By James Rickleton.
All film buffs love nothing more than to spend an evening watching films, in Double Bill I pair two films which share a common ground stylistically, thematically and/or in story to design a hypothetical night of entertainment.
As the joke goes:
What do they call The Hunger Games in France?
Battle Royale with cheese
It’s a good joke – and one from which this website derives its name; The Hunger Games does share a lot of material with the Japanese Battle Royale but coats it with a glossy layer of Hollywood schmaltz. However that is not to say The Hunger Games is not a film worth viewing, nor is there anything wrong with a little bit of cheese on top of your meal. With the franchise returning for it’s second feature The Hunger Games: Catching Fire this seems like an apt Double Bill to start this feature with.
If a Hollywood producer received both the screenplays for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Battle Royale the log lines would be remarkably similar: “In a dystopian future the government force a group of children into a battle to the death until only one remains”. The sentence could easily apply to both of the films.
The two films imagine universes where in order to exhibit control over the population they put children into deathmatches in a winner takes all scenario (all being their lives). In Battle Royale the annual Battle Royale is imagined as a deterrent for unruly youths after a mass walk out from state schools. And in The Hunger Games the games are broadcast as reality television in order to keep the masses distracted and to minimise any revolts.
Whilst admittedly The Hunger Games does certainly soften the edges of the scenario (there were reports of digitally removing excessive blood in certain scenes in order to secure a 12A rating in the original film) this does nothing to disrupt the harrowing nature of the premise. And as an 18 rated Japanese gore pic of course there are numerous instances of over-the-top violence which do not make an appearance in the films Hollywoodized twin. But personally at least this does little to satiate the grimness of the plot in either films. Even though The Hunger Games removes a lot of the gore, in the fantastical universe thats been created its more brutal notes still hit like a ton of bricks.
Visually the films are opposites, Battle Royale is dark, grimy, and grim. The Hunger Games is saturated and colourful. The Hunger Games really owes a lot to the costuming and stylization of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil yet no one would ever dare describe that film as Hollywoodized.
With Katniss Everdeen returning to the games in Catching Fire the film really begins to push it’s political nature upon the audience and the underlying Marxist tones really begin to gravitate towards the forefront of the narrative.I have heard the books described as mini-introductions to Marxist ideals and does it really matter if the films boil some of the violence down in order to get the film to as many people as possible, especially if it maintains the essence of the ideals?
In both films characters recognize that the real enemy is not in the games or battle royale with them but in fact they are the oppressive regimes which are controlling them. The films are about raging against the machine and are exaggerated, satirical, comments of the real world which inspired them.
To me, removing the violence from the films does not betray the message of the films, but neither does including it. The films are for two different audiences but speak to them in the same way about the same thing. Stylistically they are drastically different but are both presented fantastically, Battle Royale with its grey and rainy misery, and The Hunger Games with its bright and exaggerated misery. These are two films which visually are the antithesis to each other but their content and themes compliment each other brilliantly.
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