The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes delivers one of the best games yet with one of carnage, courage, and sorrow. The newest entry of the franchise follows the soon-to-be President Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird in the 10th annual Hunger Games thus providing what may be the darkest, most brutal, and raw entry in the franchise. Some may say that eight years after the Hunger Games franchise ended, this movie should not exist however, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes proves that this franchise can still stand tall without the likes of Jenifer Lawrence’s beloved Katniss Everdeen with both Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler shining as the new leads of the franchise.
The recent trend of giving the villain an origin story does not always pan out as intended, but does The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes live up to the task? The answer is an astounding yes! Flipping the perspective to that of the future villain President Snow, portrayed masterfully by Tom Blyth, delivers a career-making performance thus giving new life to the franchise, reaching heights that many thought to be unattainable. Blyth starts as a character to root for: likable, full of depth, and simply trying to make a living in the cruel Capitol of Panem. However, he soon twists into one of the most despicable yet interesting characters in the entire Hunger Games franchise turning into The Snake in the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes proving that the word protagonist has many different meanings.
Rachel Zegler portrays the songbird of this story as Lucy Gray Baird, the tribute to this year’s Hunger Games. Zegler gives a career-best performance as the polar opposite of Katniss Everdeen being a performer, not a fighter. She portrays the horror of the Hunger Games in the sense that she is the innocent, likable, and complex tribute that you want to see make it out of the movie unscathed and out of harm’s way. The Songbird truly comes out of Lucy Gray as she proves from her very first scene that this character is full of surprises. An integral part of Zegler’s character is that she is a singer which can easily become stale. However, Zegler’s incredible voice does not allow for this to happen as she has what can only be described as an incredible voice. Rachel Zegler can truly do it all.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes being set mainly in the Capitol gives viewers an entirely new spin on the franchise, as you see the hypocrisy of the Capitol rather than the perspective of those suffering in the districts, this further builds out The Hunger Games world and thus making the viewer clamour for more from The Hunger Games world. This is brought to the silver screen masterfully by the likes of Jason Schartzman who pays homage to Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman in the original movies giving a similar performance with an interesting new spin. Also, Peter Dinklage and Viola Davis all give memorable performances as complex villains, each with skin-crawling qualities, especially Viola Davis as Dr. Volumnia Gaul delivering an eerie, standout performance that every viewer will remember.
While the Ballad of Songbirds may be 10 minutes too long at a hefty 157-minute run time it’s overall an amazing comeback for The Hunger Games franchise that may just resurrect the dystopian genre. Francis Lawrence, Tom Blyth, and Rachel Zegler deliver a movie that everyone involved should be proud of. With the movies predicted to earn a $100 million opening one does not doubt that a new generation of Hunger Games fans will be born.
2023 | Drama, Thriller, Action | Lionsgate UK | 12A | In cinemas November 17th | Dir: Francis Lawrence | Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schaffer, Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, Viola Davis, Josh Andres Rivera