I never read the books in The Hunger Games trilogy, but it was hard to ignore the hype over the movie back in March. When I heard a summary of the plot, my mind almost instantly compared it to Battle Royale, a Japanese book, film, and comic that features a lethal competition between classmates televised for the pleasure of the now-authoritarian government in a fictional future in Japan. But I heard some more of the film, and wasn't blind to the countless differences little and big, so I was interested in giving it a shot. While the DVD isn't out yet, my local dollar theater was still showing it.
The plot is set in a post-apocalyptic North America where the survivors had formed a new nation. But over the years, the government became a cruel capitol vs the poorer districts. One day the districts rebelled, and the Capitol crushed them. In terms of a treaty made, a boy and a girl from each district is randomly selected to compete in the Hunger Games which is a violent one-winner death-match. After Primrose Everdeen is selected for District 12, her older sister volunteers in her place to save her sister's life.
Despite the big similarity with Battle Royale, I think The Hunger Games does a few things better and a few things worse than its unrelated Japanese counterpart. I do like how they expand on the pre-games events, showing the politics of the nation of Panem and the nature of the Hunger Games itself. I do regret that the film-makers fought hard for a PG-13 rating, so the carnage is diluted a good bit.
But despite that I still enjoyed the film a lot. Sure it doesn't top Battle Royale in my book, but comparing the the two is like judging a good apple versus a good pear. They might be pretty similar, but it's not one or the other kind of situation. I will be going to see the sequel next year based on the 2nd book Catching Fire for sure. Also worth noting is that my girlfriend Daisy loved it more than I did, and she was very interested about the release date of the DVD version.