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Thread: The Hunger Games and Battle Royale

  1. #1
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    Default The Hunger Games and Battle Royale

    The movie version of the Hunger Games, based on the popular novel by Suzanne Collins, is scheduled to open Friday, March 23. I loved the novel and am looking forward to this movie. I noticed a number of people on HT have also read the novel, so I thought this might be a good thread.

    One thing that struck me as I read the novel was that it was categorized as a young adult book. Considering the theme (teens being forced to kill other teens), that surprised me. On a related note, as I read the novel, I felt it was strikingly similar to Battle Royale, the controversial cult classic film directed by Kinji Fukasaku, which came out in Japan in 2000. For those unfamiliar with Battle Royale, it tells the story of a government in the near future that, in an effort to maintain control and power over the population, forces a class of high school students to fight to the death until only one survivor is left, all the while being televised for live television entertainment. The movie was condemned by the Japanese parliament for its subject matter. It also came out about the same time as the Columbine massacre, so just about everyone, myself included, didnít think it would be released in the US. So imagine my surprise when, in 2006, I found a DVD copy of Battle Royale at Diamond Head Video (when it was on Kapahulu). I rented it, watched it, and it was surprisingly good. Despite all the controversy, it gets universally high marks by critics. In fact, Quentin Tarrantino was quoted as saying: ďIf thereís any movie thatís been made since Iíve been making movies that I wish I had made, itís that one.Ē

    My discovery of the DVD was a lucky find. For while the movie was indeed released in the US, no official distribution rights existed. The DVD was available, but difficult to find, and expensive, and perhaps not authentic. There were many bootleg copies floating around. However, now the OFFICIAL release is schedule for March 20, three days before The Hunger Games. Is it a coincidence that itís being released just before The Hunger Games? I think not. Itís being advertised as the movie that inspired The Hunger Games.

    If you google The Hunger Games and Battle Royale youíll see thereís quite a bit of comments and discussion going on, a mini-controversy in its own right. Collins claims she has never seen or read Battle Royale. The details between the two works may be different, but the central concepts and key elements are strikingly similar. However, I think thereís enough of a difference that itís highly possible the two works were created independent of one another.

    In any case, the good thing now is that there might be two good films easily available to us.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: The Hunger Games and Battle Royale

    I don't think there's any reason to suspect the author of lying. There's a lot of material out there that could have inspired different pieces of The Hunger Games and while I haven't seen Battle Royale, I'm inclined to believe the writer. Someone was going to write this novel eventually: the times seem to demand it.

    As for its being a young adult novel, you have to look at other things besides the subject matter. Look at the writing style and the main character's point of view. It has many, if not all, of the qualities of YA literature. One interesting bit of anecdotal evidence: the love triangle aspect (Katniss-Peeta-Gale) of the plot was an interesting piece of the story for me, but I didn't think much about it. For my high-school ninth- and tenth-graders, it was THE compelling question of the whole series. Which would she end up with, and how did you feel about it? That was the first question I was asked when I finally caved in and read the first book.

    Anyway, I'm interested in hearing what you thought of the film. I think I'll post my review here, even though my review has nothing to do with Battle Royale. I saw the film four times before it left theaters and loved it.
    But I'm disturbed! I'm depressed! I'm inadequate! I GOT IT ALL! (George Costanza)
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: The Hunger Games

    The Hunger Games (2012)
    Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

    In a future North America, a wealthy Capital city is supported by twelve poorer, outlying districts which provide the Capital with the resources its citizens need to live their resplendent, indulgent, vain lifestyles. As a means to remind the districts that they exist at the pleasure of the government, an annual Hunger Games is held, when each district sends one boy and one girl to an arena in the Capital to participate in a fight to the death. Participants are selected in each district by a lottery, and the winner earns fame and wealth for his or her family, plus a year of extra food for his or her district. The Games are broadcast live, all day and night.

    District 12, a coal-mining district, sends Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, and they are advised before the Games by their district’s previous winner, the crude and drunken Haymitch Abernathy, who tutors the teens not only in gamesmanship but in playing to the TV audience, who can influence wealthy sponsors to send gifts that could influence the outcome.

    It is a horrible, horrible story, and one thing I admire in both the novel and this film adaptation is the writers’ ability to make Katniss a noble heroine even while she resolutely confronts the task of outlasting twenty-three other children to remain the last one standing. The film does a good job of displaying the obscene pageantry and entertainment these children provide their benefactor audiences, but new scenes written for the film efficiently remind the movie-goer of the true, evil reasons the Games exist: from the government’s perspective, the Games are not an entertainment but an oppression.

    Jennifer Lawrence, who was an Oscar nominee for her part in Winter’s Bone and an excellent Mystique in X-Men: First Class as Katniss is smart, tough, and determined, playing the game to win but maintaining certain personal standards whenever she can afford to. There has been some discussion about her body type perhaps not being appropriate for the girl raised in poverty who has had to rescue tossed-out bread for her starving family, but she’s so convincing otherwise that these thoughts are easily dismissed. Lawrence communicates Katniss’s thoughtfulness well, driving her character’s action by a strong sense of right and wrong, saving last resorts for when they are called for. Katniss participates in the Games as an act of subversion even while being manipulated by the Games’ requirements, and Lawrence convinces as this strong-willed, unbending character.

    Supporting actors are also excellent, and while the actors who play Katniss’s two friends don’t especially impress with their chops, they do the job. Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz are spot-on as employees of the government, while Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci should get some consideration for supporting-actor Oscars. The pacing is mostly excellent, though there are a couple of parts that seem to drag when they should be thoughtful and tense. The editing is very effective, contrasting with good timing the difference between the way the combatants, the citizens of the Captial, and the citizens of the districts experience the Games.

    I’m not sure what the technical term is for the filming technique used in this movie, but it’s strangely blurry in its movement. I don’t mean it’s out of focus, but as the camera follows the action, the area of focus is rather narrow, and everything out of that narrow focus is a blur of motion, kind of like the way a movie camera following a sprinter shows the sprinter clearly but the passing scenery as just a blur. It takes some getting used to, and almost everyone I saw the movie with (I saw it four times while it was in theaters) commented on it. I think it works, but it’s not very pleasant.

    My one major gripe about the film is that not enough time is spent in the training portion. Some of the stronger, more affluent participants form a quick alliance as they work to wipe out the smaller, weaker combatants, and they’re not presented well enough as individuals to humanize them. In such a competition, Katniss knows she can never really be friends with any of the other children, but she does seem to favor some over others, and these feelings aren’t defined well enough for the emotional payoff they’re meant to generate, with perhaps one exception.

    The Hunger Games is a movie worthy of its wildly popular source material, and a well-made, thoughtful film that should please fans of dystopian science-fiction. Expect it to receive some Oscar discussion at year’s end.

    8/10 (IMDb rating)
    83/100 (Criticker rating)
    But I'm disturbed! I'm depressed! I'm inadequate! I GOT IT ALL! (George Costanza)
    GrouchyTeacher.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: The Hunger Games and Battle Royale

    I also donít believe Collins was lying about not having seen the Battle Royale movie. Itís just that there were so many similarities between the two.

    As for The Hunger Games movie itself, I liked it. The acting was terrific all around, especially Jennifer Lawrence. I like the fact that her character, Katniss, is not perfect (except perhaps in archery), that she has her flaws and is just discovering who she is.

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