Does the Hunger Games Rip-off The Running Man or Battle Royal?

Battle Royale with cheese

There has been a lot of talk about The Hunger Games recently. I have read the comparisons to Battle Royale, to The Running Man and even to Logan’s Run and Dangerous Game. I have read that The Hunger Games topped $15 million in advance ticket sales. Unfortunately, I even read some of the racist tweets from people who were angry that characters from the book that were described as having brown skin in the book, were actually played by people who fit that description in the movie. I promised in a tweet that I would watch The Running Man, Battle Royal, and The Hunger Games and see for myself if there are any similarities.

Let’s take a look at The Running Man (1987). The plot is described by IMDb as, A wrongly convicted man must try to survive a public execution gauntlet staged as a TV game show”, and is based on a novel written by Steven King that was published in 1982. Already I see where the comparisons come into play with the fact that it is a fight for survival made into a TV show. There is a love story that culminates in Ben (Arnold Schwarzenegger) having to survive with and falling in love with Amber (Maria Conchita Alonso).

 
Here are some of my random thoughts as I watched this movie. [SPOILER ALERT]
  • Exploding neckbands! Bonus: Exploding decapitation within the first 5 minutes!
  • Who works out in lingerie?
  • Maria Conchita Alonso = The first Sophia Vergara  (Salma Hayek was the 2nd)
  • The Climbing for Dollars commercial within the movie was hilarious and reminded me of Fear Factor, which makes sense because we are only a few years away from Ow My Balls.
  • Ben has a theatrical agent and a make-up artist/hairstylist!
  • Wow! Paula Abdul choreographed the dance sequences.
Next, I watched Battle Royale (2000) on Blu-ray. Battle Royale is based on a 1999 novel by Kaushun Takami. The IMDb movie plot description reads as follows: “In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary “Battle Royale” act.” Already I spot the similarities this movie has to The Running Man, but with teenagers. It is not emphasized whether or not the whole battle is televised, but the film starts with the victor from the last battle being swarmed with media coverage. There is also a love story between Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko (Aki Maeda) who have to survive together and end up falling in love.

The original theatrical trailer does not allow embedding, but you can view it here.
  • Here are my random thoughts while watching the movie. [SPOILER ALERT]
  • Why is Shuya’s father’s pants down when he commits suicide?
  • Did he just shank the teacher? That teacher has a very casual reaction to being shanked.
  • That kid in the corner looks a bit like Edward Scissorhands.
  • Neck explosion within the first 10 minutes!
  • Their neckbands look like Seiko watches.
Finally the movie you’ve all been waiting for……The Hunger Games!  The Hunger Games (2012) is based on the 2008 novel by Suzanne Collins. When I looked up the publishing year, I discovered that there is also a book called The Hunger But Mainly Death Games: A Parody by Bratness Everclean. I would like to read that! Anyway IMDb describes the film’s plot as, “Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.” This already sounds like Collins put The Running Man and Battle Royale in a blender to come up with this. Oh and there is a love story too.


Here are my random thoughts as I watched the movie. [Guess what? SPOILER ALERT]
  • If there are trees everywhere, why can’t they just grow food? Pollution?
  • Centuries into the future looks a lot like Little House on the Prairie for the poor…and Alice in Wonderland for the Rich.
  • They have spaceship like hovercrafts, but use 1940’s style microphones. O.K.
  • Is Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj’s contribution to the world future fashion trends?
  • Why is President Snow dressed like the guy from the “Rent is Too Damn High Party”?

The Rent is Too Damn High Party
  • Looks like the costume designer raided Nicki Minaj’s wig collection.
  • Why did the stylist give Katniss Octomom eyebrows? That’s not a good look.
  • Over use of the shaky camera technique = under use of a stunt choreographer. You can’t hide laziness with editing.
  • What is that a tigerlionbearwolf creature?
After watching the movies I must revise my initial reaction to The Hunger Games. It is as if Collins put The Running Man, Battle Royale and Twilight into a blender with a side of boring sauce and after totally castrating the TRM and BR. The first issue I have is that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is an unlikeable protagonist. She has close to no personality. She is a sci-fi Bella Swan. I understand that in young adult literature there is a trend of leaving the protagonist a blank slate so that the reader can insert themselves into the character’s shoes. I am not so sure this approach works well on screen, because we are meant to root for Katniss. It is very hard to root for someone so bland and unlikeable.
The film really failed to elicit the same reaction from me to the participants’ deaths, the way Battle Royale did. I’ve read a few reviews that note the editing for a PG -13 as the cause. They felt that because they were not shown the violence that they did not feel for the characters. On the one hand, I do feel it was overly cautious. One can view more gore on network television, and in video games so I’m not sure whom they were trying to protect from violent content.  Insidious and The Ring were both PG-13 and they scared the crap out of me, so I don’t think that a movie necessarily needs to be rated R to be jarring.
I think that the reason it did not inspire an emotional response, aside from the utter unlikeability of Katniss, is that the other characters were so underdeveloped. We meet the competitors, but know nothing about them. Battle Royale developed the characters through the use of flashbacks to their lives pre-battle. We see a great deal of their different personalities on the bus ride to the battle and during the battle. We get to care about them, so that when they die it has a greater impact. In The Hunger Games we meet Rue, she helps Katniss once and then she dies. It should be sad because she is so young, but we barely get to know her before she is killed.
Then there is the nearly useless love triangle. We are to believe that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has always loved Katniss, although this is hard to tell by his actions. However Katniss loves Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who together have no chemistry what-so-ever. We are supposed to be torn between Katniss’ need to pretend to love Peeta, and her actual love of Gale. It’s all very two guys vying for the same girl Twilight cakes etc. Maybe the actors just didn’t sell it; maybe one must be 14 years old to ‘get it’. This film kills 22 children without being half as gut wrenching as a one-hour episode of 16 and Pregnant. They say there are no original ideas anymore, but that is no excuse for mediocrity.

