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Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

REVIEW: “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” falls short of franchise

Emma Sutton
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” permiered on Nov. 17. Viewers had been patiently awaiting this addition to the popular franchise since the book, who bares the same name, debuted in 2020.

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is a failed attempt at an addition to a beloved film franchise. With subpar acting from its cast and incredibly long runtime, the film takes the cake as the worst of the franchise, only being saved by the stellar plot and top performances from Jason Schwartzman, Viola Davis and Peter Dinklage.

The movie follows the origin story of a young Coriolanus Snow, known as President Snow in the original Hunger Games movies played by Tom Blyth. The audience watches Coriolanus get overwrought with power and greed as he begins his journey to the presidency of Panem.

The designer of the games, Dr. Volumina Gaul, played by Viola Davis, takes a particular special interest in Coriolanus. He is a young, bright and financially unstable Capital resident who soon finds himself and his classmates thrown into the world of the games via a mentorship. Coriolanus and his colleagues council tributes on how to win the games.

Each mentor is matched with a tribute based on a semi random draw. This is the first time the games have had this mentorship program. This program places a lot of stress on Coriolanus as he in under the impression that winning could allow him to win a prestigious prize.

Lucy Gray Baird, Coriolanus’s tribute, is played by Rachel Zegler. District 12 is in an Appalachian-like region of the U.S. which can have a very distinct accent. Zegler tries to recreate this accent, but it felt extremely disingenuous. Her accent was too strong and distracting compared to the other cast members, removing the viewer from the world of Panem.

Aside from the accent, Zegler’s style of acting is very different from her castmates. With a background in musical theater and stage acting, Zegler tends to play up emotion, over-exaggerating her character, making Lucy Gray a caricature of herself.

One of the better performances of the movie was Schwartzman’s portrayal of Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman. Flickerman is an early relative of Caesar Flickerman, a character from the first Hunger Games films. Schwartzman nailed the role with his humorous performance of the TV personality and magician. The bizarre nature of the games gave way for Schwartzman to shine with his character’s often dark and dismissive comedy.

Additionally, Dinklage and Davis make the film worth seeing if you’re a fan of the franchise. Dinklage, who plays Casca Highbottom, can do more with the curve of a smile or a simple hand gesture than any actor out there. Davis alone delivers a performance not worthy of this film; She shines in this menacing role as Dr. Gaul. Though Davis’s blue-eyed contact lenses are distracting throughout the movie, it does not detract from her overall performance.

Even with the big saves from Schwartzman and Davis, the lack of chemistry between Blyth and Zegler makes the strenuous movie seem even longer. It is broken up into three parts, but by the end of the second part, you are praying it’s finally time to emerge from the dark theater for non-popcorn-infused air. 

The slow run time doesn’t benefit from the insane pacing of the film either. The tempo is all over the place. Part one has a nice pace and a rhythm similar to its franchise sisters. Part two, however, is incredibly slow and feels like it drags on forever, leaving part three nearly giving you whiplash from its pacing. 

Overall, “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” feels like a remake of a remake of a remake. I feel like I’ve already seen this story before, which I have in “The Hunger Games” (2012). It was interesting to look into what made President Snow the tyrant we know him as in the original films, but I don’t think it was worth the time. A short film, with a more paced, thought-out plot would have sufficed.

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About the Contributor
Emma Sutton, Staff Writer
Emma Sutton is a junior a majoring in writing and rhetoric with a concentration in journalism and digital media. It is her second semester writing for Hilltop Views and first semester as a staff writer. She loves writing about all things pop culture but also has a soft spot for baseball.

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    AlexDec 11, 2023 at 12:53 am

    I don’t like Peter Dinklage acting. He is dull and his character is one dimensional.

    Kudo to Tom Blyth and his stellar performance. Sadly, the criticism against Rachel might have impacted the box office of this prequel. This movie could have earned more because it better than other Hunger Games. Some people who keep criticizing it, have not watched the movie.

    The Ballad of Songbird and Snake is better than Mockingkinjay and the pace and plot of this movie, makes it more entertaining to watch.