When the movie The Hunger Games came out earlier this year, approximately every single person in America who wanted to sound smart (or at least sound like they’d heard of a semi-obscure foreign film) simultaneously said “That sounds like a ripoff of Battle Royale,” referring of course to the Japanese film from the year 2000 in which teens fought each other to the death in a government-sponsored contest. There were actually some pretty significant differences between the (surprisingly good in my opinion) Hunger Games movie (and its source novel by Suzanne Collins) and Battle Royale (and its source novel by Koushun Takami) aside from the general similarity of the premise, but that similarity is enough that the two properties have been linked in entertainment news stories since the Hunger Games novel came out in 2008.
The Japanese film version of Battle Royale was one of the biggest cult films of the last twelve years. As this excellent “New Cult Canon” entry on the film by Scott Tobias explains Battle Royale was never officially distributed in the United States, but instead has existed in a sort of gray market of special screenings and bootleg imported DVDs, fueling its status as a cult object. Part of the reason for this is that the Japanese rights holders to the film wanted more money up front and a wider release for it than was realistic given the film’s subject matter, which includes much more graphic teen-on-teen violence than the Hunger Games movie. This in turn led to the impression that the film had been “banned” in the US, perhaps in response to the Columbine killings, though technically this wasn’t the case.
There have also been talks about doing an American remake of Battle Royale since as far back as 2006, two years before the first Hunger Games novel was published. According to this exclusive Los Angeles Times report those plans were dropped as soon as the Hunger Games movie came out this spring, because “no studio would want to risk looking like copycats.”
One entertainment company that’s definitely not concerned about looking like copycats is the television network the CW, which has made a sort of cottage industry of taking whatever genre is popular at the moment and making a teen soap opera about it. The most successful example by far is Vampire Diaries, an open attempt to make a CW version of the Twilight saga (already a teen soap opera basically) and the network’s biggest ever hit by a wide margin.
Now the CW is doubling down on the red hot “teenagers killing each other” trend. They already had a show called The Selection in development which was billed as being Hunger Games-like. Now, according to the LA Times report they are also in preliminary talks about acquiring the rights to Battle Royale and turning it into an hour long drama series.
The talks are in the preliminary stage, and the CW would have to get the approval of Takami himself, but one assumes a CW version of Battle Royale would have to look a lot different than the novel, or the film, or the manga series. For one thing, a network television show couldn’t be nearly as graphic. And, the need to keep a drama series going means that there couldn’t be nearly as many character deaths. But, as Sean O’Neal points out, the Gossip Girl like school uniforms are definitely in the CW’s wheelhouse.
‘Battle Royale’ could be reborn as a TV show [Los Angeles Times]