, most of the audience had a chronic case of the sniffles after Katniss sang to the dying Rue in her arms. 'The Hunger Games' takes itself very seriously.
Collins provides background stories for a majority of the 'Hunger Games' characters, so when they die, we actually feel something, as opposed to the quick offings of the children running around in 'Battle Royale.'
After 74 years of giving two dozen tributes up to sacrifice their lives in a game for the government, the citizens of the districts have had enough.
You don't get a sense of this in the first film--save for a brief scene of one of the districts uprising; however, as Collins' series progresses, you see there's much more at stake in the countries than Katniss and Peeta's lives. Think of the children!
None of the kids appear interested in fighting back against the government as Gale does in 'The Hunger Games.' Until they arrived on the island, the children weren't even aware of the newly instated 'Battle Royale' act. (Their parents--some of which are dead--don't even know their kids are missing.)
Even with this knowledge, they don't have time to consider forming an alliance to overthrow the government's ridiculous act, they're too busy coping with the news of having to kill their schoolmates while simultaneously dodging axes, gunfire and bloody corpses.
Perhaps this will lead to rebellion one day down the line, but for now, there's no guarantee. In a 2003 sequel, one of the characters from the first film is hunted down as a murderer by a selected group of kids.
In the 'Hunger Games,' tributes have the luxury--for the most part--of killing strangers. It's a trite different when children in 'Battle Royale' are forced to kill people they've grown up with their entire lives.
The ones who don't want to fight give up almost immediately by committing suicide (jumping off cliffs, hanging themselves, et al.).
Murders break out over simple things--trust issues between friends, girl quarrels over boys (really) or just by accident.
Sure, some of the 'Hunger Games' crew becomes blood thirsty, but the main characters hold onto their identities and the victors can return to civilisation without taking lives. In 'Battle Royale,' we're hard pressed to find someone who hasn't become a killing machine, save two main characters.
That's because you've most likely seen or heard this before. Remember 'Lord of the Flies'? You know, the 1954 book by William Golding that follows a group of British boys stuck on a deserted island. No one is forced to fight one another to the death; however, the book--and film adaptation--are filled with bloody combat.
After surviving a plane crash, the boys are left to either thrive together or battle for survival amongst one another. Guess which conquers? Hint: they don't form one giant, happy tribe 'Lost' style.
Primal instincts of savagery win out any chance of a budding civilisation and the children begin killing each other--memorable character Piggy has a boulder thrown on him. How's that for bloody 'Battle Royale.'
'Hunger Games' and 'Battle Royale' also share qualities with another film:
We can thank Stephen King's 1982 'The Running Man' which was turned into a film of the same name five years later featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Here's a brief description of the film:
'A wrongly-convicted man must try to survive a public execution gauntlet staged as a TV game show.'
Scrap 'wrongly-convicted,' and that's exactly what Katniss and Peeta and the school gang from 'The Hunger Games' and 'Battle Royale' respectively are attempting to do.
The one big difference is that in 'The Running Man,' all of the convicted killers are running for their lives from professional killers.
'The Lottery': The 1948 short story by Shirley Jackson, originally featured in The New Yorker, revolves around a lottery taken in the town square. The unfortunate winner gets stoned to death in front of the village.
'Brave New World': Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel set in a future dystopian has the entire population tricked into believing they're content. If anyone begins to step out of line or question the government, they need but one prescription of the hallucinogen 'soma' to slip back into oblivion. (This is very similar to how the people in 'The Hunger Games' Capitol act.)
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