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Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

A must-watch: ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’

Tom Blythe and Rachel Zegler star in the “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.” The movie is an adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ 2020 book.

I read “The Hunger Games” books in seventh grade, and I was immediately sucked into Katniss Everdeen’s world of dystopian chaos. I stayed up reading the books at night and rushed to finish assignments in exchange for a few minutes of reading in class. However, when the prequel of the series came out in 2020, I was over my short-lived obsession and didn’t feel an urge to read the book at all.

But the movie version: Lionsgates’ “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” made me reconsider that.

The movie follows Coriolanus Snow 64 years before the original “The Hunger Games.” Young, popular and with a secret to hide, Snow is seen in a new light, completely different from how viewers saw him as the tyrannical antagonist in the original series. It’s refreshing to watch this complex character. I found myself rooting for him before remembering the fact that he would literally advocate for the murder of hundreds of children in the future.

Coriolanus Snow holds up a rose. When he first meets Lucy Gray Baird, his love interest, he gives her a rose. (Sophia Zhao)

I will admit, Snow’s intense and complicated character paired with the film’s plot is probably TBOSAS’ strongest aspect. Every single word that came out of the characters’ mouths kept me on the edge of my seat. Moments like “We are going to win this, Lucy Gray. We are going to win this together,” kept my attention focused on the movie the whole way through, which to be honest, is usually hard for me to do. As most book-to-movie adaptations do, I’m sure that TBOSAS missed some details from the book, but the movie’s plot was captivating, cohesive and didn’t feel like it was missing anything at all.

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All of this though, would not have been possible without the movie’s cast. Rachel Zegler, who plays Lucy Gray Baird, was undeniably perfect for the role. She pulls off the Appalachian accent very well, something that I missed in the original “The Hunger Games” series. Her singing is unmatched and most importantly, I feel as if she made the character her own. Her interpretation of Lucy Gray was so memorable that I can’t imagine anyone else playing her.​​ The same goes for Tom Blyth. He plays an amazing Snow, and I admire his dedication, especially after finding out he had to develop an American accent for TBOSAS.

Aside from the acting, the film’s cinematography is creative. I don’t usually pay much attention to the camera angles of a movie, but at the beginning of the Games, viewers see a range of close-ups and moving camera angles. It reminded me of a vlog’s film style. It’s possible that this different cinematography is a result of not only the film’s budget (which was $22 million more than the original “The Hunger Games”) but also the almost decade difference between the final installment of “The Hunger Games” and the release of TBOSAS.

While the Games began during the film, I also noticed something else: the balance of humor and seriousness. TBOSAS features the 10th annual Hunger Games but with a twist. Students at The Capitol’s academy must mentor tributes. The Hunger Games are cutthroat and at some points, hard to watch, but the mood is lightened with Lucky Flickerman (played by Jason Schwartzman).

Lucky Flickerman, an ancestor of Caesar Flickerman from the original series, provides the comedic relief in the film. His timing is impeccable. I mean, calling a tribute “tuberculosis on legs” was hilarious until that very tribute died seconds later. His presence and dialogue brought a few much-needed laughs in an otherwise somber film.

TBOSAS’ romance helped break the seriousness of the movie as well. Snow and Lucy Gray find themselves encompassed in a whirlwind romance built on the very sturdy foundations of mistrust and lies (mostly on Snow’s part), but for some reason, it is breathtaking to watch. There wasn’t much build-up to the romance, which is something I usually like to see when watching films. Instead, there is almost an immediate attraction. Lucy Gray and Snow have chemistry from the second they meet. This fast-paced, intense relationship made me think that there was some foreshadowing of the end of their relationship. The pair became friends and then lovers so quickly that they were bound to end just as fast too.

This prequel provided some answers that “The Hunger Games” fans were left with after finishing the series, but most of all, I think it met expectations. “The Hunger Games” fans waited for this film with bated breath and as a book adaptation, TBOSAS could have very well left viewers underwhelmed. But the movie did not disappoint. It was intense, jaw dropping and worth the wait. I may have been a little apprehensive about reading the prequel at first, but after watching the movie, I’ve added the book to my to-be-read list. I thoroughly enjoyed TBOSAS, and I know for a fact that seventh grade me would have loved it too.

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