Popcorn On Couch presents another edition of Cinema Clash, where I invite someone to debate two movies which are similar or connected in some sort of way and we battle it out, pitching why we thought our choice of movie was better. In this edition of Cinema Clash we have Battle Royale Vs The Hunger Games two movies with the same “teens are forced to kill each other” concept. I have invited Nathan Osborne from Perks of Being Nath who will be pitching for The Hunger Games in this dystopian showdown.
Let the battle begin!!
Battle One: Intro
In a post-Harry Potter world in which studios desperately clamber for a property to turn into the next big Young Adult series, only one has really emerged a clear victor. Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games forged critical acclaim, box office glory and a dedicated fanbase, managing a success that continued through until the fourth and final picture in 2015. Turning the entire franchise into a crowning achievement in the Young Adult genre, many have (usually unsuccessfully) attempted to emulate its format but have fallen drastically short. All of this began with 2012’s adaptation of the first in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, setting the cinematic stage for a franchise smarter than you would initially believe. The Hunger Games is one of the most masterful series openers we have seen in recent blockbuster memory, a dystopian action-thriller with as much heart as it has brain, succeeding where many others have failed.
– Nathan Osborne
Since its release in 2000, Battle Royale has remained a cult hit and for good reason. I must admit that The Hunger Games did an excellent job of turning the “teens kill each other in an arena” concept into a solid franchise, however Battle Royale is better. The tone, direction, dialogue, and violence is what makes the film so great. Battle Royale just feels more believable, it’s honest with its characters, dialogue, and violence. For me, it feels more real whereas The Hunger Games can be forced at times. Battle Royale is unique and doesn’t fall into the whole young adult clichés. The Hunger Games has a love triangle, a protagonist who starts a rebellion, and the awful dictator, you can find these in about any other YA movie. Battle Royale avoids the clichés and cheesiness. It focuses more on the horror of the game and its characters.
– Olatide Renee
Battle Two: Story
Although The Hunger Games is essentially the table-setter for the juicer upcoming chapters (Catching Fire and Mockingjay), it has more than enough substance in its first lap to serve as a taster for what’s to come. Its story – children fighting to the death for the enjoyment of the richer citizens – is a straight-forward one (as seen with Battle Royale) but manages to offer the scope for an abundance of complex, intricate themes to come into play. Rebellion and ‘the chosen one’ tropes are typical of the genre but they are presented in such a unique way, with political undercurrents and status further exploring something deeper than your average YA series. Historical allegories and social commentary are subtle, refined and sharp, providing a film as clever and purposeful as it is entertaining. Audiences are dropped into a dystopian universe that feels fully-fleshed out, developing our understanding of the dictatorship and tyranny that sparked the Games in a satisfying manner. In comparison and rather ironically, I find Battle Royale to skirt over these nuanced and depths and ultimately deliver something melodramatic and almost parody-esque.
Set in the future, 42 students are forced to battle each other to the death under the Battle Royale Program. This is the plot of Battle Royale, it doesn’t have as many themes and topics as the hunger games which is understandable as it’s not a franchise. Battle Royale’s whole story relies on the BR program and its characters. What makes Battle Royale’s story better is that it has more emotional depth. Before the BR program everything happens abruptly for the students, they are gassed and then told that they must kill each other. They all go out unprepared with their emotions all over the place. To make things even worse, the students must kill their own friends. This adds a lot of emotional drama to the film as betrayals, accidental kills and suicides occur. The story of Battle Royale is simple; however, the emotional depth, direction, characters, tone and setting is what elevates the movie.
Battle Three: Action
The Hunger Games crafts a wonderful balance between character development and beats (more on that later) and the action of the Games themselves. Director Gary Ross unites two separate films into one; that happening outside of Katniss’s realm, in the Capitol and out of earshot of our heroine, and that of her experiences inside the arena and in preparation – where most of the action unfolds. Ross makes a bold aesthetic choice in terms of the cinematic style of the piece, employing the use of hand-held camera to display the action in Katniss’ world. We are in the Games; we are standing with Katniss; we experience everything she experiences, virtually right next to her. This decision focuses on the human-scale of the huge event, homing in on Katniss’ personal experience and making for a very concentrated display of the action. The action is never brutal or particularly groundbreaking (given its PG-13/12S rating), but it is skillfully executed and inventive, smartly absorbing audiences in the action and making it more personal and up-close. In striving to be bold, Battle Royale instead descends into hammy action – a major slip-up in my opinion.
