(WNY News Now) – In collaboration with the Lakewood Cinema 8, it’s time for the newest WNY News Now movie review. This week’s review is on the Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. For those unaware, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel set 64 years before the first film that focuses on Coriolanus Snow, the President of Panem and main antagonist of the Hunger Games trilogy, before his rise to power and his relationship with Lucy Gray, a tribute chosen to fight in the 10th annual Hunger Games.
As someone who admittedly never got into the Hunger Games series, I thought that the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was really good. I think the cast did phenomenal. Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler both gave fantastic performances as the two leads and had great chemistry between them. Josh Andres Rivera gave a great performance as Sejanus Plinth, a young man from the districts who lives in the Capitol thanks to his father’s wealth, but is unwavering in his opposition to the Hunger Games and the treatment of those who live in the districts. Peter Dinklage was used somewhat sparingly as Dean Highbottom, the head of the Capitol Academy, but performed great when used, especially in his final scene. And Viola Davis of course did not disappoint as Dr. Gaul, the gamemaker tasked with implementing the games.
I think that the characterization of Coriolanus Snow was the most interesting part of the film, especially as it relates to his relationships with Lucy Gray and Sejanus Plinth. He is presented as an incredibly ambitious and calculating individual, wanting to restore his family to their former glory and taking the steps he believes will best assist in achieving that endeavor. However, he does not seem outright malevolent, and does seem to care for those close to him. He even takes actions to help Lucy Gray that come at his own expense.
It was very interesting to watch his internal struggle which saw his ambition in conflict with his relationships, especially with Lucy Gray. There was this one shot in the movie, where Snow visits Gray where the tributes are being held at the Capitol Zoo, and they converse on either side of the bars. During the scene, it is shot in a way that makes it seem that the bars are in the background, and they seem to be unobstructed from each other. However, when Lucy Gray leans in toward Snow, you see him pull back and her face becomes obstructed by a bar that is actually in the foreground, symbolizing the barriers that separate them, not just of class and status, but also Coriolanus’ ambitions that he is ultimately a slave to and unable to compromise.
I do think that the pacing of the film was somewhat odd, as it feels like the first act kind of rushes to get to the Hunger Games section, which feels like the climax of the movie. However, there is then the third act that focuses on the aftermath of the Games and Snow’s completion of his narrative progression, which, while still engaging, operates at a lowered intensity up until the final few scenes. It wasn’t a structure that I’m used to seeing with films. However, from what I’ve heard, the book the film is adapted from is fairly similar in that regard, so I can’t really fault the filmmakers for that.
I took my sister to see the film, as she’s a big fan of the series and I figured she could give me some insight into how fans might like the movie, and she really enjoyed it. She thought that it was better than the previous films, and that they really nailed a lot of the details without diverging from the book. She said that Snow’s portrayal did him justice, and that the film did a great job of igniting a feeling of antipathy toward him as the movie progresses.
If you like what you hear, make sure to check out The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes while it’s still in theaters. It’s currently playing at the Lakewood Cinema 8 on Fairmount Ave. in Lakewood and at the Warren Mall Cinema on Market St. in Warren Pennsylvania.