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The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Movie Review

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Murray Close/Lionsgate
Set 64 years before the revolution led by the Girl on Fire, this prequel tells the villain origin story of Panem’s future tyrant, Coriolanus Snow.

Suzanne Collins’s world of Panem is back on the big screen, almost a decade after the release of the original trilogy’s second film. With the premiere of The Hunger Games prequel on November 17th, fans of the original book trilogy and film series were quick to watch the adaptation in theaters.

The new film delivers a new cast, yet a familiarity brought by the original films as Francis Lawrence returns to the franchise as the director to bring Panem to life again. The film notably gives the novel multiple head nods while maintaining its own identity throughout the 2-hour and 38-minute runtime.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, set 64 years before Katniss becomes the Mockingjay, tells the origin story of Panem’s future president, Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), and his rise to tyrannical power.

Still wearing off the remnants left by the first rebellion, Panem’s installation of the Hunger Games—a reminder to the districts of the Capitol’s infinite power—continues a spiral downwards, with low ratings and few people watching. To reinstate their position in power, a mentor project is added to the 10th year’s games.

The creator of the Hunger Games, Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage), announces that the mentors—24 selected students of the Academy—are each assigned 1 of the tributes. Coriolanus, being one of the mentors, is assigned a District 12 girl by the name of Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler).

Before Katniss Everdeen was a District 12 tribute in the 74th Hunger Games, there was the songbird, Lucy Gray Baird. Unlike Katniss, Lucy Gray is an outgoing performer, causing the odds to be in her favor…but not forever.

The prestigious Snow family, now challenged more than ever to hide the depths of their poverty, makes Coriolanus’s ability to pay for University near impossible. But, a strong performance as a mentor in the games could result in a prize—the Plinth Scholarship—that saves his grandmother, his cousin Tigris (Hunter Shaffer), the Snow name, and his future. After all, Snow Always Lands On Top.

Yet, Coriolanus couldn’t escape the alluring charm of Lucy Gray, causing his feelings for her to conflict with the potential of his name and reputation. The Head Gamemaker, Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis), sees the potential of Coriolanus’s wits, which causes her to corrupt his views of the Hunger Games and believe her worldview. His continuous obsession with power and control feeds Coriolanus in ways that challenge the opportunities of goodness closest to him throughout the film.

The film does a remarkable job of moving at a pace that keeps the audience engaged and increasingly curious without the filler content that was present in the novel.

The film, being split into 3 parts, does a remarkable job of moving at a pace that keeps the audience engaged and increasingly curious without the filler content that was present in the novel. But notably, the story Collins tells has many parallels to today’s societal and world conflicts as a whole, bringing attention to our world’s need to heed dystopian literature.

The prequel is more dark, chilling, and brutal than the original film series, as the violence inflicted on the characters is still brought on by the fresh wounds of the First Rebellion. The making of a monster proves difficult to watch as an audience member because the protagonist turned antagonist of the story, Coriolanus, is someone you undeniably vouch for in the beginning. The want for him to make the right choices and abide by the morals Tigris taught him is present throughout the film’s duration.

Knowing how the series ends or not, the prequel keeps the viewers wanting Snow to change for the better, making the story’s ability to connect with the audience on a deeper level unmistakable. Being able to create an adaptation that is not just visually but emotionally engrossing makes this film notably one of its kind in present-day book-to-screen movies.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes depicts the Hunger Games in a way that is truly raw and real, telling a story of Coriolanus Snow turning from love to self-interest in control for malicious intent, driving his internal conflict. This movie truly illustrates the theme of opportunities being given, but choices are made.

If anyone is interested in how a heartless tyrant is made amid a corrupt government and split worldview, along with a not-so-romance-romance, this movie delivers that and more.

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About the Contributor
Alicia Gasana, Staff Writer
Alicia is a sophomore at NAI and it’s her first year on writing for the school newspaper. She loves to create stories, read, and travel.

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