Review of The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes: Chances are good

The prequel film “The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” takes us back to Panem and back into the hype of the original film series.

The Hunger Games are considered by many to be the best of their genre. Set in a world where children are forced to fight each other to the death in an arena created and run by the repressive Capitol Corporation, the original series proved to be a commercial and critical success.

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When author Suzanne Collins released a prequel novel called The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, which focused on President Snow’s time as a mentor in the 10th Annual Hunger Games, it seemed clear that it was difficult to follow to follow.

Now the book is getting its own film adaptation, directed by Hunger Games alumni Francis Lawrence, which is released this week. And thankfully, it lives up to the potential of the original series and even reaches the level of 2013’s Catching Fire. Let’s get started and don’t worry, we’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum!

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The prequel to The Hunger Games takes us to Panem

The film begins in a time before The Hunger Games even began, and it’s pleasantly surprising how easy it is to return to that world despite the years between film releases. This is a different Panem with a different style of Hunger Games, but this Panem is undoubtedly evolving into the one we already know.

It’s always difficult to adapt books, especially when they’re told so succinctly from one person’s point of view, as was the case with Suzanne Collins’ books. While this wasn’t as much of a problem in the original trilogy, it is a problem when the focus of the story is on the psychology of President Snow and how he could have grown into the monster he was.

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The film focuses primarily on Snow’s perspective; We can only look at and judge other characters the way he does, but the flick lacks many of the serpentine thoughts for which it is named, and we only get to see either Snow’s performances or his real feelings. While these moments are compelling, it’s a little confusing that his turn comes at the end of the film, as there’s arguably not enough build-up without knowing exactly what he’s thinking.

However, the way the characters interact with other people lends itself better to this more objective portrayal; Tom Blyth as Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird are able to express far more emotion than Jennifer Lawrence’s stoic Katniss, making them much easier to enjoy on screen. Zegler’s talent as a showman shines far brighter than any words on a page could, with her musical numbers being the highlights of the film.

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Of course, when we talk about the performances, we can’t leave out the borderline over-the-top performances from Viola Davis and Jason Schwartzman, both of whom bring a lot of fun and menace. Meanwhile, Peter Dinklage brings a little more levity and gives The Hunger Games a sad story.

And the ending of Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, while not as detailed as the book, will undoubtedly have the same impact, with its captivating twist on characters and relationships and the mystery poetically hinted at from the start.

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The film cuts out a lot, but you don’t always miss it

This film is the longest in the series and does not end with the end of the Hunger Games, a move that will undoubtedly shock those who have not read the book. However, this long and extended third act never exceeds its expectations, which is due to the book’s streamlining to adapt it to a film format.

Of course, this means that some elements were left out, including certain deaths and more of the ugliness of the Capitol’s treatment of the districts, which is interestingly different from what we’ve seen in previous films. On the other hand, what is seen in the film is certainly enough to haunt you just as much as the ghosts of the hanging tree.

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There are missed character moments that would have given more life to other Capitol citizens; At the moment, most of them don’t seem particularly complex. Sejanus (Josh Andrés Rivera) and Tigris (Hunter Schafer) are probably the only people there, while the rest feel like mean high school girls. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for the honors; This film surpasses the first Hunger Games in that its supporting characters are given far more agency and independent tragedy, regardless of their relationship to Lucy Gray.

This is evident through the violence in the film; We don’t shy away from the brutality of the Capitol or the kill-or-be-killed nature of the games. The fact that the cast looks younger also reinforces the franchise’s central message much better.

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Review score for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes: 4/5

Although we’ve spent a lot of time comparing The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes film to its original text, this prequel film can definitely stand on its own and is undoubtedly considered by many to be the strongest of the series.

This is the Hunger Games like we’ve never seen before, and The Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents is an addition to the world of Hunger Games. It has its flaws, but if you’re looking for a prequel that expands the world and its characters, this film is it. And so this songbird will sing the praises of this film.

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“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” hits theaters November 17th. Read more about the film below:

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a Nytimas U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined Nytimas in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: dustinhuang@nytimas.com.

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