The Hunger Games tones down its action to suit its 12a rating, whereas, Battle Royale is an all-out bloodbath. The action in Battle Royale is vicious, bloody, and ruthless; And that is just me putting it lightly. Some may consider the violence to be over the top, but it adds to the horrifying nature of the game. Battle Royale has a lot of memorable action scenes, which director Kinji Fukasaku captured fantastically. The action is displayed in a thrilling and entertaining fashion, yet still disturbing and shocking to watch. The Hunger Games opts for a shaky cam approach which I wasn’t a fan of. Battle Royale’s action is shot better and is aided by the dark tone and tense atmosphere.
Battle Four: Characters
Katniss Everdeen is one of the strongest female characters in recent film history. She represents so much in terms of the narrative, as well as representing a step forward in female-led blockbusters. She combines an innocence with a coldness, a public strength with a personal fragility, a reluctancy but a symbol of hope nonetheless. Jennifer Lawrence enlivens the multi-faceted Everdeen expertly, humanising her and creating someone we can genuinely root for. President Snow embodies the oppressor in society, a patriarchy leader and authoritarian figure, ameliorating his needs and aims above all else. The Capitol citizens signify opulence and luxury, contrasted with the poverty and deficiency of those living in the Districts. Every character is a symbol of something much bigger than themselves, often representing so much that feeds into the narrative wonderfully. The characters are afforded time to grow and develop before our very eyes, each representing something critical in the narrative. Battle Royale attempts none of this, meaning we don’t feel a particular emotional connection to them; I’d also argue there are far too many players involved, meaning they all appear caricatures and thinly-sketched.
Battle Royale has numerous characters, all these various personalities enhance the story. With many characters to show, most of them are not developed but just from a few lines of dialogue you instantly know what type of person they are. There are characters with morals who are reluctant to fight. Others who are determined to come out on top. Some who try to find a loophole in the game, and a straight-out psycho who will outright obliterate anyone in his path. There is also Kitano who you may consider as a villain yet he isn’t a true villain. He is a complex character who seems cold and unsympathetic but deep down just wants to be loved. These distinctive characters make the movie entertaining and adds some sort of a realness to the film. Unlike The Hunger Games, Battle Royale’s characters aren’t symbols of anything, they are just typical characters you will expect to find in a “Battle Royale” program.
Many YA adaptations have come and gone, some experiencing moderate success, others downright failing; The Hunger Games has outlived most of them. Its first outing is an incredible franchise kick-starter, building the foundations of the series to come while serving more than enough the first time out to keep audiences coming back. The characters, the thematic content, symbols, action, direction and place in pop culture will sustain for longer than most blockbusters can hope, representing something powerful in the cinematic landscape. It’s smarter than one realises, braver than its given credit for and thoughtful where others resist, mightily exceeding the conventions and eschewing expectations considerably. The Hunger Games (2012) is not perfect – but it’s not far off.
Battle Royale is a cult masterpiece, seriously the film is awesome and will remain a top foreign film for years to come. Its unique concept, over the top ultra-violence, different characters, superb direction, and unintentional humour all come to together to create a marvelous piece of cinema. Its story is simple yet so good as it continuously delivers dramatic and emotional scenes filled with blood-splattering violence. The film showcases great filmmaking proving how quality direction, cinematography and score can improve viewing experience. Battle Royale has cemented its name in cult history and is a film that can be enjoyed and appreciated by many.
Now you guys have the opportunity to vote, which movie is better? Use the poll below and leave your opinions in the comment section.
— Popcorn On Couch (@popcornoncouch) 5 May 2017
I’ll like to thank Nathan Osborne for collaborating with me on this Cinema Clash, be sure to visit Perks of Being Nath for movie reviews on the latest releases.
If you are interested in collaborating with me for a future Cinema Clash, contact me via the contact page.