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The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
The decades-before time period helps this prequel stand on its own, but the film does falter with a third act taking place after the plot’s natural conclusion.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Release Date: November 17, 2023
Runtime: 02:37
Synopsis:
Coriolanus Snow mentors and develops feelings for the female District 12 tribute during the 10th Hunger Games.

The future President of Panem mentors and falls for a tribute of the tenth annual Hunger Games in . In the years since the Dark Days, Coriolanus Snow () lives in squalor with his cousin Tigris () and Grandma'am (). Coriolanus is hoping to win the Plinth Prize from the Capital Academy and ensure entrance into Panem University. However, Dean Casca Highbottom () announces that the prize will not be presented based on academic merit and will now require students to mentor tributes in the tenth annual Hunger Games, run by Dr. Volumnia Gaul (). Coriolanus is assigned to mentor the singer Lucy Gray Baird () from District 12 and ends up finding himself attracted to her.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Synopsis

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the fifth film in The Hunger Games film franchise, directed by returning filmmaker Francis Lawrence, who has directed every entry since the second film Catching Fire. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is based on Suzanne Collins' 2020 prequel novel of the the same name and takes place 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games. The focus is on a young Coriolanus Snow, played by Tom Blyth, who will one day become the tyrannical President of Panem.

The story of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes delves heavily into the history of The Hunger Games, which was created by Dean Casca Highbottom, played by Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones). With ratings for the games dwindling in their tenth year, and facing opposition by some such as Coriolanus' best friend, and son of the current present, Sejanus Plinth (), the head gamemaker Dr. Volumnia Gaul is hoping to spice up the games. This includes humanizing the tributes by assigning them mentors and making weatherman and magician Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman () the first-ever host of the games.

My Thoughts on The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes avoids falling into the trap of other film prequels by taking place at a time long before the majority of the original protagonists were even alive, allowing this film to stand on its own. That said, the film does give Coriolanus Snow the Anakin Skywalker treatment but has him start off as a sympathetic protagonist before he starts going on the dark path that leads to the coldhearted man he is at the start of the original Hunger Games.

The story of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is divided into three chapters, each of which develops the relationship between Coriolanus Snow and his tribute Lucy Gray Baird, played with much Southern charm by Rachel Zegler (West Side Story), who gets multiple opportunities to show off her singing skills, particularly with the signature song “The Hanging Tree.” The third chapter of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, taking place in the aftermath of the tenth Hunger Games, is probably going to divide many viewers since it comes across as an epilogue following the natural conclusion of the plot.

This is ironic, given how Francis Lawrence has started how he regrets splitting Mocking Jay into two films. Given the entirely new setting of the third chapter, there might have been some benefit to expanding it into its own feature. However, as it stands, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes still makes for a fine addition to this series.

Trailer for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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