Following the recent obsession with The Hunger Games and the talk that it’s just a ripoff of Battle Royale, I thought I’d take a look at it. There are a few similarities in the story and feel of the Hunger Games and Battle Royale.
Both have an evil government putting kids in a battle to the death through random selection. Both follow the Survivor model of a running tally as the little group gets smaller and smaller. Both reward the sole survivor of the contest. And both have too many characters that are, for all intents and purposes, identical and impossible to really care about.
Battle Royale is a Japanese film and the kids are all dressed in school uniforms and have the same haircut. It seems that all the kids in this future are really rotten and have no respect for their elders. So the elders kill off a class full of them once a year to teach them a lesson. Only the kids seem to be surprised by what is happening and there is no TV crew keeping track of the action. Kind of makes it hard for this to be a lesson to the other bad kids if they don’t know about. But there was TV coverage as the film started, along with a winning girl who smiled a lot.
The forty kids in the Battle Royale only have three days to kill each other, not quite long enough to starve to death as in The Hunger Games. The kids quickly get around to slaughtering each other, using the varied and sundry weapons found in random backpacks, as in the Hunger Games. Some of the weapons were pretty useless, such a pot lid and a pair of toy binoculars. Other packs contained machine guns and handguns of one sort or another.
It was an odd film, lots of graphic violence, lots of hinted at romance, lots of blood packs exploding all over the place, and a lot of stuff that doesn’t make much sense. A lot like The Hunger Games.
So did Suzanne Collins steal the idea of a bunch of kids battling to the death for the Tv cameras? Maybe. Battle Royale came out in 2000 and The Hunger Games came out in 2008. Other notable similar ideas-The Running Man came out in 1987 from a 1982 book. The Tenth Victim came out in 1965. The Lottery came out in 1948. And people were really forced to kill each other in Rome a couple of thousand years ago. We can assume that people, even kids, have been killing each other as long as there have been people.
Suzanne Collins says she never heard of Battle Royale until her book was in her publishers hands, they told her not to worry about it. I had never heard of Battle Royale, either. The similarities are there, but so what? I have to say that I liked The Hunger Games better than Battle Royale.
As any one who has read If You Write It will know, I tend to think ALL films have ripped off earlier films. That’s just the way it works now. It really has all been done before, and usually better.