The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes perfectly delivers the downward spiral of who will become President Coriolanus Snow that fans love to hate.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is set 64 years before the first film, and it offers a look into one of the best movie villains – President Coriolanus Snow – as well as the evolution of how the games came to be what fans know them as. Also based on a book, this movie is said to be one of the most faithful adaptations to go from page to screen.
Even for those fans who don’t know the story, however, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is exciting, thrilling, and a deep look at what people are willing to do when their backs are up against the wall. Something The Hunger Games have always been about.
The movie is split into three acts (plus a prologue), and each one gives us an important chapter in Coriolanus’ life. We get to know him on a deeper level than ever before. We truly see how manipulative he is. All too often we are given the backstory of a villain so that we will feel bad for them, and perhaps even relate to them on some level. Not this time around. Instead it becomes obvious that he was never really a “good” person.
He is clever, calculated, and looks out for himself above all. The longer The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes goes on, the more we see him twist and spiral into the coldhearted man we see in the original films. Breadcrumbs are laid out for viewers to follow from the very start of the movie, and even when he seems like he is doing good, there is a selfish reason for it.
One of the best lines in the film is delivered by the extremely talented Hunter Schafer, who plays Tigris Snow, Coriolanus’ cousin. Without giving away spoilers, it is in a conversation between the two where she mentions something about eyes. Later on, at the end of the third act, she follows up that thought in a scene that will give you chills.
The entire cast is phenomenal. Peter Dinklage has some great moments, especially when it comes to a monologue he delivers in the third act, which ties chilling parallels to himself and to Coriolanus. Jason Schwartzman is always hilarious, but there is something about his lines in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes that make it his most comedic role yet. We aren’t sure what was on the page of the script, and what was improv, but whenever he is talking, viewers will be giggling.
Rachel Zegler proves just how great an actress she is. Her and Tom Blyth have just the right amount of chemistry to keep the audience guessing what both of their true intentions are. She sings quite a bit, which fits the character, and her folky voice makes it easy to instantly adore her character. That said, her vocal performances are one of the places that the film could have tightened things up.
Two and a half hours is a long time for one story to be told, and while the pacing and editing are done well, and viewers won’t be checking their watches, this could have been a two hour movie. There are many song performances that could have been shortened, and, while it pains us to say this, the actual games are the other spot that could have been cut down.
Now, we know that this is The Hunger Games, so that might seem silly to say, but the meat and potatoes of this film really is Coriolanus’ downward spiral, not the games themselves. That said, the games are intense and exciting, despite the lack of blood thanks to a PG-13 rating.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes easily could have been a little more polished, but overall the runtime is warranted as there is a lot of story to tell. It is important that where Coriolanus Snow ends up at the end feels right. It needs to feel justified. And it does thanks the smart writing and breadcrumbs spread throughout the first two acts.
The visuals are incredible, the score heightens the intensity to level eleven, and the acting is all top notch — as expected with this phenomenal cast. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes perfectly fits into the world that we know and love from the original films. Of course, there are many Easter eggs and nods to Katniss’ story, but they are not shoved in your face or feel out of place.
Not only do viewers get to see how Coriolanus Snow became who he is, we get to see how the Hunger Games evolved into what they are as well. This works extremely well and makes it exciting to revisit the first four The Hunger Games films.
Rating: 4 out of 5
About Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Experience the story of THE HUNGER GAMES — 64 years before Katniss Everdeen volunteered as tribute, and decades before Coriolanus Snow became the tyrannical President of Panem.
THE HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES follows a young Coriolanus (TomBlyth) who is the last hope for his failing lineage, the once-proud Snow family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol.
With his livelihood threatened, Snow is reluctantly assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a tribute from the impoverished District 12. But after Lucy Gray’s charm captivates the audience of Panem, Snow sees an opportunity to shift their fates.
With everything he has worked for hanging in the balance, Snow unites with Lucy Gray to turn the odds in their favor. Battling his instincts for both good and evil, Snow sets out on a race against time to survive and reveal if he will ultimately become a songbird or a snake.
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Critics Choice Association, Hollywood Critics Association, and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.