The recent soaring popularity of the novel and movie The Hunger Games has led film critics and underground cult followers to comment on its similarity to the movie Battle Royale. Also based on a novel, Battle Royale came out over a decade ago and bears a number of striking similarities to The Hunger Games. Both take place in the future, at a time when society has fallen to shambles, and in both, teenagers are forced to fight to the death until only one survives. The children must do whatever they can to survive, but only some are willing to make the fight as gruesome as necessary.
Both movies are trying to depict the horrors of young brutality, but there is more to The Hunger Games than what first meets the eye. Battle Royale makes its message clear through extreme violence, but The Hunger Games keeps everything PG-13 and appropriate for its young adult audience. However, the differences between the two stories are not solely as a result of their respective ratings. After all, Suzanne Collins didn’t skimp on the gory details when writing books.
The most notable difference between the two involves how the media is portrayed, and this is where the two films really part ways. The media is virtually nonexistent in Battle Royale, whereas in The Hunger Games, it plays a central role and is an impressive force to be reckoned with. The poor families in the Districts are forced to watch the Games, and they do so with hope and trepidation, desperate to see if their loved ones have survived. It is these mandatory viewings coupled with the abject pleasure the wealthy get from watching them that really stabs at your heart. The idea that people can enjoy watching children murder each other is sickening, as it should be, and that is an integral part of the message Collins is trying to portray.
The overall story arcs of the two stories are very different as well. Battle Royale is a self-contained movie about one particular battle and the specific children trying to survive it. The children aren’t considering global issues, such why they were chosen and why this “game” continues. They want to live and to leave the island, simple as that. For Katniss, the heroine of The Hunger Games, it’s not just about survival; it’s about putting an end to the Games for her, her friends, and the other Districts. It’s about sending a message to society as whole. Peeta, one of the other competitors, says it best when he says, “I just keep wishin’ I could think of a way to show them that they don’t own me.”
With two more books in its trilogy, The Hunger Games goes much further than Battle Royale. It encompasses the past, present, and future, so much so that the Games themselves don’t really start until more than halfway through the first novel and movie. Contrast this with the Battle Royale, where the back story barely exists and is almost completely irrelevant to the plotline.
At first glance, it seems as though these two films encapsulate the same idea, but a deeper look reveals that each movie has its heart in a different place. Both highlight the fact that children killing children is sick and twisted, but while Battle Royale leaves it at that, The Hunger Games uses it to start a chain reaction for revolution.