A Review of “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes”


Ariana Duckett

Copy Editor & Senior Staff Writer

Rating: 5/5

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” (often referred to as “Songbirds & Snakes”) is a prequel in “The Hunger Games” franchise based on a series of dystopian young adult novels by Suzanne Collins. They take place in Panem, a dystopian country with thirteen poor Districts that, following rebellions against the ruling Capitol, are forced to send two children from each District to a battle arena to fight to the death on live TV. “Songbirds & Snakes” brings viewers into Panem’s violent past through the perspective of its future president, Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), as a young man. After graduating at the top of his class, he must help his Tribute, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), win the Hunger Games to get a scholarship to continue his education. He has spent his entire academic career obsessed with winning, but when he becomes determined to save Lucy Gray, his devotion to the Capitol falters.

Written by Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt and directed by Francis Lawrence, “Songbirds & Snakes” has more suspense than a star-crossed love story and less mercy than the “young adult” genre it surprisingly falls under.  Coriolanus Snow’s presidency has not begun yet, and we see a refreshingly humane side of him: after watching Lucy Gray sing after getting chosen at the Reaping, he breaks Hunger Games rules to spend time with her, earning her trust and coming up with creative ways to help her before the fight and save her during her most dire moments. He also frequently helps his best friend, Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera), who is from District 2 and constantly protests the Hunger Games or puts his life in danger trying to help District residents. At the same time, Coriolanus helps the overseer of the games, Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis), improve the games’ viewership and popularity, hinting at his future bloodthirst.

The fight for survival extends far past the arena. Coriolanus must decide to either advance his career or hide with Lucy Gray for the rest of his life. In turn, Lucy Gray must choose whether to run away with Coriolanus and escape the ruthless Capitol, or abandon Coriolanus to not risk him betraying her. When Coriolanus becomes aware of a traitor amongst his ranks, he must strategize saving himself from the fallout, even if it means sacrificing his best friend.

One may choose to abandon their loved ones in order to prosper, but when there is nobody left whom one loves, what will be left in life to enjoy? What will have been the point of it all? Do the choices we make in stressful situations reflect who we are as people? Should they?

The soundtrack draws upon more roots and bluegrass music than other Hunger Games movies to reflect Lucy Gray’s identity as a traveling country singer. Though some of the situations in which Lucy Gray breaks into song seem random and unrealistic, the powerful, clean vocals of Rachel Zegler, who starred in Stephen Spielberg’s modern remake of “West Side Story,” make up for it by a long way. Lucy Gray sings about love, survival, and resilience in a world pitted against her contentment, but it almost turns “Songbirds & Snakes” into a musical.

The Capitol and District 12 resemble their settings in previous movies, but the arena is completely different: a bare, concrete stadium with a few underground tunnels, as opposed to miles of sprawling forests, rivers, caves, and hills in the newer arena. In the early years of the Hunger Games, the goal was for everyone to kill each other as fast as possible, but they evolved to draw out the survival, suffering, and deaths of Tributes to keep viewers on the edge of their seats as long as possible. 

In the early years of the Hunger Games, when it could have been stopped, Coriolanus decided to ensure their continuation, setting his morals aside altogether in pursuit of fortune and political success. By the time the main series unfolds, the Districts’ rage has mounted even more greatly against him. Compassion and defiance like Lucy Gray’s is what’s necessary to put up enough of a fight against the Capitol and end Coriolanus’s hunger to win it all.

Throughout “Songbirds & Snakes,” nods to the original films appreciate long-term fans’ devotion, but the refreshing and intriguing storyline easily encapsulates those new to the franchise. Alongside the creatively thrilling pace, enjoyable characters and well-crafted, catchy music, the two-hour and thirty-seven-minute movie is definitely worth watching.


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