A new chapter in the Hunger Games franchise hits theaters this weekend – The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes viewers back in time to the early years of the games and Coriolanus Snow. But this prequel seems to lean almost a little too heavily on the franchise to stand on its own feet.
Throughout The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes audiences will get a glimpse at the origins of many of their favorite characters from the original movies – or at least the groundwork for them. We see The Mocking Jays, the Hanging Tree, learn what Katniss really means and so many more things. Fans of the series may love this actually, but it seems almost like it is all there as a reminder that this IS actually a Hunger Games story and reasons why we should actually care about it.
The story follows Coriolanus Snow 10 years after the beginning of The Hunger Games. As a student in the Capitol, he is given one last test in order to get the scholarship his family desperately needs to live – be a mentor to a tribute of the Hunger Games. Captivated by his tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, Snow risks everything to help her and to try to win the prize money.
On the very base level, the story seems to set out to make Snow into a good guy – maybe we misunderstood him in the original movie franchise. But we know, that even in reality, no politician makes it that high in power with clean hands. The movie really follows Snow from a struggling student to a master plan maker and a budding romance and his ultimate corruption. It’s a lot of story to pack in, even in a bloated run time.
The movie of course covers The Hunger Games origins, and the reason for it, and includes plenty of battle scenes of teenagers killing each other. There are plots and other backstories that are just dropped in and others that don’t seem as well developed. Including Coriolanus’ friendship with a classmate – they can relate to each other because they both came from humble origins – so they support each other’s plans. But how did his friend get to the Capitol? How did Coriolanus’ family? It’s briefly touched on that his father’s plans helped make The Hunger Games what they are – but it isn’t until later that even a sliver of that information is actually given. The elder Snow’s story may have actually been more interesting than large portions of this movie were.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has one major flaw – much like the movie’s title it’s simply too long. Audiences are going to get to the second section of the film and expect it to be over. Instead, they’re met with another hour of a story that could have been its own movie. Is this an editing issue? It wouldn’t be the first time a Hunger Games movie was broken into multiple films for fans. Or is it they really just don’t want to devote a second movie to Snow’s back story? It seems like there could have been a lot of sections edited out of the movie to give the movie a better pace or a more realistic run time that audiences will actually enjoy.
Don’t get me wrong, the story is interesting. And I’m thankful that the movie doesn’t try to sugarcoat Snow (completely) and make him into a good guy. It’s more of a villain origin story instead of a redemption arc. But is this the beginning of prequels for the other major players from the original franchise? How many other Capitol character biopics are we going to have to sit through? And at some point, do we need to have a reminder throughout the movie that it is actually part of the Hunger Games world as it references back to characters, details, etc that only fans of the original movies will get over and over again?
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes hits theaters everywhere this weekend. Fans will love the story, but really need to be prepared for how long this one is, as it really starts to feel a slow down in the last third.
About The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is the last hope for his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in the post-war Capitol.
With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. But after Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he may be able to turn the odds in their favor. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy’s race against time will ultimately reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake.