Movie: “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”
Release date: Nov. 17, 2023
Director: Francis Lawrence
Runtime: 2 hours, 38 minutes
Genre: Action, Sci-fi, Drama
The newest movie in the “Hunger Games” franchise is a look into the early years of the games. But it seems quality was more of an afterthought in “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”
The story is set decades before the original series and focuses on the backstory of Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) and District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler). The movie gives a lackluster history of who Snow was before his tyrannical reign as Panem’s president.
In the 10th Hunger Games, Snow is assigned as a mentor to Baird, a "songbird," who shows rebellious tendencies. While it is clear she is meant to be a powerful, female figure, she comes across as a disappointing Katniss-wannabe.
Although Zegler’s acting had great potential, it was squandered by her poor attempt at the southern twang given to her character. No one else in the movie had a southern accent, making her stand out. The detail may have made sense with more context in the novel, but it was out of place in the film and distracted from the lengthy plot.
Baird earns support from sponsors by singing ... a lot. Though singing is integral to her character, as she is a member of the Covey — a traveling music group that resides in District 12 — the movie could have been a lot shorter with fewer songs.
The best part of this movie was Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman). He is the comic relief and bears an uncanny resemblance to his iconic descendant from the original series, Caesar Flickerman. The casting was top-notch for this role and was by far the best choice made in this film.
But it was interesting to see how the games evolved over time, along with Snow's role in its development. The games did not make up a majority of the film — with it focusing more on Snow's journey.
The games had some of the most action-packed and engaging moments. But the climax of the movie being so far from the end left the audience waiting for the story to wrap up.
Snow’s time in District 12 made up the third and most boring part of the film.
Snow, in the final act in the film, is placed as a peacekeeper to punish his behavior in the games. The decline in action and slow pace made the section the most boring part of the film. In case we hadn’t heard enough songs yet, the audience gets to see Baird perform as a district celebrity with the Covey.
Snow’s most irritating peer, Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera), comes with him to be a peacekeeper. Plinth longs for the harder life in the districts, despite his father being wealthy and powerful enough to bring him back to the Capitol whenever he pleases. He seems to romanticize the struggle of the people in the districts, acting as though he can’t still help them from within the Capitol.
In the third part, Snow starts to become the manipulative and hateful character from the original series. This felt like the beginning of an understanding of Snow and his backstory, but it didn’t even come until the end.
It feels like not much was added to the series, despite the length of the film. This seemingly movie musical does not compare with the original films at all.
The film struggled to deliver the same familiarity as the original series, despite the hype and excitement surround its release. It felt as though the author just wanted to profit from the success of the other four movies, though the story was meant to have a different focus.
While the idea of delving into Snow’s psyche was intriguing, it fell short in the end, due to the lack of his character's development until late in the film.