The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

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March 17, 2022

‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ Review: A Compelling and Thought-Provoking Prequel

Parmin Zamani
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” came out in theaters on Nov. 17 featuring a young and ambitious Coriolanus Snow in the defining moments of his life. Viewers watch throughout the film as Snow progresses from a relatively innocent student to a cunning, driven person that goes on to become the despotic leader from the original films.

Katniss Everdeen. Peeta Mellark. Haymitch Abernathy. Finnick Odair. 

These are some of the many characters “Hunger Games” fans know and love from the books and movies released around a decade ago. However, the newest addition to the franchise makes the bold and interesting move to instead focus on the upbringing of tyrannical President Snow, the main antagonist of the original films, as told by Suzanne Collins’s novel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

Set 64 years before the events of the original trilogy, “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” follows 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) as he mentors 16-year-old Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) in the 10th annual Hunger Games. Due to his family’s financial instability after Panem’s civil war, Snow vies to win the luxurious Plinth Prize to put himself through university.

Aside from his remarkable resemblance to the older President Snow played by Donald Sutherland, Blyth provides audiences with impeccable acting throughout the film, managing to convey the range of emotions a young Coriolanus Snow experiences during the turning points of his life. Blyth even gets viewers to sympathize with his character despite their knowledge of the awful person he becomes. 

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Blyth’s co-star Zegler also stuns with her powerful singing voice as Baird, keeping viewers glued to the screen as she performs folksy songs with an Appalachian accent. The gripping dynamic between Snow and Baird constantly makes viewers wonder whether the loving relationship they develop is real, if they are just using each other, or both.

Baird’s indirect references to protagonist Katniss Everdeen from the original films make interesting moments for Hunger Games fans, as they see how Snow’s past and relationship with Baird haunt him and lead him to hate Everdeen. It was also fascinating to explore the differences in the Capitol and the Hunger Games 64 years ago, since this prequel showcases more of a retro-futuristic setting.  

Other supporting characters like Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera) and Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis) further added to the richness of the plot and dialogue of the story. Snow’s relationships with each help illustrate the changes in his character, as he first embraces Plinth’s positive and moral influence, then Gaul’s corrupting one. 

Ultimately, the creators of the film sought not only to provide entertainment but also to discuss substantial philosophical topics such as the role of government and nature versus nurture. This thrilling story seamlessly weaves in the complexities of Snow’s character and opens up a compelling debate on whether Snow was destined to become the evil dictator he was or if he could have chosen a better path.

This story was originally published on Portola Pilot on November 29, 2023.