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A Deep Dive Into Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

Published in 2008, Suzanne Collins reached international bestseller status with her trilogy of dystopian YA fiction, The Hunger Games. It was adapted for film a little less than four years later and the world came to know Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence), the police-state-slash-totalitarian-dictatorship of Panem, and the Hunger Games, a contentious teenage fight to the death made to entertain Panem’s elite. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was published back in 2020. This trilogy prequel takes readers back 64 years to the 10th Hunger Games (Katniss competed and won the 74th Hunger Games) and introduces new characters alongside an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, who later grows up to be the calculating, merciless president of Panem and the antagonist of the original The Hunger Games.

Published by Scholastic

The film premiered last week, first in Berlin (much of the film was shot in Germany and Poland) and then in London.

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate
Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate

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Hunger Games: The Reviews are In

The reviews are in and well, they’re all over the place.

Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes squanders a potentially rich premise and winds up as a stock-issue Romeo and Juliet riff with nothing new for the die-hard faithful or the curious newcomers.” — Eric Francisco, AV Club

“Whether “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is enough to relight those embers remains to be seen, but it is a reminder how good a platform they offered young actors. It’s a ritual worth returning to.” — Jake Coyle, Associated Press

All the elements that made the Hunger Games a success are there — the dark political metaphors, the horrifying dystopian premise, the beautiful actors who make the whole bitter pill easier to swallow — but Songbirds and Snakes feels simply like a rehash.” — Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Murray Close

Now, we here at Hollywood.com are never the kind of folks who shy away from a book or deny that indeed, sometimes the movie is better than the book. Nevertheless we’ve done the digging and found the evidence. See what you think and decide for yourself.

Hunger Games: Ten Years After The Treaty Of Treason

The signing of the Treaty of Treason marks the restart of time after the First Rebellion. 1 ATT (after the Treaty of Treason) is the first year of the Hunger Games. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes picks up in 10 ATT.

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The BoSaS begins around the time of the reconstruction period of the Capitol after the First Rebellion. This makes it a good place for Collins to begin to explore the barbarity of the Hunger Games and the mood of Panem in general.

“I thought a lot about the period after the Civil War here in the United States and also the post-World War II era in Europe. People trying to rebuild, to live their daily lives in the midst of the rubble. The challenges of food shortages, damaged infrastructure, confusion over how to proceed in peacetime. The relief that the war has ended coupled with the bitterness toward the wartime enemy. The need to place blame,” Collins said in an interview with Scholastic when BoSaS was initially published.

The film also spends a lot of time piecing together the significance of the different districts of Panem, more so than the original Hunger Games trilogy.

The Hunger Games: New Characters

The newest heroine in the franchise is Lucy Gray Baird, a possible descendant of Katniss. Both are from the impoverished District 12.

Honor Gillies as Barb Azure, Konstantin Taffet as Clerk Carmine and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Lucy is a member of the Covey, a traveling performance group that specializes in music that sounds like it’s from somewhere in-between the British Isles and Appalachia. Lucy, it turns out, penned “The Hanging Tree,” the ballad made famous by Katniss in the original film. Both Katniss and Lucy introduce this theme of entertainment into the Hunger Games, an important element for its staying power.

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Because Coriolanus hasn’t reached peak evil yet, the main antagonist of BoSaS is Dr. Volumnia Gaul, played by Viola Davis.

Davis as Dr Volumnia Gaul in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Murray Close
Viola Davis as Dr Volumnia Gaul. Photo Credit: Murray Close

Gaul is the Head Gamemaker for this particular installment of the Hunger Games. She is a geneticist and the one who turned Coriolanus Snow into the villain he became.

Our Verdict: Go See It!

We didn’t give you all of the spoilers but maybe just enough to get you to a theater. Of course, it will be difficult to recapture the magic of the original film — The Hunger Games made a little over $694 million dollars at the box office.

You’ve been waiting eight long years to fill in a lot of the blanks. Now is your chance.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes premieres in the US on November 17.