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‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’ slithers its way to the top of the franchise

Taken from IMDb
Taken from IMDb

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.

Warning: Review may contain spoilers for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (or TBOSAS for short) is the newest installment in The Hunger Games series. Instead of following up on the lives of Katniss and Peeta, TBOSAS takes a different approach by revealing what the life of main antagonist Coriolanus Snow was like in his early years. Starring Rachel Zeglar as Lucy Gray and Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow, the prequel details the events of the 10th Hunger Games and slightly after; chronicling Snow’s rise to power. 

A prequel in which the villain becomes the main character is always bound to be interesting, and it usually either goes really good or really bad. In this case, TBOSAS is a hit and succeeds in capturing opposing views on the nature of humanity in a beautiful and haunting way. 

Movie Adaptations Can Actually Be Good

If you like films that are extremely similar to the books they were based on, this is the movie for you. TBOSAS is easily one of the best book-to-movie adaptations in a while. Split into three parts and running for a whole two hours and thirty-eight minutes, TBOSAS effectively captures the majority of details in the novel. The set was immaculate and exactly what you would imagine when reading. The arena and the Capitol buildings in particular were impeccable. Capitol buildings had the classic futuristic dystopian feel while simultaneously feeling nostalgic. 

Taken from VanityFair

Not only was TBOSAS extremely book accurate, but it also referenced many parts of the original The Hunger Games trilogy. These references were executed in a way that wasn’t cheesy, which is kind of rare, but very much appreciated. Lucy Gray casually points out that one of the plants near the lake is called "katniss," reminding the viewer of the original protagonist in the franchise. The film also brings back a few locations that were used in the trilogy: recognizably, the meadow in District 12. This helps to create a sense of cohesion between the prequel and the rest of the series. Sometimes, during scenes in which the Capitol is the main focus, it can be easy to forget that the original franchise focused more on the districts. The overlapping filming locations are a nice reminder of the whole The Hunger Games universe. 

The song “The Hanging Tree” is another great connection between movies. In TBOSAS, we actually get to see the physical hanging tree that the song was based off of and we discover that Lucy Gray is the writer of the song. This adds depth to the scene in Mockingjay: Part I where the same song is used to inspire people of the districts to rebel against the Capitol again. The song holds a much more powerful meaning with the added context provided in TBOSAS

The Games Turn Musical

Speaking of music, the soundtrack was beautifully done. James Newton Howard outdid himself again with music that paired perfectly with every scene. Some tracks were recognizable from the original series and used to make a quick connection between a scene in TBOSAS and the trilogy. There is also a lot to be said about the choice to not have a backtrack for certain scenes. Having a scene that is eerily quiet as a result of no soundtrack creates a really tense feeling in the audience. The dichotomy of having beautiful music moments that were really upbeat and then having other scenes with not even a steady note to underlie them is a perfect contrast. 

Taken from CosmopolitanUK

This film differs from others in its genre in that there are actual moments of singing from the characters, leading some to believe the film takes on a more stage-musical feel. Based on the way in which the book was written, these moments make sense and actually seem to add to the overall vibe. As a character, Lucy Gray is a performer and having her music be a part of the film makes sense. However, if someone was going into this only having watched the other The Hunger Games movies, there might be some confusion as to why there are numerous scenes in which the main purpose is to showcase Lucy Gray’s songs since The Hunger Games franchise isn’t exactly known for having musical interludes. 

Shifting the Focus to Humanity 

Watching this movie in a theater surrounded by other people was truly an interesting experience in and of itself. It really made the message of the film even more clear and ironic. Watching the people around you get so focused on the actual Hunger Games rather than the story as a whole is a pretty disturbing thing to witness. When Lucy Gray went back to stay with Jessup (Nick Benson) as he died, many people in the theater were whisper-yelling their frustrations about her staying behind instead of running from the threat of the other tributes. The realization that we as the audience were falling prey to the same inhumane view as Snow and the other people in the Capitol threw me off and led me to a deeper understanding of the film’s message. 

Additionally, the visual of Reaper (Dimitri Abold) placing the flag of the Capitol over the bodies of dead tributes was absolutely chilling. The realization that people from the districts had been rebelling in small ways since the very beginning of the Hunger Games is both interesting and deeply sad. This, along with the mysterious nature of the end of the film, makes the original trilogy so much more fascinating to think about. This prequel expands the world of the franchise into something much more meaningful. 

Despite my low expectations for this movie (because let's be honest, the main The Hunger Games movies seem to lose the message and focus more on the classic YA love triangle), TBOSAS holds to its themes of power, corruption, and the question of human nature while also being visually beautiful. 


IMBd, IMBd, IMBd, IMBd, Spotify, IMBd, IMBd, IMBd, IMBd


IMDb, VanityFair, CosmopolitanUK

Contact Willow Emig with comments at willow.emig@bsu.edu