Film review: The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

A young Coriolanus Snow is thrust into being mentor to a poor tribute of District 12, but is his destiny to be a songbird or a snake?

Directed once more by Francis Lawrence who gave us the original Hunger Games series and from a new standalone dystopian novel by Suzanne Collins written in 2020, we are delivered the chronological prequel to the books that went on to become one of the most successful film series of all time grossing $3 billion from the four films released between 2012 & 2015 starring a young Jennifer Lawrence.

Set this time around the much earlier 10th annual hunger games of Panem and 64 years before the original film series, we are thrown into the very early days of an ‘Orwellian’ dystopian apocalypse where the post war ravages have left the majority of the 12 districts desolate and desperate for a brighter future in amongst the chaos of bombed buildings and severe lack of food and indeed hope.

From a book that isn’t overly long, there are large amounts of back story based around our primary role of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow. Snow is played by a relatively unknown young veteran actor Tom Blythe, and his sister, Tigris Snow played by Hunter Schafer, who is quite new to the industry, that have been left out. Dealing with his families’ severely restricted financial means after his high-powered father was killed when Coriolanus was only 5 years old, makes for a troubling family introduction. Although it does help keep the action going we have come to expect, as we’re immersed into the brutal games themselves, where gifts of water become more lethal than expected.

Divided into three acts ‘mentor’, ‘prize’ and ‘peacekeeper’ and concentrating predominantly on the two main characters Snow and Baird, and with a runtime of around 160 minutes, Francis Lawrence was careful this time to keep the book to one film, after the backlash from splitting “Mockingjay” into two films. Although some may find the plot a little rushed in some areas, leaving certain sections feeling empty and unresolved. So maybe two films would have been a better idea here, in order to fully explore the depth of the book?


With the game makers trying to find their audience in these early games, the arenas are purposefully smaller and lower in style and budget, the overall feel is that of ‘trial by audience’ leaving the atmosphere just as dark, if not more so than the first trilogy, with some gut-wrenching combat moments that certainly hit home as the trials begin.

Staring Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird, who recently found fame as Maria in the musical remake of a ‘West Side Story’, continues to surprise us with her singing talents, with musical treats including the first outing ‘Hollow Tree’ track dotted in amongst the gruesome murder and decapitations. Alongside Tom Blythe as Coriolanus Snow, the film looks intentionally more low key with the games in their ‘finding their feet’ primary years. Also starring Viola Davis as Dr. Volumnia Gaul, head game maker in some glorious ‘rich red’ scientific apparel as if made from dead tributes blood, she is a key lynch pin to keep the plotline together.

With Peter Dinklage as Dean Casca Highbottom, whose stolen games idea in a drunken moment by General Crassus – Coriolanus Snow’s father leads us to the very high death quota over the coming decades of innocent tributes. The casting is large in numbers and on the whole works extremely well. Set two generations before the original series, there are no crossovers to look out for and no needless cameos.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is not part of a new trilogy from Suzanne Collins, so additional films may never be made without her looking to create something newer once more. With Rachel Zegler’s songbird voice, Tom Blythe’s step up to the primary role and overall effects, there are many reasons however to see this as large and as loud as soon as possible.

Oh, by the way “Enjoy the show!”





Author: Piers, Maidstone Store