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The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the enthralling prequel and 5th installment in The Hunger Games film franchise. This film is based on Suzanne Collins’ book of the same title. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows the story of Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), the future president of Panem. The 10th Hunger Game is fast approaching. In an effort to boost viewership, the Capitol handpicks the 24 most accomplished academy students to mentor tributes and transform them into stars. To motivate the mentors to engage fully, the Academy offers a full scholarship to the student who achieves the most outstanding performance.
Snow is given District 12’s Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) as a tribute. This initially upsets Snow, given that District 12 is considered the poorest district with the weakest tributes. Initially convinced that he has been sabotaged by Dean Highbottom (Peter Dinklage), Snow is surprised to discover that Lucy Gray is already a standout performer. Lucy Gray, belonging to the Covey—a group of musicians in District 12—proves to be a valuable asset for Snow. He capitalizes on her musical talents, particularly her singing, to cultivate a fan base in the Capitol. This strategic move ultimately contributes to Snow’s success in the unfolding events.
As far as Hunger Games movies go, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes easily tops the other movies in quality. Blyth succeeds in creating the perfect Snow through his charming demeanor and silver tongue. Zegler also gives a fantastic performance not only with her acting, but her singing. The story is paced well throughout, though it is missing some key scenes from the novel. Jo Willems cinematography was exemplary. His use of unique angles helped build the eerie and haunting story.
Alongside the other Hunger Games films, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes continues to feature themes that are a reflection of our own society. Specifically, this film reflects on the morality of humans. Between Lucy Gray and Dr. Gaul (Viola Davis), we see the arguments of “humans are inherently good” and “humans are inherently evil.” Each of these characters fight to shape Snow’s own opinions, prompting the audience to reflect on their own morals.
Diversity also plays a critical role throughout the Hunger Games franchise. In this film specifically, we see an incredibly diverse cast with actors from a variety of backgrounds. For instance, Wovey (Sofia Sanchez) is a young girl with Down Syndrome. She was chosen to represent District 8 in the Hunger Games. I think she was the perfect casting choice because it helps enforce how cruel the Capitol truly is. The Capitol is willing to throw anyone into the arena, even a child with a disability. Alongside this, we see a much wider range of ethnicities throughout the districts and the Capitol. In the original Hunger Games film, the cast is predominantly white. In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, there’s much more representation despite the lead of the film being a white man.
In the end, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a phenomenal movie. Though it doesn’t quite top Catching Fire, it is definitely one of the standout films in the franchise.