🎞️ When is The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes out in cinemas: 17 November, 2023
⭐️ Our rating: 4/5
🎭 Who's in it? Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, Hunter Schafer, Josh Andrés Rivera.
👍 What we liked: The chemistry between Blyth and Zegler, the compelling narrative, Viola Davis' deliciously dark performance, and the film's slick visuals.
👎 What we didn't: With so much story to tell, the film's final arc feels a little rushed compared to earlier parts of the film.
📖 What's it about? A young Coriolanus Snow is made a mentor to Lucy Gray Baird from District 12 during the 10th annual Hunger Games, and the pair grow close as he tries to do whatever he can to help her survive.
It's been quite some time since Hunger Games fans were last in Panem, but who could forget a villain as menacing and memorable as Coriolanus Snow? The leader of the dystopian society and Katniss Everdeen's adversary over the course of the four films dedicated to her character.
Now, though, it is Snow's turn to take the spotlight thanks to author Suzanne Collins' 2020 novel dedicated to the villain and his origins.
The story follows a teen Snow (Tom Blyth) as he and his classmates are tasked with becoming mentors for the tributes of the 10th annual Hunger Games, and the relationship he develops with District 12's Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) as he tries to do everything he can to keep her safe.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes features a compelling narrative, one that is rich with character development and helps strengthen audience's understanding of Snow and his motivations in the original film series.
Blyth presents Snow as a deeply vulnerable man, someone who hides his weaknesses and is always looking for ways to gain the upper-hand — even if, at his core, he knows this goes against being good. It is no easy task to follow in the footsteps of Donald Sutherland, but Blyth more than lives up to his legacy and helps show a new and intriguing side to him.
The actor has great chemistry with Zegler, who is the stand-out of the film thanks to the charm and defiance she lends to Lucy Gray. She also does an incredible job of delivering on the music front, delivering emotional renditions that will move audiences as much as they move the characters she sings to.
Viola Davis also gives a delightfully dark take on Dr Volumnia Gaul, the unpredictable game-maker behind the Hunger Games. Her intense performance makes Dr Gaul a chilling character, and she steals every scene she's in — leaving viewers shocked and awed in equal measure.
Francis Lawrence returns to The Hunger Games franchise as director, having previously helmed most of the original film series from 2013's Catching Fire to 2015's Mockingjay Part 2. Lawrence has a keen understanding of Collins' world, and he adapts her prequel spin-off with impressive accuracy.
The film is split into three parts, and the first two rarely let up in intensity as the story goes from one point to the next, when the movie hits its final arc, though, the story struggles to keep up the momentum.
While the final arc is still compelling — and is definitely essential in understanding Snow's villainous downfall — it feels rushed in comparison to the first two-thirds of the story. That being said, the fact Collins' book hasn't been split into two feels right, especially when so many studios would have chosen to do so.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes delivers a fascinating and thrilling story, which will delight old and new fans of the Hunger Games franchise alike, marking a welcome return to Panem and begging the question — when will we get to go back?
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes premieres on Friday, 17 November.
Watch the trailer for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: