We've been waiting for five years to hear something good about the American remake of the bloody Japanese sci-fi classic Battle Royale, but the hits to the project just keep coming. As if development hell weren't enough, it now looks like another fight-to-the-death dystopia picture—The Hunger Games, set to hit theaters next year—has dealt a serious blow to interest in the project.
Producers Neal Moritz and Roy Lee, whose credits include the American versions of the franchises The Ring and The Grudge, have been working since 2006 to get an American version of the flick off the ground.
Among the bumps in the road were things like the iffy status of New Line Cinema (before it merged with Warner Bros. in 2008) and issues surrounding movie violence that stemmed from the tragic Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 that Lee said left the project "seriously shaken."
Now the project is contending with a new threat: another popular dystopian film franchise. See, Battle Royale is the story of a group of students who, through a tyrannical new Japanese law, are forced to kill each other over a period of three days on a remote island. Meanwhile, The Hunger Games—an adaptation of Suzanne Collins' blockbuster young-adult novel—is the story of a group of teenagers who, through a tyrannical future government, are forced to kill each other in an arena on live television.
Hunger Games is easily one of the most anticipated genre films of 2012, and Lee says it's that kind of high-profile attention that means bad news for Battle Royale.
"The Hunger Games definitely took a lot of wind out of the sails, because it definitely has a very similar storyline, and so I'm not even sure if before The Hunger Games any studio would have been able to take the creative risks you need to make the movie right," he said.
Of course, if The Hunger Games hits big enough, that might be all the more reason to make a more "grown-up" version of the same kind of thing with Battle Royale. Still, even if it doesn't work out, Lee's got plenty of other remake/reboot projects lying around to tackle, including a new take on The Grudge, a new take on The Ring and a new take on a haunted-house classic that some of us would probably rather not see remade.
"I'd say the one I'm most excited about updating is the Poltergeist reboot," Lee said. "That is probably something, hopefully next year, that somebody will be able to accomplish."