It’s time to sharpen those arrows and volunteer as tribute because the anticipated Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, is finally here. Considering this project was first announced in 2019, it’s a long time coming for fans of the blockbuster films and the books on which they’re based.
But with a new film comes intense pressure. Can Ballad live up to the hype? Will book fans be disappointed with director Francis Lawrence’s vision? And what is it all about, anyhow?
The good news is we had a chance to preview the film and are here to answer all your burning questions before its November 17 release.
The short answer is no, it is not. But there is an awful lot of singing throughout the nearly three-hour film. The first time Rachel Zegler’s character, Lucy Gray Baird, shows off her pipes it’s almost jarring. From there, though, the music in the movie (mostly) makes sense and helps drive the story while giving the world front-row access to Zegler’s talents.
We know from previews that Lucy Gray is among the unlucky people chosen to participate in The Hunger Games. Turns out she was reaped because of a cruel twist of fate and a bratty District 13 girl. Similarly, fate is what led Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) to volunteer as tribute and take the place of her younger sister, Prim.
We also know Katniss and Lucy Gray can both dip into a show-stopping bow, but that seems to be where the similarities end. Lucy Gray is a songbird with no translatable Hunger Games skills, whereas Katniss is a natural competitor—one who inspired an entire uprising.
Plenty. And while we don’t want to spoil them all, watch for roses, a penchant for poisoning, and a special waterside chat involving a particularly relevant plant.
The main story takes place around the 10th annual Hunger Games. The games’ creator, Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage), and the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis), deal with low viewership. So, to boost the Hunger Games’ popularity, they appoint mentors from the college to help popularize and stylize the tributes.
A poverty-stricken Snow (Tom Blyth) is one of those students, and he dreams of winning the games to win a promised scholarship. Doing so would ensure his family’s survival, including his Grandma’am (Fionnula Flanagan) and cousin Tigirs (Hunter Schafer).
Naturally, Lucy Gray is paired with Snow, setting up the songbird and snake of the title.
They were pretty different from the Hunger Games viewers learned about in Katniss’ world. In fact, the 10th Hunger Games was a pivotal point in the games’ ongoing success. Snow, whom we know goes on to become president, had a big role in that. This film is as much about his personal downfall as it is an inside look at his direct impact on the way the games were played.
As a teaser, before the 10th game, there were no interviews with the tributes, drones, or different arenas in which the tributes played. In a way, this movie is like watching the making of a great reality TV show like Survivor or The Amazing Race. Only the results are more like Squid Games.
If you’ve seen the previews, you know there’s a character named Lucky Flickerman, played by Jason Schwartz. Lucky appears to be related to Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and is the first-ever host of The Hunger Games. His character provides tons of comedic relief, and Schwartz is downright genius in picking up Tucci’s beloved mannerisms from the first films.
Plan your bathroom breaks and stock up on snacks. This movie clocks in at nearly three hours and is broken into three distinct parts. But while we think the editors could have left a few more scenes on the editing room floor, overall, know that this movie will fill your Hunger Games void.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is now playing in theatres.