The Hunger Games is only beginning its reign as a pop-culture phenomenon, and already fans and detractors alike are drawing parallels between the franchise and the 2000 Japanese flick Battle Royale, another film about teens forced to kill each other by an oppressive government. Hunger Games director Gary Ross has heard the comparisons, but he hasn't seen the other flick, and he's got a very good reason why not.
Battle Royale is one of the most successful films in Japan's history, but its gruesome subject matter made it hard to distribute in the United States. Like The Hunger Games, it features teenagers forced to kill each other in a deadly fight to the death set up by a futuristic government. Fans of both franchises have been wondering since the Hunger Games flick was announced just how many similarities the two films would have, but if you do see any they're likely coincidences. Ross, who also co-wrote the Hunger Games screenplay, says he deliberately avoided seeing the Japanese cult hit to avoid any cinematic cross-pollination.
"No, I've never seen it," Ross said. "I heard about it once I took this job, and I intentionally never saw it. Right? Because it would be crazy for me to see it. I wanted to have a pristine experience where I just did this movie absent of other things that were like it, and I thought it was important to kind of keep this a more antiseptic process. So I may see it now."
It would be interesting to see how Ross might react to the parallels in Battle Royale now that he's made The Hunger Games, but a simple plot comparison reveals that though the fight-to-the-death concept is the same, many things set the films apart. For one, Battle Royale's teenage bloodfest is the result of an educational reform act, while The Hunger Games' contest is organized by the government as a reminder of the price of rebellion. In Battle Royale, a large group of children are abducted simultaneously and forced to compete in the battle, while in The Hunger Games two "tributes" are chosen by lottery from each of 12 districts in Panem—the fictional country in which the story is set—each year.
There are other, subtler elements that set the films apart, but they often involve spoilers that we don't want to divulge. The point is that Ross deliberately avoided Battle Royale to avoid as many such comparisons as he could. Nothing can stop rampant Internet finger-pointing, but at least he did what he could to avoid subconscious copying of Japan's resident pubescent slaughterhouse flick.