Evaluation: ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ Triumphs Despite Its Lengthy Duration

by Ryan Lee
Hunger Games Ballad Songbirds Snakes Review

With a running time of two hours and 37 minutes, ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ might seem excessively long for a narrative termed a “ballad.” However, this term hardly encapsulates the grandeur and scope of this continuation in the Hunger Games series, which has not lost its ambitious, flamboyant character over the years.

This latest installment, a prequel unfolding 64 years before the original trilogy, is adapted from Suzanne Collins’ 2020 novel. It returns to the familiar, vivid contrast between youthful allegory and the extravagant Capitol lifestyle, featuring iconic characters like Effie Trinket.

Set to release in theaters on November 16, the film explores the origins of the Hunger Games and key characters, notably a young, impoverished, yet cunning Coriolanus Snow, portrayed by Tom Blyth, a departure from Donald Sutherland’s portrayal in earlier films.

Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler’s performances are pivotal, demonstrating how a dynamic young actor can elevate a film’s narrative, much like Jennifer Lawrence did as Katniss Everdeen. Despite initial narrative instability, director Francis Lawrence’s prequel ultimately offers a profound insight into the series’ thematic focus on the tribulations of youth and the transformation from innocence to the complexities of adulthood.

The film portrays the generational conflict that is central to ‘The Hunger Games’ appeal, showcasing a world where trust in adults and institutions is non-existent, and the trials of adolescence are amplified in a deadly, televised arena.

In this prequel, viewers witness the evolution of the Hunger Games’ cruel reality. The 10th Hunger Games, portrayed in the film, are reminiscent of a disjointed, early sports era, lacking the later sophistication and spectacle. Coriolanus Snow’s struggle, alongside his cousin Tigris (Hunter Schafer) and grandmother (Fionnula Flanagan), against family rivalries and societal expectations, forms a key part of the narrative.

The film, with its Third Reich-inspired architectures and a commanding performance by Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul, introduces Lucy Gray Baird, a compelling character from District 12, who challenges the established norms during the reaping ceremony. Her character, though not as groundbreaking as Katniss, adds a new dimension to the saga.

While the film initially seems like an unnecessary revisit to the franchise, it gradually establishes its worth. The complex relationship between Coriolanus and Lucy Gray adds depth, exploring themes of survival, self-interest, and moral ambiguity.

Tom Blyth’s portrayal of Coriolanus is noteworthy, presenting him not as a predetermined villain but as a product of his circumstances, a character shaped by societal pressures rather than inherent malevolence.

The film extends into a third act in District 12, adding Shakespearean elements to the narrative, reminiscent of the play “Coriolanus,” with its themes of famine and class struggle.

As a potential revival of the YA film trend, ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ stands as a testament to the strength of the Hunger Games franchise in providing a platform for young actors. Its release, rated PG-13 for its intense violent content and disturbing themes, offers a renewed glimpse into the compelling world of Panem, captivating audiences with a runtime of 157 minutes and earning a rating of two and a half stars out of four.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hunger Games Ballad Songbirds Snakes Review

What is the premise of ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’?

‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ is a prequel to the Hunger Games series, set 64 years before the original trilogy. It focuses on the origins of the Hunger Games and key characters, particularly a young Coriolanus Snow, who navigates the challenges and rivalries of a dystopian society.

Who are the main characters in the film?

The film features Tom Blyth as a young Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird, a tribute from District 12. Other notable characters include Snow’s cousin Tigris, played by Hunter Schafer, and Volumnia Gaul, portrayed by Viola Davis.

How does ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ compare to the original Hunger Games films?

While sharing the same dystopian world, this prequel explores the earlier stages of the Hunger Games, offering a fresh perspective on the societal structures and character backstories. The film also introduces new characters and delves deeper into the complexities of adolescence and moral choices in a dystopian setting.

What themes are explored in the film?

The film explores themes of survival, moral ambiguity, the corrupting influence of power, and the generational divide. It also examines the transformation from innocence to complexity and the societal pressures that shape individuals.

What has been the critical response to the film?

The film has received mixed reviews, with praise for its performances and deeper exploration of the series’ themes, but also criticism for its length and initial narrative instability. Overall, it is seen as a significant addition to the Hunger Games saga.

More about Hunger Games Ballad Songbirds Snakes Review

  • The Hunger Games Official Site
  • Suzanne Collins Author Page
  • Lionsgate Films
  • Young Adult Literature Reviews
  • Dystopian Film Analysis
  • Character Study: Coriolanus Snow

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MovieManiac42 November 11, 2023 - 1:04 pm

saw the trailer, looks epic! but 2 and a half hours?? thats a marathon, not a movie haha. Hope it’s worth the time.

CritiqueQueen November 12, 2023 - 1:38 am

Interesting take on the film, but I think the review could’ve dived deeper into the performances. Also, is it just me or are YA films all starting to feel the same…

PanemForever November 12, 2023 - 1:49 am

Can’t wait for Nov 16! The book was amazing, and it sounds like the movie’s gonna be just as good. Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul? Perfect casting!

JennyLovesBooks November 12, 2023 - 3:41 am

so glad they’re bringing back the hunger games series! Always loved the books, but wasn’t sure how they’d do a prequel. Tom Blyth as young Snow sounds interesting!


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