The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Review

Friday 17 November 2023

Plot: Coriolanus Snow mentors and develops feelings for the female District 12 tribute during the 10th Hunger Games.

Film: The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writers: Michael Lesslie, Michael Arndt, Suzanne Collins

Starring: Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage

The book version of The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes came out when we needed it most and I distinctly remember devouring it over a few days while stuck in the house in 2020, the news that the book would be adapted to film was no secret and I've been eagerly awaiting it's release since the moment I first picked up the book.

What sets "The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes" apart is its departure from the familiar Hunger Games narrative. Stripped down to basics, the games lack the spectacle of the well-established Olympic-level event that we see in its seventy-fourth year. Dr. Gaul (played by Viola Davis), the head game maker, aims to revitalize the Hunger Games by involving the Capitol's brightest students. Twenty-four students assigned to twenty-four tributes, the students are tasked with garnering Capitol favour, creating emotional investment, and sustaining viewership for the life-or-death reality TV show.

Presenting the games from a new perspective, one that the Capitol hasn't fully grasped, adds intrigue. Despite the initial lack of interest – unsurprising given the concept of children killing each other – the film explores how the gradual introduction of pageantry and supportive activities may desensitize viewers, mirroring our real-world obsession with reality television and making the games the success that Dr Gaul knows they can be.

Tom Blyth portrays Coriolanus Snow, the youthful incarnation of Donald Sutherland's President Snow. Driven by good intentions to help his struggling family, Coriolanus partners with Lucy Gray Baird of District Twelve. Rachel Zegler's performance as Lucy Gray captures the character's charm and intensity. Coriolanus, realising Lucy won't win in combat, devises a plan to make the Capitol fall in love with her, hoping it will save her life and secure his victory.

The film's strength lies in the stellar supporting cast, with Viola Davis as the unhinged Dr. Gaul, Jason Schwartzman as the out-of-touch Lucky Flickerman, and Peter Dinklage portraying grief-stricken Casca Highbottom. While the faithful book adaptation is commendable, the desire for a different approach, perhaps with a shorter first act, lingers. The film's singular format, in a time of blockbuster splits, feels unconventional and had we been left with a title card revealing a part two next year, I would have been both satisfied and excited for what was to come.

Returning to this world is a joy, and the film's faithfulness to the source material is praiseworthy. Tom Blyth's portrayal keeps alive the spirit of a captivating cinematic villain established by Donald Sutherland, showcasing the transformation from the initially rooted-for Coryo to the later despised Coriolanus. I am hopeful for another return to Panem in the future. 

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