Life is a game and freedom is the prize: a discussion about Battle Royale and The Hunger Games

Life is a game…but whose game?

I feel like I am jumping on the bandwagon. Right now, everywhere I go in the online community, everyone is talking about The Hunger Games and more than a few also mentioned its similarity to Battle Royale. Both stories were mainly about a group of teenagers who were trapped in the deadly game orchestrated by the government. They had to fight each other to the death until only one victor remained.

On the surface, both titles looked almost identical. And if I didn’t care too much about trivial details, they had the same story in term of structure. What separated Battle Royale from The Hunger Games was how each title viewed the game. In Battle Royale, the attention was paid heavily to internal and interpersonal struggle of the characters. But The Hunger Games was about the slaves trying to rise up against their masters. It is important for you to know that I wrote this discussion based on Battle Royale manga and The Hunger Games movie only (I haven’t read the novel).

Battle Royale was a character experiment which showcased human in their worst and best forms

Battle Royale did not give much actual details about the government or the politics. The only thing the manga told us was that the game was created by the military government. At times, the politics felt like just an excuse to bring this group of characters together. The real juicy part was what happened to each character. Battle Royale focused on experiment with human lives; how far human would be willing to go in time of crisis, what human was capable of when the rules were lifted and  how hard it was to remain civilized when life was at stake. We got to see the once normal students did the unthinkable inhumane things. It was bloody and ugly. Battle Royale showcased human in their worst and best forms. The whole story revolved around the characters and how they dealt with the game.

The Hunger Game was a power struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed

The Hunger Games, on the other hand, spent a lot more time describing the politics behind the game and the events leading up to it. It was not the character experiment like Battle Royale; all players were well prepared for the game. The Hunger Games was about how the government tried to control the citizen of the twelve districts with the 24 tributes being the representatives of each districts. They even tried to control the hope of people using the game. During the fights, the tributes were not as thoroughly studied in the way the Battle Royale did. But the tributes, mainly Katniss, fought to remain themselves and to be free of the oppressive power of the Capitol. By winning the love from the general audience, Katniss and Peeta gained leverage with the government and managed to shake the foundation of the Capitol’s power. This was where the movie reminded me of another movie ‘Gladiator’ in which a general-turned slave became more powerful than the emperor of Rome by winning the love from the crowd.

The bottom line is that Battle Royale and The Hunger Games are two different entities. Despite the similar structure, the two titles were very different in terms of concepts and ideas. I just watched The Hunger Games and thought it was a solid film. What do you think? Do not hesitate to share your thoughts here.

p.s. You might also want to check out the similar post over at Black Strawberry

15 responses to “Life is a game and freedom is the prize: a discussion about Battle Royale and The Hunger Games

  1. I felt Hunger Games was a okay adaptation of a probably much better book series. First off, good god could the events leading up to the games have taken any more time? I mean it’s fine if you want the events leading up to be there but it makes the actual games feel like rushed. Furthermore, I never once bought any of the supporting character relationships to Katniss. Haymitch maybe because they spent a whole 2 minutes making it seem like he hated her before the miraculous turn around, but Lennie Kravitz character? Why am i supposed to believe anything about his golden-eyeliner love for Katniss? She’s brave woopie doo, does that mean the previous kids who he’s coached that were scared shitless he just did the bare minimum for? Continuing that thread is Rue, prior to the games we see her steal some dudes knife and hide in the rafters while Katniss smiles up at her, but it was such a quick moment, and I’d just been introduced to the characters, that I didn’t even know who it was up there. Then during the games Rue saves Katniss which is great and all, but it immediately leads to Katniss taking care of Rue like a lost child but I just didn’t buy it. Poor characterization is what I felt this film suffered from more than anything.

    All that being said I did enjoy the riot, the political implications of the games, the physicality Jennifer Lawrence brought to Katniss, and Stanley Tucci’s crazy hair. I hope the Catching Fire will be better and focus more on the overarching implications of the game.

    • Thank you for commenting. I feel like what you comment was exactly what’s missing from my article; a better take on the movie. I think I’ll need to read the novels so that I can give a better and more justified critique.

    • i am so agree with you but have you read the book before posting this comments?

  2. Keep in mind two that the actual Hunger Games is only one small part in a bigger story….don’t forget there’s two more books after the first one…..

    You need to read the books the books are so awesome it’s unreal SOOOO GOOOD.


    • It’s a shame that I have so little room to squeeze in any more novels. Right now, I am stuck in the middle of A Dance with Dragons. But yeah, I’ll get to Catching Fire and Mockingjay when I have more free time.

  3. I saw it on the premier last week. One of my classmates bought out the whole cinema so it was a lot of fun watching it with friends. I keep not wanting to compare it too much with Battle Royale (one of my all time favourite film) and the two films are certainly pretty different. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games and was so glad it did not disappoint (unlike Narnia and the Golden Compass, two films which I love the trailer but found the actual film pretty lacking). I think Jennifer Lawrence did a good job as the lead character and the actual fight was pretty exciting.

    Granted, I have not read the book so it will be fun to read it after having seen the film.

    • Cool! I’ve always wanted to buy out the entire screening for myself. Actually, I once almost got to having the entire cinema to myself because there were very few people in that screening.

      • That happened to me once. I was back in my hometown in Thailand(Hatyai) during the holiday and wanted to go watch the Dreamcatcher. The ticket seller person was asking me if I wanted watch this at another time since I was the only one at that timeslot (it was at 2pm and in English). I thought she was going to cancel it but ended up just showing it for me. The film was horrible but having the whole cinema by myself was definitely kinda cool:) sad thing is that about a year after that, they stop showing any film in English:(

      • I am sorry to hear that you had to endure Dreamcatcher. For me, the same incident happened when I went to watch Alien versus Predator! (also a horrible movie). LOL

  4. thehippiefreak

    Sorry to be random, but
    Maybe I should go watch hunger games…

  5. sorry, i couldn’t get through your article, the lack lustre comparison as to why they were different was pretty stretched, this movie is too similar to Battle Royal. Even if the author had never heard of it, editors or publishers or directors would have known, of it being almost exactly the same, of course there are trivial differences, you cant plagiarise an idea and leave it exactly the same as the original. you wrote…. battle royal had a militant government…. and on the other hand hunger games had a government trying to control 12 districts. how were they controlling the districts??? with mind games!!!, they were militant too…., how else would they control their country.
    hunger games was a great movie, and relates to western society better than battle royal because they filled the new story with people we can relate too.

    • Yeah, I can’t really argue with you. The striking similarity is undeniable. And I tend to be over-thinking and overstretching at times. Plus, as a movie, the Hunger Games was a better one :)

  6. Although both Battle Royal and the Hunger Games deal with brutal killing performed by teenagers I feel that the main difference between the two is in the relationships between people. In the Hunger Games the kids didn’t know each other until the games began. In Battle Royal the kids were from the same class, which made it that much more dramatic and gruesome to behold. Killing someone you never knew is easier than killing someone you know or was even your friend for a couple of years (I’m not saying this from experience mind you. That’s just how I feel).

    • Welcome! and thank you for the comment. ^_^
      I also felt that Battle Royale was more emotionally powerful. When you mention about the relationship between the players, I finally understand why.

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