Thursday, April 5, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES VS. BATTLE ROYALE: THE CLASH OF TWEENS & HORROR HIPSTERS

I had spent about an hour or so trying to record a vlog of my thoughts on this particular topic, but my computer sucks.  I've chosen the primitive practice of typing, which in all honesty, is probably a better thing.  At least you can read this in a far less sarcastic and snarky tone as apposed to the one I was using in the vlog.  As a twenty one year old college co-ed, I was smack dab in the middle of the target audience for Suzanne Collins' trilogy when the novels were first released.  At the wake of saying farewell to my wizarding Harry Potter novels, The Hunger Games were quick to fill the void my years at Hogwarts left behind and the one Twatlight was NEVER going to.  A premise of teens in a dystopian society randomly selected to fight to the death seemed like the lovechild of Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" and Richard Bachman (Stephen King)'s The Running Man.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.  I cranked through the book in a single sitting and I was floored by how much I enjoyed it.  Fast forward to about four months later when I was exposed to a little Japanese movie called Battle Royale.

Fast forward to now when The Hunger Games is breaking box office records, generating memes out of its ass, and creating fictional romances that are wetting teenage panties faster than Edward Cullen ever did.  Out of all of this, the horror hipster patrol has been crying foul and pushing up their glasses harder than they ever have before.  Why? BECAUSE THE HUNGER GAMES IS STEALING FROM BATTLE ROYALE ALSKDJF;ALSKJFALSKJF! Seriously? Seriously?! Get over yourselves. All of you.  We're bitching about this and yet we remain silent when every single romantic comedy in the history of everything contains the exact same plots, the exact same results, with the exact same character archetypes?  Coooome OOOOOONNN. Suzanne Collins herself has repeatedly denied having ever seen or even heard of Battle Royale until she’d already turned in the manuscript of the trilogy’s first novel, and you know something...I believe her.  The guy who created the screenplay for Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had never seen the Gene Wilder original, and it shows.  Things like this DO happen.  After Collins had turned in her manuscript, she asked her editor if she should see Battle Royale, to which he replied "No, I don’t want that world in your head. Just continue with what you’re doing,’” This was all mentioned in the New York Times last April and she's apparently still not seen the film or read the manga.  Despite the "teens battling to the death with one survivor" concept, there is absolutely nothing else similar between the two. 

The Hunger Games trilogy is less about the actual games themselves, but about the underlying corrupt government that has forced the citizens of the "districts" into these games and their treatment throughout the year.  The trilogy mainly focuses on the citizens residing in the districts outside of The Capitol (the elite society/people of power) and how they attempt to survive the mistreatment and gain their independence from those oppressing them.  The games are a major factor in wanting to escape the control of The Capitol, but it is far less about the terror of the games and more about overthrowing the government...and the personal lives, relationships, and feelings of those enduring these games.  Battle Royale on the other hand, is far more sinister.  The film/mangas are predominately overwhelmed by the gore, brutality, and horror surrounding the means in which those fighting the battle use in order to survive.  The design on paper may be the same, but the look and feel of these two are entirely different.  Comparing these two are like comparing two siblings.  Same sets of DNA, with remarkably different results.    

The things people have been complaining about in the wake of this all are frightening to me.  First things first, for those that are "boycotting" THG because it "stole from BR", get over yourself.  I'm pretty sure your lack of $7.00 really made a major dent in its box office record opening for a non-sequel and you alone are going to be the reason two and three aren't made. Congratulations.  Second, people are claiming that if BR was given a proper American release, we wouldn't be in this situation anyway.  Even if that were true, it wouldn't have made a difference because Americans are lazy and wouldn't want to read subtitles AND they would have watered down the gore to get a precious rating.  Chances are, THG would have just been made faster but as an American remake.  On that subject, people are mad that the American remake will never happen.  ARE YOU SERIOUS?!  So first we bitch and moan that we're Americanizing films and now we're going to be mad that it isn't happening? Oh get off it. If anything, be thankful THG exists because it is shining new light to a film you love so much. The L.A. Times confirms that Battle Royale’s DVD sales have gone up with the success of The Hunger Games, so there you go. The film you hate SO MUCH is paying it forward to the one they apparently ripped off.   

14 comment(s):

Alexandra said...

I definitely see your point. My worry is that the "mass public" who are the THG the #1 film in the world stop there. It's like seeing Friday the 13th and thinking there's no more to the slasher genre. I think art should be about expanding our knowledge and I worry that along with BR but also Matheson's I Am Legend among others, there will be a generation who knows very little because they can't see beyond what's top of the box office. (See also Twilight fans who find Bram Stoker's Dracula boring or too challenging to read.)

This is a neurotic worry. I hope I'm wrong.

digital_sextant said...

Good post. You should give the BR novel a read -- it's amazing, and highlights the differences in scope and shape between the two stories.

Oh, and don't forget LORD OF THE FLIES as a prior/ inspiration text.

Anonymous said...

