|Original title:||The hunger games: the ballad of songbirds & snakes|
|Running time:||157 minutes|
|Release date:||17 november 2023|
In the ever-expanding landscape of cinematic prequels, Suzanne Collins' dystopian world of Panem returns in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Directed by franchise veteran Francis Lawrence, the film delves into the origins of the series' infamous antagonist, Coriolanus Snow, portrayed by Tom Blyth. Set 64 years before Katniss Everdeen's rise to prominence, the movie follows the ambitious 18-year-old Snow as he navigates the political intricacies and moral dilemmas surrounding the 10th Hunger Games.
The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of a Panem grappling with the aftermath of rebellion and societal upheaval. Snow, once the proud scion of a powerful dynasty now facing hardship, aims to reclaim his family's former glory. The twist in the annual Hunger Games format introduces a mentoring system, where the privileged class, including Snow, is tasked with guiding tributes from the outlying districts. Snow's protégé is Lucy Gray Baird, played by Rachel Zegler, a captivating performer with a penchant for mesmerizing audiences with her voice.
While the film attempts to explore the darker underpinnings of Snow's transformation into a tyrant, it leans heavily on the clichéd trope of a broken heart and personal betrayal. The narrative, plotted along well-trodden paths, fails to capitalize on the potentially rich premise, devolving into a predictable romance reminiscent of a stock-issue Romeo and Juliet riff. The film's thematic aspirations, including commentary on the devious nature of mass entertainment and the dehumanization of individuals for public consumption, remain largely unexplored.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes unfolds as a two-part story, combining a half-star-crossed romance with a commentary on the sinister evolution of the Hunger Games into a cultural spectacle. Despite moments of deft direction by Lawrence and strong performances, particularly from the charismatic Blyth and Zegler, the film's thematic depth is overshadowed by its predictable narrative and an overemphasis on the doomed romance. The young Snow's attempt to engineer the Hunger Games for higher ratings and Lucy Gray's survival feels like a missed opportunity to delve into the societal critique that defined Collins' original vision.
The film's visual presentation, helmed by cinematographer Jo Willems, captures the stark contrast between the opulence of the Capitol and the grim realities of the districts. The Capitol, characterized by its gaudy excess, is juxtaposed with the impoverished industrial or rural wastelands of the districts. The juxtaposition of atrocious imagery, including televised death matches and the game show aspects of the competition, echoes the contradictory nature of Collins' saga—a massive series exploring humanity's inclination for barbarism through the lens of televised misery and authoritarianism.
Despite its technical competence, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes suffers from thematic inertia and uninspired storytelling, especially in an era where other franchises, from Star Wars to DC's Joker, strive for depth and sympathy in their exploration of villains. The film's attempt to deepen Collins' original ideas about the dehumanization of individuals for mass consumption falls short, merely laying bare provocative themes without substantial exploration.
The casting choices, including the standout performances of Blyth and Zegler, contribute to the film's semi-competence as a sappy fluff. Supporting actors like Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis, and Jason Schwartzman bring energy and charisma to their roles, but the overall impact is diminished by the film's thematic shortcomings. The narrative's overreliance on pre-established tropes and a lack of fresh perspective make The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes feel like a redundant addition to the Hunger Games franchise.
In a cinematic landscape saturated with prequels and franchise-driven narratives, the decision to delve into the backstory of Coriolanus Snow raises questions about the necessity and relevance of such expansions. The film's clunky and extended title mirrors its struggle to justify its existence, offering more of the familiar elements that defined the original series without adding significant depth or consequence.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes leaves viewers with a sense of missed opportunities and a narrative that, despite its lush production values and occasional moments of entertainment, fails to justify its place within the rich tapestry of the Hunger Games universe. As the film concludes, one is left wondering if this prequel was a necessary addition or merely an attempt to squeeze more from a beloved IP, with the somber realization that sometimes, the ballad is better left unsung.
The hunger games: the ballad of songbirds & snakes
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Written by Michael Lesslie, Michael Arndt
Based on The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Produced by Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Francis Lawrence
Starring Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Josh Andrés Rivera, Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis
Cinematography : Jo Willems
Edited by Mark Yoshikawa
Music by James Newton Howard
Production companies : Color Force, Lionsgate Films, , About:blank
Distributed by Lionsgate (United States), Metropolitan FilmExport (France)
Release dates : November 15, 2023 (France), November 17, 2023 (United States)
Running time : 157 minutes
Seen November 14, 2023 at Gaumont Disney Village, Room 2 seat A19