Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


The Hunger Games: Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes

Movie #5: Best one yet or Epic Fail?

Plot Summary 

After 8 years of Hunger Games movie silence, a prequel to the well-known trilogy titled The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes was released on November 17, 2023. Based on the book written in 2020, the movie tells the tale of Coriolanus Snow’s life before his reign over Panem. As introduced in the first three books and four film adaptations, the Hunger Games force a total of twenty four men and women to fight to the death. The last survivor wins and secures ample food and riches for their impoverished district. Being set 60 years prior to the other films, the games in The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes are set up differently, forcing tributes to compete in a smaller arena with no hiding places. However, when a rebel group bombs it, many pathways and underground hiding spots open up. Not only are the viewers in the Capitol more intrigued, but it also inspires the advanced arenas seen in the trilogy. In an earlier Panem, the movie portrays the cruel evolution of the Hunger Games. 

The arena for the 10th annual Hunger Games
The arena for the 75th annual Hunger Games

There are three parts to the 2 hour and 46 minute film. First, “The Mentor”. The movie opens with young Coriolanus Snow as a student in the Capital. After his father’s death, his formerly wealthy family is struggling to survive. The Snow family prizes image and power above all, barely making ends meet while pretending to be just as wealthy as their peers. It is clear that the family’s future success and survival depend on Coriolanus rising to prominence in adulthood. Competing for the desired Plinth prize, he is assigned to mentor a tribute in the 10th annual Hunger Games. The game makers made this decision when the views of the Hunger Games were low, hoping to increase the level of entertainment and attention the games received. Here enters Lucy Gray, the girl tribute from District 12. Lucy Gray is a performer and a part of the Covey which is a colorful, nomadic, musical group from her district. 

Throughout the movie, Snow forms an intimate connection with Lucy Gray which is best depicted in Part 2, “The Prize”. Coriolanus and Lucy Gray bond over their difficult childhoods while strategizing ways to make her stand out and thus win support from the Capitol. This leads to many plot twists and turns and, although we won’t spoil it, let’s just say Snow goes to extreme lengths to protect Lucy Gray. 

Part 3 is titled “The Peacekeeper”. It is almost impossible to explain this part without spoiling so we will broadly state that the final part wraps up the movie and keeps viewers on the edge of their seat. Snow and Lucy Gray’s fate remains a mystery until the very end. However, as seen by his position as President in the first four movies, the extreme nature of his appetite for power trumps all else. The ending sets the scene for the trilogy, accrediting the success of the Hunger Games to him as well as launching his future presidency in motion. 

In our opinion, you should give this movie a watch at any local theater until early 2024, when it is expected to be available for streaming. 

Takes on the film


As avid Hunger Games fans, we hold a positive take of the movie. From the flawless cast to the perfect balance of action and emotion, the movie kept us hooked for the entire two hours and forty-six minutes. Perhaps our favorite feature is the soundtrack, which has remained on repeat since our trip to the theater. Along with the Olivia Rodrigo feature, Lucy Gray’s vocals are unmatched as she is portrayed by singer-songwriter Rachel Zegler. 

After 8 years since the last Hunger Games movie came out, we joined the majority of the population in anticipation of the film. The reality is that we all missed the Hunger Games, and this movie did not disappoint despite the omission of the original actors. Aside from the music, the plot kept us on the edge of our seats. The suspenseful scene depicting Snow’s quick realization of Dr. Gaul’s plan to kill the tributes in the arena arose as one of our favorite parts. While his perfect execution of placing the cloth with Lucy Gray’s scent in the snake tank seemed a bit unrealistic, this scene portrayed his cleverness eloquently. Filled with foreshadowing, the film kept our minds connected to the trilogy. For example, when Snow killed the tribute in the arena in order to save Sejanus, it revealed his true evil nature and upcoming moral transformation throughout the film. Any viewer could draw this brilliant connection between the early scene and the Snow we know from the trilogy. 

The enthralling twists in the plot not only kept us wondering what would happen next, but also obsessing over the characters. It’s time to talk about many people’s favorite part of the movie: the cast. Specifically, the charming young Snow. Let’s just say the producers made it very hard for the viewers to hate Coriolanus, especially with that buzz cut. Whether you agree or not, it only added to our positive opinion of the film. Additionally, we think this was an intentional choice by the writers in order to show Snow’s intense progression of character as he grew older as well as the connection between good and evil. 