I actually picked up The Hunger Games when Borders went out of business and everything was crazy cheap. I was skeptical about it t first, but as I got farther into it I had a hard time putting it down. I was happy to find another book series to obsess over. I've never read Battle Royal, but I have seen many people compare the two a lot. I personally don't really see why it matters. Even if they are somewhat similar you should still be able to enjoy them both. People are just too quick to hop on the hating bandwagon because that's what everyone else seems to be doing.

Anonymous said...

meh hunger games is the twilight version of BR, so bad, yes they will make sequels, I wont be going to see them.

Kaijinu said...

I agree with you, BR and THG may resemble clones of one another, but with THG's politcal tone and BR's character driven action-slasher-feel, it's far from mirroring each other in everyway. BR's focus is on survival and that alone.

besides, THG has monsters (monter), BR didn't have monsters in it!

Anonymous said...

To Alexandra: there are people who see this film and never get into the horror genre from it. But that's primarily because while BR is a slasher/horror film HG is a dystopia first and foremost. I am not a huge fan of horror but I have a deep and spiritual love for dystopias and sci fi. So do a lot of people. And some people are going to come out of it and pick up 1984 or The World Inside or the Forever War because that's what appealed to them about the movie. And some people are going to go away and not get into anything because they loved HG, but I don't really see that as a bad thing either.

William Malmborg said...

Great post. I've grown so weary of the people claiming this book and then movie was a ripoff of Battle Royal, especially since most also claim to have not read or seen it yet due to their boycotting it. People need to form their own opinions on something rather than jumping onto someone elses.

Ed B said...

Does Battle Royale have anything as remotely frightening as Donald Sutherland's beard? I'm willing to bet not.

Marvin the Macabre said...

Thanks for being the voice of reason here. While HG the movie wasn't nearly as brutal as I'd have liked, it still makes a strong emotional impact. I spent the entire reaping scene with a huge lump in my throat trying not to embarrass myself with tears in the first 10 minutes of the film.

While the basic premise is the same as BR, they really are different animals. They are both social commentary at heart, but are commenting on vastly different themes. Am I too optimistic in hoping HG will inspire tweens to give some thought to the political implications of what they're reading?

film said...

Hunger Games - The jury is still out on that one. I am not yet ready to part with my hard earned cash fo a movie ticket.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts about Suzanne Collins' statement that she has not seen/read Battle Royale:

1) She is so full of shit, being in the Televison/Writer/Drama whatever culture field, and not ever heard about Battle Royale is beyond me. Not being from the States maybe I missjudge how little you actully care about foreign movies.

2) When writing something, anything, maybe it is a good idea to actully make a background check of what has previously been written. If she would have done that, she would probably have stumbled upon Battle Royale.

3) When hearing about Battle Royale, why ask her editor if she should see it? Does she ask her editor if she should go to the bathroom aswell? If I was working on something and then would hear about some similair thing already been done, I would probably try to find out more about it, as would most people I think.

Conclusion: She loves money and does not give a shit, who can blame her... I think all would be fine if she could just be honest about it.

Oh and I guess you aren't posting any comments that aren't agreeing with you. So waste of time...

DrkBella said...

LOL, loved the article and the comments it engendered...

watching Battle Royale now and its insane; blood, violence, teens behaving badly!!!

strangely enough- not really seeing how people can say Hunger Games and Battle Royale are the same thing. i can see how they are in the same class of genre but there are too many differences- like saying Star Trek and Star Wars are the same or Wheel of Time series by R. Jordan is the same as T. Brooks Wizard's First Rule.

and if she did see Battle Royale and it germinated in her head into the Hunger Games? who cares? that's what creative people do- they take ideas and concepts from the world around us and create something new and different and hopefully interesting... that would be like saying Tolkien plagiarized because he based his book Lord of the Rings on anglo-saxon literature and mythology. how can he be so derivative?

as for the previous anon user- 1. i never heard of Battle Royale and i actually like foreign movies 2. again, if she stumbled upon Battle Royale in her extensive scouring of the history of literature, who cares? HG is not BR. they even have different titles! 3. i have no idea what she asks her editor and don't care about what she does ask about- and in conclusion, money is important. you don't want yours, send it to me. kthxbai

Kevin Crighton said...

I've not read The Hunger Games novels, but upon hearing about them, I do admit, I thought they were a 'teen' version of Battle Royale.

Then I saw the film, and you are right, they are completely different things.

Joanna BP said...

Oh, I completely agree with this. Full disclosure: I admit to not having seen Battle Royale; but I read/saw THG and I feel anyone can deduce that the one main difference is AUDIENCE. Clearly, the audience for BR and THG are strikingly different (sure, with some overlap). While I think there is quite a level of violence in THG that doesn't scream teen lit, it still *is* teen lit. That’s where marketing efforts are directed. Not the avid horror fan/horror hipster (as you call it). And while I'm not a Twilight fan per se, you could say the same for that monster of a franchise. Twilight was not meant for horror fans. It's meant for teen girls. We don’t need to be bitching about this. If it’s not your ‘thing,’ so be it. Leave it at that.

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