The Hunger Games:
The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes
review by Bobby Blakey
In 2012 director Gary Ross brought the Suzanne Collins’ # 1 New York Times Bestseller to life and kicked off a massive franchise that earned over $3Billion dollars. The series churned out three sequels that were all hits, but it seemed that it was all said and done. In 2020 Suzanne Collins debuted an all-new prequel novel titled The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes diving into the past of President Snow and now Lionsgate is bringing it to life with a new feature film of the same name starring Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Peter Dinklage, Hunter Schafer, Josh Andrés Rivera, Jason Schwartzman and Viola Davis with Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2 director Francis Lawrence returning to the franchise to direct once again.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes follows years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem where an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is the last hope for his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. But, after Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favor. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy Gray’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake.
Let start saying that I am not a big fan of the original Hunger Games movies. My issue initially stemmed from the story feeling like a rip off from the film Battle Royale, which is much better by the way. I do like Jennifer Lawrence in the role, but they overall films just never did much for me. That being said I still tried to head into this film with and open mind to give it a chance.
Dealing with prequels is always hard as they have so much to connect, but also making sure the younger cast are believable to where their counterparts end up. While I wasn’t overwhelmed with anything this film did, I enjoyed it enough. I felt like it was on the same level with the previous entries to the franchise although this film doesn’t focus on the games themselves as much as the world around it and the first of the mentor. I found this element of the story more interesting seeing how it all comes together, but did miss having more action and inventive elements to the games.
There are numerous sequences during the games themselves but because of the newer elements introduced here they are never as exciting as you might hope. That isn’t saying they are boring, but nothing they did really stood out and was pretty predictable. This is also where the film faulters as they are trying to jam so much into this film that it feels like they are too busy rushing through the games to get back to their love story.
This being more straight character focused and the love story building aspect makes a bit of a slow grind for a lot of its run time. I found myself losing interest more of than not just because it was limping along. The cast were fine, but it was really Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage and Jason Schwatrzman that steal the show. Every one of them brought an interesting character to life with some going way over the top in a fun way. The two leads Blyth and Zegler were fine, but I felt like the parts could have been anyone.
There is a major plot element to Zegler’s Baird singing and while she is a great singer and the initial moments work it got annoying afterwhile. I felt like at times the film was turning into a musical she sang so much and I was just over it pretty early on. There are numerous moments that felt rushed, which is strange with such a long run time, and other moments that needed to be fleshed out. The ending twists don’t so much leave you hanging and allows it to sit on its own if they are never able to make another one, but it felt like a major rush to get the characters to that point in the last few minutes after all we sat through.
In the end I didn’t hate the film, but it didn’t really win over my opinion of the franchise with much new. Fans of the franchise will probably like it and enjoy getting to head back into this world and lets be honest its for them anyway.
Decide for yourself and check out The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes when it hits theaters November 17th from Lionsgate.