The Ballad of Songs and Snakes’ Made Me Nostalgic for YA Dystopia

Eight years later The Hunger Games final, director Francis Lawrence He returns to the director’s chair for the fifth and final entry. Lawrence seems to have absorbed all kinds of critical feedback, because The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes presents the series at the most confident and comprehensive level.

Set 64 years before the trilogy, this introduction to Suzanne Collins’ young dystopia unravels Coriolanus Snow’s descent into tyranny, of the merciless choices that will one day become his presidency of Panem. He’s the perfect character to explore the war-torn Capitol, wreaking havoc on all 13 districts.

Struggling from the Capitol, 18-year-old Coriolanus struggles to maintain the facade that his family stands tall, unlike the rest of his privileged, uppity peers. When the 10th Hunger Games is announced, Snow and her class are tasked with the unenviable job of mentoring that year’s tributes. When Coryo is assigned Lucy Gray Baird, a rebellious nomad of District 12, this accelerates the construction of the world we know through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen.

From tone to arrangement, Ballad of Song and snakes nail the responsibility of the relationship of a prequel to its original source material. Kudos to Collins, who has developed an interesting, very complex protagonist, arguably the most despised person in the series – and one with whom viewers should not be inclined to sympathize. do with it. But the cast and crew portray Panem in the world’s most impressive depth, compared to their past theatrical counterparts.

From the set designs to the site scouting, Ballad of Song and snakes which represents world-building at its best. In particular, designer Trish Summerville’s attention to the Capitol’s post-gender future fashion sense makes the most prominent theme of the series: Morality after spectacle. Although still posh, the Capitol operates in post-war recovery mode; the city is still under construction, and so is political society’s sense of social control through glamor and spectacle (one very funny example is Jason Schwartzman’s amateur weatherman, Lucretius Flickerman). As a result, Summerville opts for dark reds and grey-greens, rather than the colorful explosion of colors and excessive composition seen in the trilogy.

Image via Lionsgate

On the other hand, the only character depicted in color is none other than Lucy Gray Baird, the beacon of hope for a society teetering on the brink. The position in your alternate reality is Lucy Gray; one where the struggling Hunger Games fails to capture audiences, and where the Capitol loses. But the audience already knows the future; the government wears the color Gray, retooling its purpose not for rebellion, but for complacency. The details in this film are astonishing.

Split into three acts, at two hours and 37 minutes, Songbirds and snakes mostly earns its runtime. Two-thirds of the film presents a nail-biting thriller, delivering the brutality of The Hunger Games, which is half the reason audiences show up. However, the last act loses steam, feeling more like an epilogue that started far too soon. Lawrence tries to tie up all loose ends within one digestible film. At the same time Act 3 lingers around fan service – both bait and switch – but pace runs through big plot beats at the expense of a steady pace.

But it’s worth sticking with. As former areas are reintroduced into a new era, Ballad of Song and snakes He’s an example of a franchise director intent on upping his game one last time. You can feel Lawrence’s mastery of the world, perhaps even criticizing the past of unequal representation. From the nightlife in the countryside, to the harshness of coal mining, to stunning lake houses, the director’s world building skills go all the way, right down to the thoughtful dialects of the local people.

However, one loud feature mars the detailed portrait: Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray. To be clear, I do not condone any nasty online rhetoric directed at Zegler. Indeed, as a new actor on the scene, West Side Story it is proof of her undeniable talent. This particular casting decision, however, seems to rest on the laurels of Zegler’s singing credentials. She plays a damn fine tune, but the actress isn’t in danger of overcompensating for skills the actress isn’t ready to tap into.

Coriolanus Snow hands Lucy Gray Baird white rose.
Image via Lionsgate

As a young actor, Zegler has yet to master the raw intensity required for the role. There are two sides to the character of Lucy Gray Baird; the aura of a princess came to a tragic fate, which Zegler nailed, as if using this role to prepare for White snow. And then there’s the shrewd, incisive attitude that she should cut her enemies like a knife, and Zegler doesn’t have it. The facial expressions, the pronunciation of the Southern accent, and it’s too distracting when you always see the actor, but not the character. It was Lucy Gray’s idea the ghost across the entire series, there is so much pressure here, and even if Zegler feels miscast, she is still on the road to improvement.

To be fair, Zegler isn’t the only element that draws attention. Member West Side Story Alum Josh Andrés Rivera gives an inconsistent performance as Sejanus Plinth, a character plagued by the guilt of his own privilege. Temporal scenes often veer toward the unintentionally unreliable, and sometimes remind viewers of young adult genre stereotypes. Of course, Hunger Games There is YA, but when most movies replace the CW angst, it’s hard to forget.

One talent to watch is Coriolanus himself, Juilliard graduate Tom Blythe, who carries the film with intensity. Blythe shows the sincerity, naivety, and threat of a hero turned villain, but truly disturbed during his descent into fate; he played very well with any of the latest American mass-discipline shooters that infected the country.

Rachel Zegler, who portrays Lucy Gray Baird, is standing in the middle of the 10th arena of The Hunger Games, her back turned towards us.  In the background, many of the tributes are visible.
Image via Lionsgate

This is an actor I was wondering where I’d seen before, only to learn about his emerging talent – and it’s a testament to an actor’s presence, to feel it in his first big role because he’s part of an establishment Hollywood already. Whether Blythe follows more franchise entertainment in the new, or if he leverages his talents with more choice, the way of Jacob Elordi, Timothée Chalamet, or Austin Butler, (or if he chooses both!), like Zegler, it is Blythe is the next actor on the rise, who you’re bound to hear more from soon.

Despite uneven pacing and inconsistent acting, The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes it’s an influential prequel, and the most impressive performance of Panem – one representative of a director firing on all cylinders. If you’re nostalgic for the dystopian YA craze of the late aughts and early 2010s like I am, then The Hanging Tree is worth revisiting one last time.


Despite uneven pacing and inconsistent acting, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is a triumphant prequel and the most impressive depiction of representative Panem for a director firing on all cylinders.

The Hunger Games: A Ballad of Songs & Snakes

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