With 'The Hunger Games' becoming a hot topic not only in the world of literature, but film as well, all sorts of articles are popping up on sites everywhere. There are ones reporting that Gary Ross is in talks for the directing gig, ones speculating on who might nab the lead role of Katniss Everdeen and more. Regardless of the topic, there's one thing that's exactly the same with just about every one of these write-ups: the comments. No, not the ones in which fans praise series author Suzanne Collins for her work or the ones that berate authors for miscasting Gale and Peeta, but the ones that compare 'The Hunger Games' to the 2000 Japanese movie 'Battle Royale,' claiming 'The Hunger Games' is just a rip off. Maybe the two pieces share the same general concept – teens being trapped in an arena and forced to fight until just one is left alive – but the similarities stop there.
In 'Battle Royale' a class full of students believe they're going on a field trip, but instead, their bus is gassed, they're fitted with collars and taken to a remote island. That's where they find their former teacher, Kitano, and he reveals that under the order of the Battle Royale Act, their class has been selected to play a game in which they must kill each other off until just one remains. One by one the students are given survival packs and sent out into the forest and that's where the majority of the film takes place. Just a small portion of 'Battle Royale' is dedicated to providing background information. We get just enough to understand the main characters' positions among their peers, but otherwise, most information comes through battle.
'The Hunger Games,' on the other hand, first gets to the action a third of the way into the book and uses that beginning portion not only to sufficiently convey the severity of the games, but to introduce the readers to Katniss. Unlike the kids in 'Battle Royale,' Katniss and the other contestants in the Games don't come from a particularly high-tech world. They all live in Panem, a country consisting of 12 working districts with a wealthy Capitol at its heart. While the Capitol citizens are enjoying lavish meals and obsessing over the latest fashion trends, the district residents are assigned to do manual labor. Katniss' district, District 12, for example, is the coal-mining district. District 11 specializes in agriculture, 8 in textiles, 4 in fishing and so on. The point is, these aren't spoiled kids being forced to pick up a weapon for the first time; some have faced starvation and know how to survive in the utmost perilous conditions and this makes for a far different type of battle than the one in 'Battle Royale.'
The kids in 'Battle Royale' are literally picked up and thrown right into the fight within a few hours. However, in 'The Hunger Games,' Collins lets the concept of the Games gestate before the characters begin to fight. Unlike Battle Royale fighters, Hunger Games tributes are prepped, visually and physically. Before the games begin they're basically paraded around town in gorgeous outfits and given the opportunity to learn certain survival skills. Now, not only do the Hunger Games tributes have the abilities they learned at home, but new ones taught by Capitol experts. Plus, tributes have mentors and if that mentor is a good one, he or she has likely created a precise plan of action for the tributes to follow once the games begin.
The 'Battle Royale' students are in for a wholly different experience. Minus one student, who we learn once stabbed his teacher (that same teacher leading the event), most of the kids have never touched a weapon or even considered hurting another person, let alone killing a classmate. After coming to, they're shuttled into a classroom, given a quick briefing and sent out to fight. Each student is given a weapon at random ranging from a pot lid to a machine gun to a GPS device that reveals the location of each player. Some kids run around like chickens with their heads cut off while others band together hoping that they can somehow get around the rule that all must die if there isn't just one survivor at the end of the third day. Then there's also the ones who opt to fly solo; those are the ones who are playing to win.
The various fighting styles turn the Hunger Games and Battle Royale into completely different events. Whereas Battle Royale is more of a haphazard fight for survival, the Hunger Games is far more methodical. The Battle Royale contestants are loose cannons and rightfully so. Having no training they don't know how to react in certain situations. Should a Battle Royale contestant armed with a gun come across a weaponless foe, he or she could drop the gun out of terror or, fueled by pastime classroom drama, could deliver a barrage of bullets, many more than needed. In the Hunger Games, when one tribute stalks another, there's almost no doubt that one will die and not in a sloppy manner, but in a way that's been perfectly planned so as to avoid the attention of other tributes and to be sure all supplies are salvaged. Battle Royale is terrifying in its randomness while the Hunger Games relies on building suspense.
Another element that's pivotal to both stories is relationships. This is really the one element of 'Battle Royale' that doesn't quite sit right; it seems as though once in the arena, every student in the class has some intense attraction to another and then winds up dying before they can make due on their feelings. Some of the moments are rather sweet and make for fantastic kill scenes, but as compared to the relationship between Katniss and Peeta in the Hunger Games, these are mere crushes, crushes with little substance. One could say that the emotion of Battle Royale is responsible for brining out these feelings, but the two elements never feel connected. On the other hand, Katniss and Peeta's relationship is basically born of the Games. Even better? As the preparation portion and then the Games itself progresses, so does their relationship. Rather than just being thrown in your face all at once, it's slowly layered, making the ending far more powerful. (Warning: Trailer is NFSW and includes violence)
This list can really go on and on, especially when it comes to the logistics of both events, but the main point is that both games have entirely different atmospheres. The Hunger Games tributes aren't entering the games with no knowledge of the event or why they're there while the Battle Royale students are forced to play the game against their will with far less hope for survival. The Hunger Games fighters rely on tactics whereas the Battle Royale ones are consumed in a free-for-all. Battle Royale is more of a fast-paced street fight while the Hunger Games is a drawn out strategic war. There's nothing wrong with either, in fact, both work quite well, but nevertheless, they are entirely different.
What's your take on it?