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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

New Hunger Games prequel hits theaters
Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler in “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” (Murray Close/Lionsgate/TNS)

The Hunger Games series added a fifth movie, based on the novel “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”. The Hunger Games movie series is entirely based on the book series written by Suzanne Collins. The first Hunger Games book hit the shelves in 2008, with three more following in the three consecutive years. The first of the movies released in 2012, and the others followed over the next three years. 

The book “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” dropped in 2020 and, after much anticipation, the new movie hit the theaters Nov. 17, 2023. 

The Hunger Games prequel, directed by Francis Lawrence, shows the internal conflict between a man and his mind in search for power. The movie details the life of young president Coriolanus Snow (played by Tom Blyth), 60 years prior to the time period of the original movies. 

The movie opens with two young, starving children in search of food in the midst of a war between the Capitol and the districts. The war ended in favor of the Capitol, sparking the creation of the Hunger Games, but not before rebels killed Coriolanus’s father, leaving his family with nothing. 

Being such a highly known and wealthy family, becoming poor sparked the conflict of the movie’s plot. Upon his graduation, Coriolanus and his classmates were made to believe that the graduate with the best grades would receive a cash prize, the Plinth Prize, on Reaping Day from one of the wealthiest families in Panem. 

With no food in his fridge, Coriolanus put all of his eggs in the basket of the Plinth Prize to be able to pay his family’s rent and put himself through university. 

To the graduates’ surprise, come Reaping Day, Dean Casca Highbottom (played by Peter Dinklage) announced that their grades wouldn’t matter in regards to the Plinth Prize, and that the money would go to whoever acted as the best mentor to their tribute in the Hunger Games. 

Coriolanus received the runt of the tributes, the girl from District 12, Lucy Gray Baird (played by Rachel Zegler). After dropping a snake into the dress of the mayor’s daughter on live television, Lucy Gray made her way to the stage where the mayor struck her across the face. 

A girl from the crowd began to sing, and Lucy Gray took the microphone in her hands and finished the song off, gaining love from the Capitol and Coriolanus, and earning her nickname: the Songbird.

Through the first half of the movie, Coriolanus is portrayed as a protagonist and caring. He goes to any length he can to aid Lucy Gray in the Hunger Games arena, including endangering himself and his own reputation. In desperate need for her to win, both for the sake of his love for her and the Plinth Prize, he slipped her his late mother’s powder compact, filled with rat poison, which Lucy Gray used to take down two of her fellow tributes. He also slipped a handkerchief into the snake tank, allowing the snakes to become familiar with her scent. The snakes attacked and killed all remaining tributes, except for Lucy Gray.

 Despite his acts of defiance in favor of Lucy Gray, the producers allow the audience to see the moment that Coriolanus shifts ever so slightly to the darker side. When the Head Gamemaker Dr. Volumnia Gaul (played by Viola Davis) sent Coriolanus into the arena to save his fellow classmate, Sejanus Plinth (played byJosh Andrés Rivera), a tribute attacked Coriolanus and Sejanus, forcing Coriolanus to kill the tribute in self defense. 

Coriolanus went on to stand over the tribute maniacally before escaping the arena, and when he returned home, he confessed to his cousin, Tigris (played by Hunter Schafer), that it made him feel powerful. 

The real shift, however, comes when Dean Highbottom found out about Coriolanus giving Lucy Gray an unfair advantage in the arena. Highbottom banished Coriolnaus to 20 years of service as a Peacekeeper, and Coriolanus went to District 12, where he and Lucy Gray reunited. 

Coriolanus ended up killing the mayor’s daughter with a shot to the back, and he also went on to betray his best friend, Sejanus, for his own benefit. 

Coriolanus recorded Sejanus talking about a plan to help people in District 12, and he sent word back to the Capitol through Jabberjay, a Capitol bird that can recite human conversations word for word. The Peacekeepers of District 12 hung Sejanus for treason.

Blyth showed the slight changes in the personality of Coirolanus well, only slightly changing his mannerisms overtime. This allowed the audience to truly see how the childhood of President Snow shaped him into the man we saw in the original movies. 

Coriolanus and Lucy Gray planned to run off together but, when Coriolanus let his power hungry mind overcome him, Lucy Gray escaped, trapping Coriolanus with the sound of her singing through a flock of Mockingjays. 

After disposing of the weapon he used to murder the mayor’s child in the lake, Coriolanus returned to the Capitol after Lucy Gray escaped his grips, and Dr. Gaul awarded him for reporting Sejanus for treason. She invited him to study under her at the Capitol university and the producers left the viewers with the golden songbird and snake crest. 

Overall, the film portrayed the early years of the Hunger Games and Coriolanus Snow well. The actors each played their roles with great detail and care, giving viewers a true sense of reality.  

The movie lived up to the expectations based on the book, and it carried the same essence carried by the original movies. 

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About the Contributor
Kailyn Williams, Sports Editor
Kailyn Williams is a third-year senior member of the newspaper staff and Sports Editor. She is an overachieving perfectionist, who doesn’t like failing. She is a member of the varsity volleyball and softball team and likes to maintain straight A’s.

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