11 thoughts on “Does the Hunger Games Rip-off The Running Man or Battle Royal?

  1. Well to be honest I never read the entire Hunger Games or Battle Royale, but I did see The Running Man. In my opinion Running Man is the best only because that is from my era and to starting Twitter beef with the interwebs always originates in the "my generation's version is better than your generation's version. The original Texas Chainsaw is always going to trump in my book, but does that mean I am going to trash the new 3D title? I don't intend to date myself as the digital version of Grumpy Old Man. I will agree that for the author of Hunger Games to publicly deny any knowledge of existing works that not only predate, but are obviously influenced by deducts major credibility for her own work. That would be like Christianity denying any connections to the Pagan gods they heavily borrow from.

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  2. LOL at "Fanboys"…Anon, did you manage to read Battle Royale? Here's part of the plot summary for Hunger Games:"Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch."Here's the plot summary for Battle Royale: " The government approves the Battle Royale Act, where one class is randomly selected and the students are sent to an island wearing necklaces with few supplies and one weapon. After three days, they have to kill each other and the survivor wins his or her own life as a prize."and lastly Running Man: "With full control over the media, the government attempts to quell the nation's yearning for freedom by broadcasting a number of game shows on which convicted criminals fight for their lives. The most popular and sadistic of these programs is "The Running Man," hosted by Damon Killian."They sound strangely familiar….

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  3. The reason, I consider this a rip-off is because the author has presented the story as an original idea, written in a vacuum. She has publicly denied ever reading, hearing about or watching both "The Running Man", and Battle Royal". However she just coincidentally wrote a book that borrows heavily from both? At least the author of "Battle Royal" admits that he was influenced by "The Running Man", and as such paid homage to it. Homage = paying tribute. Ripping Off= taking someone else's work, repackaging it (in a mediocre and watered down way in this case), and presenting it as your own original work.This is not comparing apples to oranges, it is comparing apples to apple flavored fruit roll ups.

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  4. Isn't human artistic expression essentially "ripping off" some influence anyway? the words homage or pay "tribute" (wink, nudge) are used but all art rips off all art across all mediums. fan-boys get over yourself. the hunger games book is worth the read if you have the time and the movie was cool if that's how you consume your media. it's not even a fair comparison to do this sort of critique unless you have an equal basis. there are no z-scores in art people. can you compare the batman movies to each other? a lot easier than you can compare the hunger games to the battle royale because that's what they call apples to oranges.

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  5. I don't have to read the book to determine that this movie is derivative crap. If one has to read the book in order to understand the movie, then the movie failed to do it's job of explaining the story and making the audience care about the characters. It also failed to make the new audience want to read the book. Maybe if the movie had character development, effective storytelling, and maybe an actress that could express emotion, then the audience may be able to tell who she loves and who she doesn't. I had not read "Let The Right One In" before seeing both the Swedish and American versions. I was able to care about the characters, understand the story and enjoyed both movies enough to go back purchase and read the book. This movie doesn't make me want to do that. It makes me want 142 minutes of my life back. Do yourself a favor and watch "The Running Man", and "Battle Royal" so that you can have the experience of watching good movies. If all you eat are smashed ham & cheese sandwiches, how will you ever know how good a juicy steak tastes?

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  6. @Lady Shasha the Urban Suburbanite Fashion Freak, In regards to you response to Anonymous, this may be a comparison between the movies, but you seem to have no problem concluding about individual aspects in THG like characters chemistry or characters being likable. You, like endless people in the Internet, fail to understand that the purpose of "The Hunger Games" is not the games itself, it's the society (that's why tge games only take half the movie)If one should see BR, TRM and THG to be able to participate here, so should you read THG before calling the love triangle useless, or say what the audience is "supposed" to feel – "However Katniss loves Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who together have no chemistry what-so-ever. We are supposed to be torn between Katniss’ need to pretend to love Peeta, and her actual love of Gale." -> Katniss Loves Gale? My god, you clearly don't know what you're saying.Regards

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  7. you dont know anything about the characters in the hunger games because katniss doesnt. also so many rue/katniss scenes from the book didnt make the big screen and neither did the recap scenes 😦 but the books are way better than the hunger games movies

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  8. I love this. In the book of "Battle Royale" The go in to way more depth of each of the 42 students and it is really cool. I belive that this would make an awesome mini series, but no way will anyone want to tackle it because they belive it would be a rip of of "The Hunger Games" I do want to read that book, but want to wait till all the hype dies down.p.s. If you haven't joined yet. I strongly suggest you check out The Large Association of Movie Blogs and Join up. It has a great network of other bloggers and with your podcast you would be a great fit. go to http://www.largeassmovieblogs.com or just click on the picture on my blog of the lambs and it will link you right to it.

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