It executes the same mistake that HBO rightly dodged by canceling Game Of Thrones’ prequel even after investing $30 million in it
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Movie Review Rating:
Star Cast: Tom Blyth, Peter Dinklage, Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Viola Davis, Jason Schwartzman, Burn Gorman, Fionnula Flanagan
Director: Francis Lawrence
What’s Good: The ‘songbirds’ trope from the title adds a musical relief to all the chaos and mess happening in other departments
What’s Bad: It’s burdened with the hopes & expectations of being connected to the ‘Hunger Games’ franchise in whatever capacity without fulfilling any of its responsibilities to retain even a fraction of the excitement
Loo Break: If the songbirds don’t force you to, the snakes will!
Watch or Not?: For the love & respect of THG, don’t!
Available On: Theatrical Release/Lionsgate Play
Runtime: 2 hours 38 minutes
The prequel is set exactly Sixty-four years before the Katniss era of Hunger Games, exploring the origin story of the scheming, powerful, and evil to the core of Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth). It’s the story of how he wasn’t born evil, struggled through his privilege, and faced classism amongst the classists.
Set in the Capitol of the post-war nation of Panem, the story is about how Snow falls for his manic pixie dream girl in District 12’s (the Katniss’ district), Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler). This complicated tribute-mentor relationship during the 10th Hunger Games, the first to be televised for the world to see, results in various sub-plots explored throughout the bromidic runtime of over 150 minutes.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Movie Review: Script Analysis
When the world was under the harrowing lockdown of COVID-19, Suzanne Collins released the prequel book TBOSAS, surprising everyone (not in an entirely positive way) by weaving the narrative around the origin story of Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth). To my Star Wars buds, imagine getting an Emperor Palpatine spin-off talking about how he wasn’t always born on the dark side.
We all love to see villain origin stories because of the emotional depth they carry around the psychological state of the antagonists like Joker, Revenge of the Sith, and X-Men: First Class. But this one doesn’t give Snow a fitting tribute, leaving his character criminally half-baked. There will come moments when you’ll ask yourself, why do you even need to know Snow’s backstory? Because there’s nothing special about it, especially in the third act after his character is developed.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Movie Review: Star Performance
Tom Blyth perfectly fits the image of the young Snow and does well building the emotional parts of the character arc. But, the lousy writing has him in the middle of an existential crisis of whether this was really required or not. His chemistry with Rachel Zegler needed to be mysterious, like in the book, but as they say, you can’t really paint everything from the text on the screen. Some things feel nice only when you read them.
Zegler’s Lucy is watered down to be the wannabe Katniss of the prequel. That’s why she doesn’t really take off as a character throughout the film. She gets some highs but couldn’t manage to retain them. Peter Dinklage, dressed like Rasputin, fails to leave a mark as a creator of Hunger Games. Even the Front Man in Squid Game had a better backstory than Peter’s Casca Highbottom.
Jason Schwartzman kills it as Lucky Flickerman aka weatherman, in just a couple of scenes, thanks to the well-written comedic relief around him. The head game-maker Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul could’ve been creepier. Viola’s strictly controlled demeanor makes you want to explore more about Volumnia.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Movie Review: Direction, Music
Francis Lawrence returns to direct but with a crippled writing material this time around. It executes the same mistake that HBO rightly dodged by canceling Game Of Thrones’ prequel even after investing $30 million in it. Lawrence tried to bring a story to life that wasn’t really required or desired by the long-term THG fans.
Lawrence brings back his favorite, James Newton Howard, for the background score & he does total justice to it just like he has in every other installment. When you’ve ‘Songbirds’ in the title of your film, it’s difficult not to let the film flow towards almost being a musical. Milking ‘The Hanging Tree’ to the core and giving life to The Old Therebefore in Zegler’s voice does well for the sound department of the movie.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Movie Review: The Last Word
All said and done, this explains why you can’t take the polar opposite route while being connected to a celebrated franchise, even if it’s a prequel. It misses all the good things The Hunger Games had, adding too many lousy things that don’t connect with the fans.