Suzanne Collins plunged us deep into the world of The Hunger Games, both in her books and the subsequent movie releases from 2008-2015. Now, we return to the Districts for another story, this one revealing Snow’s life before he became President Snow in Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. If you haven’t read the book yet, you should totally check it out, but if you enjoy the film series better then continue reading for our The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes review. Remember, spoilers ahead!
Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Review – Breaking Down Plot, Setting, Characters
A New Look at Snow
In the brand-new installment of the Hunger Games franchise, we have traveled back in time 64 years to witness the 10th Annual Hunger Games, and Coriolanus Snow as an ambitious 18-year-old. After the war, Corio’s dad was killed by a District rebel and the Snow’s became hard on cash. Still trying to present a rich facade however, Coriolanus goes to his school’s graduation expecting the Plinth Prize, a large sum given to the student with the highest scores, but instead is met with a new challenge — mentor a tribute for the Hunger Games and the mentor with the best tribute performance will win the prize.
As each student receives their assignments, Snow gets more and more anxious at his chosen tribute, which ends up being District 12’s female tribute. This is the first time we meet Lucy Gray on screen, and she is everything the books said she would be — loud, colorful, and a spectacle after she drops a snake down the dress of the Governor’s daughter.
Coriolanus and Lucy Gray become intertwined as each tries to survive the games, and feelings between them become complicated, leading Coriolanus to do anything to get her to survive, even if that means cheating. Lucy Gray ends up winning, but it costs Coriolanus as he is punished and sent off to one of the districts to serve as a Peacekeeper for 20 years.
Bribing his way to District 12, Lucy Gray reunites with Coriolanus and things seem good. He’s finally found someone he can be with in the shadows, but a series of events involving his friend Sejanus and himself cause him to flee with Lucy Gray into the woods. After Corio’s true intentions are reveled, Lucy Gray disappears into the forest, and Coriolanus returns to District 12 and his supposed reassignment to District 2 for officer training. He never makes it to District 2 though, since he wins over Professor Gaul by completing her tests, and instead he gets brought back to the capitol to enter University under the special care of Gaul.
This was a perfect showcase of a character who loses his way, and humanity, and becomes the despicable President we’ve all come to recognize in the Hunger Games series. I hate to say it, but there were times I really enjoyed Coriolanus, even though I knew what he was to become. This is a clear success of not only Suzanne Collins, but the movie itself, because they were able to humanize Snow into something fans could sympathize with, and even root for.
Post-War World Trying to Rebuild
The setting is the same as the original Hunger Games films, but 64 years in the past, when the war is still sharp in everyone’s minds, and the Hunger Games is just starting to gain traction in the Capitol. Even the opening scene of the movie shows a young Corio and Tigris scavenging for food in the war-torn Capitol, and even watch as someone cuts off a dead man’s leg to eat. Gross. It gives a new perspective to the dynamic between Districts and Capitol, and how the world is trying to rebuild after the initial war.
There are a few main settings we get to see in the movie, the Capitol, District 12, the Arena, and the school where Coriolanus studies. Each have hints to the Hunger Games movies, with the broken ceiling creating a “cornucopia” like structure in the middle of the stadium of the 10th Hunger Games, or the unique clothing and building styles in the Capitol.
My favorite setting would have to be either the Arena or District 12, as we get to see what the original arena was, and where Lucy Gray and later Katniss would come from. Each setting is its own unique platform where the characters grow into the people they were always meant to be. For Lucy Gray, this is a reluctant Victor, and for Coriolanus, it is the unfeeling man who intends to punish the Districts for decades to come.
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The Real Players of the Game
The characters really make this movie shine, even though both the plot and the settings are great, there is something about the tense dynamic between District and Capitol residents that throws the movie into chaos every five minutes.
Coriolanus Snow is from a proud bloodline who has fallen on hard times, and must do everything in his power to preserve their image in the Capitol. This is, until his tribute Lucy Gray comes and shows him another side of life — love. Though their love is forbidden, the two hold a strong bond that pushes Coriolanus to cheat so she can survive.
Two of my favorite secondary characters are Professor Gaul and Sejanus Plinth. Both are on the opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of the Districts — one against and one for them — but they give depth to Coriolanus’ story. Professor Gaul pushes Corio to become more distant and ferocious against the Districts, coming up with more cruel ways to punish them in the Games.
Sejanus, on the other hand, was from the Districts and feels compelled to help them any way he can. Even if that means committing treason by trying to break a woman out of jail, and later being hung for his crimes. Professor Gaul brought out Corio’s harsh unyielding side, but Sejanus showed him that the Districts are full of real human beings, and they shouldn’t be treated this way.
Even though I know Coriolanus will become a tyrant in later movies, I can’t help but enjoy his character and some of his actions in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. It’s one of those dilemmas that happens when a character is originally portrayed as evil, but their backstory shows another side.
Is Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Based on a Book?
Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes the film is based on a book written by Suzanne Collins in 2020. It rounds out the original trilogy of The Hunger Games, but this time peers into the world of President Snow when he was a young adult. Set 64 years before the original book, it’s the dawn of the 10th Hunger Games, and this year Capitol residents are assigned tributes in order to mentor them through the games. Snow unfortunately gets District 12’s female tribute, but as Lucy Gray shows, there is a lot more to her than anyone would have guessed, especially Coriolanus Snow.
How Does it Compare to the Original Trilogy?
I thoroughly enjoyed The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, from Coriolanus’ backstory to the three part movie setup, it was all strong and kept my eyes glued to the screen. However, there is something about the original movies that sings true to my teenage years devouring the books.
I will say the first Hunger Games movie is better than Songbirds and Snakes, but I think that this new movie has ranked second on the list. There is just so much to enjoy in the movie, it deserves to have second place in my heart.
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Where to Watch Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes & The Hunger Games
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is currently in theaters, so make sure to check your local listings for times and dates to watch the film. The runtime is 2 hours and 45 minutes, so make sure to set a good amount of your day aside to experience the film in all its glory.
The Hunger Games film series, on the other hand, is available to stream through Peacock with a regular subscription, or through Hulu with a premium subscription. Make sure to watch all the original films though before enjoying the prequel, in order to enjoy all the little connections between 64 years of Snow.
Diving into the villain’s backstory is always fun to me, because you get to see how this character became twisted and jaded, and this is so true in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Coriolanus is a driven young man, leading with his pride and emotions into the 10th Hunger Games, only to be blown away by the tribute he must keep alive — Lucy Gray. The ebb and flow of emotions solidifies that Snow was good at one point in his life, but a series of harsh events led him to become unfeeling and distant from everything he should care about.
Prequels rank high on my list, and that is no different with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. If you’ve only watched the movie, I highly recommend reading the book. This world is one to stay in as long as possible, and I admire Suzanne Collins for the world she has built for us to explore.