My Thoughts On Battle Royale
If you bring up The Hunger Games (book or movie) in a discussion with at least one person who hasn’t necessarily seen or read The Hunger Games but knows the basic concept, chances are they’ll say that it’s a ripoff of Battle Royale. This isn’t such a far-fetched claim. Both stories are about a group of children divisible by six who, at the behest of a totalitarian government, are sent off to a remote location to kill each other until only one remains. Sounds convincing, I suppose… until you actually watch/read both films/books. I’ve seen and read The Hunger Games several times, and I just recently watched Battle Royale. And the two are not all that similar. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.
If you don’t know the premise of The Hunger Games, check Wikipedia, because I’m not going to explain the mental conditions you must have to name your child after a type of root. Basically, evil government sends 24 children into an arena each year to play Spartacus. It’s a hugely publicized event, with plenty of hype, and the victor lives comfortably for the rest of their life. In Battle Royale, after massive student strikes because… economic stuff, I don’t really know. Point is, the government sends 42 children to an abandoned island to play Gladiator. This is not nearly as hyped or publicized, although one of the first scenes DOES involve news media and the previous year’s victor.
Ju-on called. They want their creepy kids back.
As you can imagine, I had a hard time following Battle Royale. The fact that there are 18 more kids in play than there are in The Hunger Games (and even in THAT something like half of them went unnamed), PLUS the fact that the cast list reads like a Miyazaki credits sequence, meant that I really only knew a character’s name the moment they died, and even then, only because the film showed us onscreen their name and number, and how many kids were left. It was actually a nice feature, much better than the Capitol broadcasts that served to show how insignificant some of the characters were.
And that’s another thing: in Battle Royale, every character is named, and has a backstory and usually a relationship with another character, which often turns out to be “I loved you the whole time oh no I just killed you” in nature. This is harder to follow, but definitely gives more scenes impact. I mean, in The Hunger Games, there were some decently emotional scenes. Here, every other scene feels like a punch in the gut, from a simple stabbing to multiple girls being gunned down in a lighthouse. And there is some excellent acting to keep that gut-punching going. Although there IS the immersion-ruining factor of the necklaces and the danger zones and the… let me explain.
One of the biggest departures from The Hunger Games is definitely the time limit. Much like Dead Rising 2, there’s a painfully short time limit on these games-three days. If the battle continues, all the necklaces that the kids are wearing will blow up. That’s exactly as gory as it sounds. Plus, if you’re in a certain part of the island at a certain time of the day, the necklace will also blow up. My question is: WHY? You have no reason to keep such a time limit. Scared the kids will starve? You’re sending them to kill each other! Don’t want to keep your loudspeaker guy away from his family too long? Get a new one! No reason!
Still, despite this MASSIVE plot issue/convenience/stupid thing, the film did something The Hunger Games could never actually do: scare me. Unlike Katniss and Peeta’s futuristic dystopia, this is clearly set in the 2000’s. This is the sort of thing that I felt could happen to me, even if I’m not a truant schoolgirl with a penchant for catfights and poisoning. And in that sense, I think Battle Royale is honestly better than The Hunger Games. It’s brutal, gory, and confusing most of the time. But it’s more realistic, more interesting, and a nonstop terrifying thriller. The Hunger Games is an excellent film. Catching Fire is even better. But-and not to sound like a hipster here, because FSM knows I don’t want to be-but Battle Royale beats them both. Now all I need to do is watch the sequel, read the book, finish watching The Running Man, and then read The Most Dangerous Game. Hoo boy.