The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes | Films | Entertainment

Here, the director of the final three films based on Suzanne Collins’ trilogy sticks to a winning formula with a story set six decades before Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss was forced to fight for her life in the deadly reality TV show. This is another great mix of teenage romance, glamorous frocks, dark humor, gruesome slayings and social commentary.

The most original feature is its unusual hero. Tom Blyth is chasing the teenage Coriolanus Snow, the murderous thug played by Donald Sutherland in the original films.

Because we know exactly how the boy turns out, it’s like asking us to root for a young Darth Vader. Star Wars fans know how well that one went.

However, thanks to a strong performance and some clever writing, Coryo (thanks to taking his nickname from the first part of his name and not the last) makes for a compelling protagonist.

As the fascist nation of Panem prepares for its 10th annual bloodbath, Coryo is about to graduate from the Capitol’s military academy.

The Snows are a good down-on-their-luck family but Coryo prefers to win a cash prize for the best student.

Then, the principal (Peter Dinklage) changes the rules. The Hunger Games, in which children from poor areas fight to the death in an annual television series, are in trouble. Last year, viewing figures were at an all-time low.

So, this year, the money will go to the greatest PR wizard.

Academy graduates will be judged on how much pizzazz they can bring to the games by making the audience care about the competitors.

To his initial horror, Snow is teamed up with a little gypsy girl Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler from West Side Story).

Although she will obviously be rubbish at fighting, Lucy has another talent.

She can sing, play guitar and write a heartfelt country and western ballad (if she’s cute).

Snow partners with Chief Gamer Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis sporting a Bride Of Frankenstein barnet) and rewrites the rules in favor of her eager heroine.

Not surprisingly, sparks begin to fly between the singer and the ambitious student. But, as Snow begins his inevitable turn to the dark side, we’re never quite sure what will happen next.

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