There’s always a risk in giving something that nobody requested. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the fifth film in the “Hunger Games” franchise. It isn’t quite as bad as Avatar: The Way of Water in its tardiness but still, this is a prequel that’s premiering eight years after The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 concluded the main series.
Directed by Francis Lawrence, this prequel film is set 64 years before the events of the first film and book, and is based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins, which was released in 2020. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows a young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) who is the last hope for his family that’s fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. Dean Highbottom (Peter Dinklage) assigns the students mentors for the 10th Hunger Games and Snow is reluctantly assigned to Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a tribute from the impoverished District 12. After Lucy Gray reels in audiences with her charm, several characters begin to scheme behind the scenes with plans of their own.
Now, point blank – is it a good movie? It depends. If you’re a big fan of the series then yes, you’ll absolutely love it. Hunger Games fandom will love every bit of this. If you aren’t as invested as the hard-nosed fans and avid readers, then there’s a list of things you might have trouble with. You may even find yourself congruent with my theory that Viola Davis enjoys playing radical characters that tend to be a bit unhinged, but let’s start with the good. Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray is absolutely sensational. Her singing is the best part of the whole film. Her character as a whole is an all-around treat and she brings great onscreen chemistry with Tom Blyth (they played well off of each other). The prequel answers a handful of questions I had going into the film. Audiences will get to learn how certain behaviors developed and certain terms were coined. It filled in a lot of gaps.
Where the film didn’t impress was its runtime and its violence. After seeing the first four, I remember the most violent parts of the series are the games themselves. The thing about that – the first two films were made in 2012 & 2013. Violence has evolved in the past decade and the way it takes shape in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is egregious. I never enjoyed the idea of children fighting to the death, but in this case, the in-your-face camera shots and the addition of the handicapped made it 10x worse. Aside from that, the same story could’ve been told in less time than the 2hrs and 37mins. that were advertised. There weren’t any parts that were dull, rather, seemingly unnecessary.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes gets a 7.5 out of 10. True to its title and authentic to its name, you will learn about both songbirds and snakes and discover if they’re real or just a metaphorical reference. If you’re new to the series, because of the violence, I would not put a stamp of approval on this. It was way too gruesome for something rated PG-13. It’s an origin story that nobody asked for but if you have questions that need answering, this will get the job done.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes will premiere tomorrow, Nov. 17, in theaters.
Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate