When Battle Royale hit Japanese theaters in 2000, it was an immediate hit both with local fans and international devotees of Japanese cinema. This, despite the fact that the movie is intensely violent, oft-disturbing, and centers primarily around homicidal teenagers and the young people they dispatch with unnerving ease. Had it been an American movie, it would be the kind of thing that Fox News pundits slam as detrimental to the moral fiber of our country. “It could inspire copy cat shootings,” they’d insist, before casually linking the film to any number of un-Caucasian terrorist groups.
Given that its Japanese origin largely prevented this kind of witch hunt, and the massive fanbase the film quickly established, it’s no surprise to hear that American film studios have been working to bring the flick to this side of the Pacific for years. That said, every time a studio would inch a bit closer to acquiring the rights to a US release, fans of the original film would gnash their teeth, and worry about how our sensibilities would ruin the violent, yet undeniably thought-provoking movie.
Assuming you’re in that group of worried fans, we’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good is that it seems that our film studios have momentarily given up on the idea of remaking Battle Royale for US theaters. The bad news? It looks like The CW is working on turning the flick into one of its primetime teen drama series.
In the last few weeks, the CW has had talks with the project’s Hollywood representatives about the possibility of turning the property into an English-language show, said a person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. The talks were preliminary, but if a deal could be reached, the network would acquire rights to Koushun Takami’s underlying novel, then unpack and expand on it for an hourlong dramatic series.
Both CW representatives and those responsible for the American rights to Battle Royale confirm that there is currently no agreement in place, but it should be noted that this is further than any major studio has gone in attempting to secure the movie rights. Whether that materializes into a series remains to be seen.
As to why The CW would want to create a Battle Royale TV show, we can only assume the answer is “The Hunger Games.” In our imagination, one of the CW’s executives watched his teenage daughter work herself into a froth over either the books or the film series before realizing that maybe there’s something lucrative to this whole “teens murdering other teens” idea. He phones his assistant, asks him to dig up any other stories with similar plots and nods greedily when presented with Battle Royale. “A Japanese flick about teens killing teens? And we could bring it to the US first? We’re gonna be rich!” we imagine him shouting, in lieu of ever actually watching the Japanese original.
While that isn’t a bad idea, the key difference between The Hunger Games and Battle Royale lies in the films’ respective tones. The Hunger Games is like a fairy tale about a young woman who learns to be strong in the face of totalitarian rule, while Battle Royale is an intensely dark examination of individualism in the face of teenagers forced to kill one another for reasons they can’t quite grasp. We’d fully support a CW adaptation if the network was willing to go full bore with the concepts of the original movie, but there’s likely little profit to be had from a cast of pretty teenagers if they’re all decapitated or impaled within the span of the first episode.