“Songbirds..” movie review

‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ movie provides complex villain story

By Destry Groth

“It’s the things we love the most that destroy us,” Coriolanus “Coryo” Snow said. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie came to theaters across the nation on November 17. It is the movie adaptation of the book by Suzanne Collins with the same title. The movie is a prequel to the popular Hunger Games movies and is 2 hours and 38 minutes long. The world premiere was on November 5 in Berlin, Germany. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes brought in about 197.5 million dollars worldwide. The movie is PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing material.

Francis Lawrence, the director of three earlier Hunger Games films, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2, also directed the prequel movie The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Lawrence has directed music videos for Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Jay Z, Jennifer Lopez, and more. In 2010 he won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Direction for his Bad Romance video direction with Lady Gaga. He also won the 2014 Rembrandt Award for Best International Film for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

The screenplay writers are Michael Arndt, Suzanne Collins and Michael Lesslie. Arndt and Lesslie are both writers and producers with big titles like Star Wars the Force Awakens, Toy Story 3, Macbeth and Assassins Creed in their portfolios. Collins is the author of The Hunger Games series and has helped write scripts for all the movies based on her books.

The movie focuses on the villain character arc of Coriolanus Snow, played by Tom Blyth, future president of Panem and enemy of Katniss Everdeen. The movie takes the audience back to a world when Coriolanus is eghteen and attends the Academy, a secondary school for the rich and powerful in the capital. There is a cash prize for the smartest student at the Academy, which the Snow family desperately needs. When his hopes are up the dean of the school, Casca Highbottom (played by Peter Dinklage), comes in and announces a change. As a final assessment, the top 24 students will mentor the 24 tributes selected for the 10th Hunger Games, and the best mentor gets the prize. Coriolanus gets assigned to the last tribute, the girl from District 12: Lucy Gray Baird. He’s disappointed, but Lucy Gray makes a splash in the capital by displaying her talent, singing. How far can a singer from District 12 make it? “Sing your way out of this one Lucy Gray,” the mayor of District 12 ‘s daughter, Mayfair, said. Watch The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes to find out her fate.

The opening scene establishes the mood while giving viewers a relevant backstory and is a perfect set up for the entire story. Viewers learn about Coriolanus’ rough past and how he doesn’t let it affect him and still is a very prideful boy. Snow learns what love can cost you and that every action and decision will have an effect, some immediate and some delayed. There are many references to Suzanne Collins’ other movies that connect in meaningful ways and keep the audience on their toes. The movies build from scene one all the way to the end, so there isn’t much I can say without spoiling. Although the movie lives up to the twists and turns that the Collins series has brought readers and viewers to expect and ponder. The movie leaves you hungering for answers about the mysterious and unexpected ending.

This movie has a significant and meaningful use of music, with a surprising song from popular artist Olivia Rodrigo. Rodrigo wrote a song just for the movie titled Can’t Catch Me Now. Every time Lucy Gray, played by Rachel Zegler, sings, I got chills. The words have such a significant meaning when they’re being sung. Lucy sings a song at the reaping, and it hits you in the heart because you realize just how little the district people have. Also, the rainbow dress Lucy wears sets up the extravagant clothing/costumes for the future games.

The casting for The Ballad of Songbirds of Snakes is rather good. I agree with Blyth being Coriolanus Snow. He is a character that you love to hate and looks like the kind of boy anyone would trust or listen to. Blyth portrays Snow as gradually getting more manipulative and more conflicted as the story goes on. Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray is one that kind of surprises me. The people of District 12, found in Kentucky and West Virginia, in the original Hunger Games are described as olive skinned with dark hair. Rachel Zegler doesn’t fit this description but then her family wasn’t from District 12. Another thing that confused me was her Southern accent because Katniss in The Hunger Games didn’t have an accent and neither did anyone else from 12. The best casting is Viola Davis as the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Volumnia Gaul. She is exactly what you would picture: a deranged-looking scientist with white, frizzy hair. The heterochromia eyes, with one being almost black and the other being a brilliant blue, add to the off-putting appearance of the doctor.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a good movie, but I think the book is better. The third and final part of the movie feels rushed and like they were running over a time limit. I loved the rest of the movie and making the connections to the other movies and books was fun. I would recommend this movie to someone who has read or watched The Hunger Games or someone who just wants to get into the world of Panem. I give The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes 4.25 stars out of 5.