Snow with Lucy Gray in the forest of District 12

Throughout the film, the similarities between Katniss and Lucy Gray are undeniable and has led to a lot of speculation about their connection among fans.  In the first movie, it was clear that Snow hated Katniss for various reasons, and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes adds further explanation. Snow appeared as a deer in the headlights when he first heard Katniss singing “The Hanging Tree” in the games.  It is clear now that this was because he was taken back to his early adulthood, and reminded of Lucy Gray’s betrayal and his heartbreak. Additionally, when Snow and Lucy Gray are by the Covey’s secret lake, she picks a mysterious plant and states that the Covey nicknamed it Katniss. While this doesn’t add much to the film, it allows the viewer to wonder: are Katniss and Lucy Gray more connected than we thought? Firstly, fans speculate that Katniss is related to Lucy Gray Baird. As Katniss is from District 12 and known for her striking singing voice, which she inherited from her father, it seems plausible that she could be descended from a member of the Covey. While musical talent is not always hereditary, it can be passed down. So, when Katniss and Lucy Gray share songs such as “The Hanging Tree”, the presence of the Covey in Katniss’s life is unmistakable. Additionally, the pair’s shared connection to the mockingjay has gained fan’s attention. The Covey and Lucy Gray are strongly associated with the bird and their tunes resemble the mockingjay’s song. In the trilogy, fans recall the iconic entrance of Katniss dressed as the bird, her tendency to wear the memorable pin, and her symbol of rebellion for District 13 titled “The Mockingjay”. Apart from these theories, the most obvious similarity between the two characters is their ability to capture the attention of the Capital and the gamemakers. In the original Hunger Games and The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes, Katniss and Lucy Gray both perform a mocking curtsy for the members of the capitol. Although it was at different times, Lucy Gray’s at the reaping and Katniss’ at her presentation of battle skills,  it is significant in their correlation. We could go on and on about the many connections between Lucy Gray and Katniss; however, their most notable difference was best put by Rachel Zegler herself when she stated, “Lucy Gray was a performer forced to fight while Katniss was a fighter forced to perform.”  


Lucy Gray and Katniss both performing a mocking curtsy to the peacekeepers and Capitol

Besides Snow, the only other character that overlaps in the original movies and the new film is Tigris. Although she only receives a short feature in The Mockingjay: Part 2, it is extremely significant after watching The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. In the final film of the trilogy, Katniss, Gale, Peeta, and the rest of their unit stay with Tigris in the midst of their travels to Snow’s mansion for the rebellion. When Katniss reveals that her plan is to kill Snow, Tigris expresses an approving smirk. Katniss then recognizes her work as a designer in the games, and she responds “I was a designer, until Snow decided I wasn’t pretty enough”. While viewers in 2015 might have been confused as to who this woman was and why she had it out for Snow, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes clears it up in the first minute of the film: she was his cousin. Despite their familial bond, at the end of the new film, Tigris expresses the start of her hatred for Snow when she says, “You look just like your father Coriolanus”. As any Hunger Games fan can see, Coriolanus Snow’s father, Crassus Snow, was a power hungry man who took a drunken idea too far leading to the creation of the Games and the betrayal of Professor Highbottom. So, Tigris’ comment is not a compliment. It is plausible to assume the cousin’s falling out is due to the disparities in their morals and Snow’s deplorable actions. 

Tigris in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and in The Mockingjay: Part 2

Although we have stellar reviews of the movie, not everyone we talked to is on the same page. Many critiques arose from students and teachers alike. Movie whiz Wilson Swenson (12) comments on the lazy nature of the way Lucy Gray won the games and we can’t help but agree. In the first movies, Katniss’s victories were truly action packed and filled with life-threatening scenes. Unlike Katniss, Lucy Gray and Snow’s survival of the games was predictable. Milla Broadwater (12) excitedly anticipated the movie as she ran to the theater to see it on opening day. While she raves about the film, her critique is the overload of singing. She states this, “made it feel like a musical and made her not take the movie seriously”. While we love the music now but, in the theater, we agree that Lucy Gray breaking out in song proved comical for most of the audience. While Wilson and Milla still offer praise to the film, Ms. Hurt was the movie’s most extreme critic we could find. She found that the film had many holes in the plot, was too long, and expressed her desire for a more clear connection between Lucy Gray and Katniss. While we appreciate the mystery of the remainder of Lucy Gray’s life, closure would be the icing on the cake. Overall, Ms Hurt comments that “the movie just wasn’t my favorite.”

The movie just wasn’t my favorite.

— Ms. Hurt

Another popular take on the movie was its length. Harry Ding (12) said he thought the movie was too long along with many other individuals. Harry also said the movie was “so bad.” He did not give much reasoning on it, but maybe he is simply not a Hunger Games enthusiast or possibly just a hater. While many people thought the movie dragged on, we do not see how it could have been any shorter. In fact, it is around the same length as every other Hunger Games movie all averaging somewhere between two and three hours. 

We will admit that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes does not hold a candle to the original 4 movies. While an entertaining film for 2023, the original movies starting in 2012 remain the front runners in our favorite movies of all time. However, this film has encapsulated our minds since we saw it, leading to us writing this article as well as binging the original four movies days later. Some may say we thought about the movie too in depth but we both agree that the film calls for intense analysis. Comment below what you thought about the movie!

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