The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes Dir: Francis Lawrence

The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes is as lengthy as its title would indicate, serving as both a prequel and a sequel to the billion dollar film franchise.

Starring: Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis

The Hunger Games

After breaking box office records  with the series of Hunger Games films beginning back in 2012 it makes perfect sense to keep this franchise running and so author Suzanne Collins penned The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes…a 2020 #1 bestseller…and the good folks at Lionsgate quickly picked up the option.

The team was reunited…not the cast, but the crew including director Francis Lawrence along with cinematographer Jo Willems and composer James Newton Howard.

I must admit to never having seen any of the previous Hunger Games films so I didn’t miss Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland et al.

This film takes place 64 years before the first Hunger Games film and so we get Tom Blyth as the 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, who, as all good Hunger Games fans know, goes on to become the ruthless president of the totalitarian nation of Panem.

Young snow is still fairly fresh here and the point of the film is to show how he transforms into the man he eventually becomes.

The plot (such as it is) involves Snow becoming a “mentor” to the beguiling Lucy Gray Baird, played to perfection by Rachel Zegler. Lucy entrances the public with her singing, but will that help her win the 10th annual Hunger Games? I leave that to you to figure out.

The Hunger GamesThe supporting cast is also excellent…Peter Dinklage and Viola Davis are running the show and chewing the scenery while Jason Schwartzman adds comic relief as TV host Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman.

Since I hadn’t seen any of the other films, it took me a while to catch on to the basic rules of the game, but once I cottoned on, I had a reasonably good time. The action scenes are thrilling even if the motivation behind a lot of that action is somewhat mystifying.

After 90 minutes or so, the game was over and we had a winner.

But wait! There’s more…quite a bit more. The film shifts into second gear and we are now into what feels like a totally new film, one in which young Snow is banished from the Capitol and looking to hook up with Lucy Gray.

Why? Don’t ask me.

I’m not sure that any of this was really necessary but Lucy’s songs were cool (sung by Rachel Zegler) in a sort of Dolly Parton meets Loretta Lynn way.

So, yes, two films for the price of one…you can’t beat that. And if your schedule can’t handle the 156 minute running time, you can always leave early and still feel that you got your money’s worth.

Marty Duda

The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes open in cinemas today.

Click here for tickets and showtimes.