For a film set in the past, The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes is more relevant now than ever.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes Story
Years before the events of the last installment, during the 10th edition of The Hunger Games, Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) is ordered to mentor Lucy Gray (Rachel Zegler), a tribute from District 12. He soon develops feelings for her and helps her through the game, only to realize that the war he is a part of isn’t serving justice to any side.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes Review
If one looks at it from an upside-down perspective, The Hunger Games is very much a satire of the time we are living in. One system looks at themselves as the most just and powerful body in the entire vicinity, and anyone outside the boundary is a criminal even if they haven’t committed any crime technically. They initiate wars for their entertainment. An anchor details the updates of a life-threatening game like it involves dummies and not flesh and blood humans. The people who want to spread love are silenced, and the ones who succeed in doing it to some extent are made to look useless.
So, for a film set in the past, The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes is more relevant now than ever. This time around Panem, based on Sussanne Collins’ books, comes alive by the pens of Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt, both credited for screenplay. The story in the prequel is more convincing in growing horizontally than vertically. The canvas is widening rather than growing upwards. The fact that the screenplay wants to put light on every corner of this well-edged world is proof enough. The writers from the word go clarify that this isn’t just a cash-grabbing addition to the franchise, but very much a standalone movie that can survive on its own merit.
The real strength of The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes is in the fact that every character is edged out well enough that it matters to the viewer. Rachel Zegler, for example, is introduced in a very evil way, evolving into a character with heart, only to complicate it more. We never really know why she was even chosen in the games, her past is almost unclear, but her present is so charged where she talks of the system crushing the have-nots and what she has been through; Lucy becomes so powerful that you do not question the obvious voids. Such is the power of writing.
Talking more about the screenplay will only lead to spoilers. The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes has an interesting mix of actors. It seems like the makers this time were in no mood to let any thread be loose, so they hired the most seasoned actors to be around the leading pair. Tom Blyth and the sadness on his face help a lot in creating the tone of this story. People in a Capital are enjoying a group of prisoners killing each other. While they are laughing, Tom as Snow reminds you what this means. In a brief moment, even he turns evil, and that’s so humane.
Lucy Gray is probably one of the most complex parts Rachel Zegler has played in a minute. Talking much about it will only spoil the overall experience. There’s Viola Davis being the most attention-grabbing person in the room. Can it ever be that one looks at something else when Davis is in the frame? Probably not. Peter Dinklage continues drinking and knowing things. He even has a Snow to tease here. The actor cakewalks through this part and deserves more.
Francis Lawrence’s direction is quite padded from all sides. With a near-perfect prediction design, a brilliant background score, good actors, and good writing, everything is in the favour of the director. However, there is a good patch in the movie that seems unnecessary (you will see), and the runtime could have been 20 minutes shorter. Even the latter part of the title never comes alive in a full-blown way like it should. I understand Songbirds and Snakes are a metaphor, and motifs, but they just end up being plot devices for most part of it.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes Verdict
It is a worthy addition to the franchise and one that holds water even when viewed alone. You must give it a try, even if you aren’t an ardent fan.