At The Movies

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

2023
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Rachel Zegler, Tom Blyth, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage, and more.

The story of Coriolanus Snow, years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem. He is young, very determined and though the Snow family has fallen on hard times, Coriolanus sees a chance for a change in his fortunes when he is chosen to be a mentor for the 10th Hunger Games only to have his elation dashed when he is assigned to mentor a girl tribute named Lucy Gray Baird from the impoverished District 12.

I’ll start by saying I’m a huge fan of The Hunger Games books and I loved the four movies that resulted from the original book trilogy. I knew a new book had been released and I haven’t read it yet. But after having seen the movie, I find I very much want to read it now.

In The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, we go back to the 10th Annual Hunger Games in Panem, 64 years before we meet Katniss Everdeen at the reaping in District 12 for the 74th games. We meet a young Coriolanus Snow who comes from an established wealthy family. His parents are dead and he lives in the family home with his grandmother and his cousin Tigris. We also learn that despite the appearances they put forward, they are as poor and hungry as some of the districts. The future of the Snows is on young Snow’s shoulders. He’s worked hard in school to be a top academic, to win the Plinth prize, given out yearly by the father of a close friend. With it comes enough money to put the family back in good standing.

The day of the prize has come and Snow is there to celebrate what is sure to be his victory. His friend barely has time to warn him there is no prize this year when the reaping result rolls in and it’s explained to Panem’s new class of bright, new academics that there’s been a change. People were tired of the games so to up the ante, Panem decided the winner of the Plinth prize wouldn’t win it through academics.  Each academic will become a mentor to one of the 24 tributes reaped from the districts. The mentors must get the tributes to perform and make the games exciting. The winner didn’t necessarily need their tribute to be the victor.

Snow is given the female tribute from District 12, a fiery young singer named Lucy Gray Baird. 

Even without reading the book, I knew more than enough about the story universe to thoroughly understand this one and I enjoyed it immensely. Viola Davis as the current president of Panem was a treat. She’s always amazing. Peter Dinklage’s villainous turn was fascinating. The young cast did an amazing job whether they were tributes trapped in the old-fashioned low-tech arena or wealthy, ambitious mentions. Their performance elevated the film.

The way the arena was portrayed looked ancient compared to the high-tech arenas we saw in The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It didn’t lessen the sheer terror the tributes faced there. It almost made it that much worse. The film is fast-paced, violent, and gut-wrenching at times. At 2 hours and 37 minutes, it goes by at lightning speed, crashing into an open-ended conclusion that must have frustrated the man who became President Snow for many years.

The thing that impressed me? The original trilogy took a hunter and turned her into a performer, the face of a revolution. In this prequel film, we see a performer become a hunter. If you’re a fan of the books, you need to see this if you haven’t already.

Isabella Jordan