Is ‘Hunger Games’ a ripoff of Japan’s ‘Battle Royale’? Does it matter?
March 26, 2012 11:58PM
Jennifer Lawrence stars as 'Katniss Everdeen' in THE HUNGER GAMES.
Updated: April 28, 2012 8:10AM
This just in! “The Hunger Games” contains storytelling elements previously seen in other books and movies.
Which makes “The Hunger Games” pretty much like every other story ever told since the very first stories were told.
As you probably know, the adaptation of the first novel of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy pulled in an estimated $155 million over the weekend, making it the third-highest debut of all-time. “The Hunger Games” grossed an additional $60 million in international box office, giving it a worldwide opening weekend of more than $215 million.
Huge hit. Mostly strong reviews. Ecstatic fans — and no, not all of them were teenage girls — emerging from theaters saying it lived up to all the hype and they can’t wait to see it again! And again!
But even before “The Hunger Games” arrived in theaters, there was a lot of rumbling and grumbling of “Ripoff!” from hard-core fans of a movie that was released more than a decade ago in Japan.
“Just got my early copy of ‘The Hunger Games,’ on DVD,” Tweeted one such fan.
Attached was a photo of the kid holding up a copy of “Battle Royale.”
‘Gladiator’ meets ‘The Truman Show’
On Twitter and YouTube, on Facebook and on a thousand movie sites, the battle royale rages over whether “The Hunger Games” is nothing but a rehash of “Battle Royale,” the 2000 Japanese film based on Koushun Takami’s cult hit novel.
There’s no denying some central similarities between the two books (and the subsequent movies). First let me issue the obligatory SPOILER ALERT, and here we go:
In both stories, an oppressive government forces a group of selected teenagers and adolescents to fight to the death.
But there are key differences as well. In “Battle Royale,” the contestants are all from the same high school class. In “The Hunger Games,” it’s two kids from each district. Prior to arriving in the Capitol, Katniss knows only Peeta — and she doesn’t really know him until they get on the train.
In “The Hunger Games,” every bit of the action is televised to the entire nation. In “Battle Royale,” the deadly game is played out in secret, with nobody knowing the results until after it’s all over.
As for style and tone — well, let’s just say Quentin Tarantino says “Battle Royale” is a film he wishes he had made. The violence in “Battle Royale” makes “The Hunger Games” look like “Alice in Wonderland.”
Collins says she had never heard of “Battle Royale” until after she had completed the first book in her trilogy. Collins said she came up with her concept after clicking between the reality game show “Survivor” and footage of the war in Iraq. She also cites the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur as inspiration.
In my review of “The Hunger Games,” I said it was “Gladiator” meets “The Truman Show.” There’s also the obvious Orwellian influences, not to mention “The Lord of the Flies” and Shirley Jackson’s famous 1948 short story, The Lottery.
And what about “The Running Man”? Loosely based on the novel by “Richard Bachman,” a k a Stephen King, the 1987 movie starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as a contestant on a life-or-death game show. (Written in 1982, “The Running Man” is set in the distant future. Of 2025.) Or how about “Series 7: The Contenders” (2001), the movie about a reality show in which contestants are chosen in a nationwide lottery to participate in a televised death-match elimination competition?
There’s nothing new under the sun — and no, that’s not the first time we’ve heard there’s nothing new under the sun.
A few years ago, there was talk of an American version of “Battle Royale,” but it never happened. Now if it got produced, you would hear a lot of talk from the uninformed about how it was nothing but a ripoff of “The Hunger Games.”