The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes based on Suzzane Collins’ novel debuted in cinemas on November 15th. A prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy following later villain Coriolanus Snow as protagonist, who is a student in The Academy. The film is separated into three acts with a runtime of 2 hours and 37 minutes.
Despite having a close release to numerous other films including Disney’s ‘Wish’ and Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Napoleon’ it made $100 million dollars in the USA alone within ten days of debut. Social media is filled with fans of Suzzane Collins’ novels and the film praising and analyzing Tom Blythe’s Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler’s Lucy Gray Baird.
Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as a film explores eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow’s turn towards villainy and the importance of the Hunger Games in Panem. Most of the movie revolves around the 10th Hunger Games. Set in post-war Panem there is a twist for students of The Academy, Capitol students, with tributes from the different districts as mentors. Despite the film taking place 64 years before Katniss Everdeen is born there are numerous parallels to be found between Zegler’s character and the later trilogy's heroine.
It has received some mixed reviews despite its incredible success in the box office both domestically and globally. Some call it a “handsome but undercooked prequel” while critics have praised it for its performance and thematic depth. Harsh critics claim Zegler and Blythe’s characters are “undercooked” while a more general criticism across social media is the film’s pacing. Numerous fans are hoping for director Francis Lawrence to release a longer version, as he has mentioned it was originally an hour longer.
Fans across the board applaud Lawrence as a director and productor with Nina Jacobson’s production for capturing the essence of Collins’ novel once again. Lawrence explains the most important aspect of the film was encapsulating Snow’s journey for the audience. Blythe’s portrayal of Snow focuses on sympathy early in the film while he turns more villainous after the 10th Hunger Games while making his cruelty in the trilogy believable towards the end.
Jacobs explains the difference of The Hunger Games trilogy through the themes Collins’ focuses on. Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes being “how does the perception of ourselves, as human beings, reflect the government that we think we want and need” while the trilogy focuses more on warfare.
Trish Summerville, main costume designer, said the hardest character to dress was Zegler’s character Lucy Gray since her reappening dress is described as ‘The Rainbow Dress’. Zegler’s character only changes after becoming victor of the Hunger Games making this Zegler’s main dress throughout the film. While another thoughtful design was the Academy uniform which is all red and genderless due to the darker settings on the rest of the movie. By making all uniforms crimson red and genderless Summerville made for subtle decisions with Blythe’s character not being perfectly tailored, showing Snow’s lack of family money as an orphan.
Blythe’s Snow views the games as a chance to restore his family's honor and secure a coveted university scholarship. He is paired with Lucy Gray Baird, District 12 tribute,a rebellious singer as his mentor; something all students of the Academy are forced to partake in. Throughout the movie there are numerous snakes although the Zegler confirmed the use of cgi snakes there were two real snakes used on set. A garden snake her character’s reaping scene and a milk snake used after her character’s return to district twelve showing her adopted family.
Much of the film’s tension comes to a rise in a pivotal forest scene that solidifies Snow’s change into the fascist dictator he later becomes. Lawrence marks this scene as his favorite day of shooting as there is little dialogue while Blythe shoots at the sky to numerous Jabberjay birds solidifying his character change. Blythe thought numerous takes of the scene were going to be necessary and almost couldn't believe Lawrence running through the woods towards him saying “We got it!” but was proud of his performance to surprise Lawrence.
Despite criticism on specific aspects of the film, social media has been supportive of all cast members for their incredible performances. Some fans wish there were moments of narration, although book readers are slightly disappointed with the deaths of tributes being different from the novel. Numerous audience members have taken to social media to theorize on Zegel’s character conclusion as her character disappears at the end of the film.
All in all, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes has a complex, emotionally impactful ending that provided insight into President Snow's formative disillusionment with idealism. Globally fans are analyzing the film while praising cast, production and direction for such an insightful prequel with many praising Zegler for her live singing skills throughout the film.
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