“There’s a way out of this game. Kill yourselves together, here, now. If you can’t do that, then don’t trust anyone… just run.” – Battle Royale
I first saw Battle Royale six years ago. I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by friends, in the middle of a full out anime binge. When we tired of secret identities, high school angst, and boys who tried to order pizza and ended up calling goddess hotlines, my friend Jen held up a plain black case and said we should watch BR.
For the next hour and fifteen minutes we sat back as an ordinary ninth grade Japanese class was stranded on a deserted island, each given a weapon, and told that the only way out was to be the last survivor. Some banded together, others turned on each other within the first five minutes. One of the taglines for Battle Royale is “Would you kill your best friend?” and we watched as character after character faced that choice.
“What did you think?” asked Jen when the credits rolled.
“It will never get US distribution,” I replied. Battle Royale was an interesting and thought provoking movie, but it was violent in the extreme. I couldn’t see American audiences being comfortable watching a movie where teenagers were forced to kill each other with guns, machetes, and switch blades until only one was left standing. Especially not after Columbine.
What a difference six years makes.
In 2008 The Hunger Games hit shelves. The book, in which a group of teenagers are selected to fight to the death in a televised free-for-all, was optioned for film by producer Nina Jacobson in March of 2009. Lionsgate picked up the distribution rights and IMDB lists the release year as 2011.
All of this has me deeply curious. I loved The Hunger Games (and Catching Fire) but I’m not sure how you would adapt it to film. The book is YA, so they’ll likely want a PG or PG-13 rating (Twilight, for comparison purposes, is rated PG-13). While Katniss doesn’t witness most of the deaths, a significant portion of the plot is devoted to teenagers being forced to kill other teenagers.
While The Hunger Games is not nearly as violent as Battle Royale (and has half the body count), it shares a similar premise–a premise that premise may prove problematic for older audiences when it’s taken off the page and put onto the screen.
As someone who enjoyed Battle Royale but never thought it would work this side of the pond, I’ll be watching the reaction and box office takings of The Hunger Games with curiosity.