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‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’: thrilling but rushed

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[This article contains spoilers for “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”] 

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” a prequel movie to “The Hunger Games,” released in Korean theaters on Nov. 15, featuring Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird and Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow. 

Since the publication of “The Hunger Games” in 2008, the dystopian series has become a global phenomenon, selling over 100 million copies worldwide as of 2023. Due to the popularity of both the book series and the movie adaptations that followed, author Suzanne Collins released the novel “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” on May 19, 2020. This prequel novel featured Coriolanus Snow, the main antagonist of “The Hunger Games,” 64 years before the events of the original series and was approved for a movie adaptation before its initial publication. 

“I did not hate the book, but it just was not at the same level of entertaining as the original trilogy and I felt that it was unnecessarily long,” Haven Cha (10), avid reader, said. “It was supposed to be the backstory to the villain but it did not make me like him more, so if that was the point, then it was not executed well. The original series was so good and I feel like the prequel pales in comparison.” 

Since “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” was over 500 pages long, several scenes and details were cut from the movie adaption to fit the two-hour and 38-minute runtime. For instance, the events before and after the Hunger Games were condensed, lessening the impact or fates of some minor characters. 

“I generally prefer that movie adaptations stay true to the book,” Tim Gardes, librarian, said. “When a movie deviates from the book too much, I wonder what the purpose is, whether they thought the book was not compelling enough to sell the movie tickets or whether it was due to an artistic license, but generally speaking I think that the movie should stay true to the book.” 

This film ultimately received the highest audience rating out of all of the “Hunger Games” movies, with a 91 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. However, its critic rating of 60 percent was the lowest in the series. Critic Emily Zemler, reviewer for Observer Magazine, said, “‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’ is long, which means that it sometimes lags.” 

“The challenge when you have sequels or prequels is to make it as compelling as the original,” Mr. Gardes said. “The cynical part of me thinks that it was probably more along the publishers wanting to continue to make money from a really popular series. Personally, I would not circle back and read ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.’”

To the excitement of many “Hunger Games” fans, several familiar characters made an appearance in the new release, with even an allusion to Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of the original trilogy. Unsurprisingly, disturbing themes such as violence, drug abuse, and death were consistent throughout the film. Even so, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” was rated as a PG-13 movie due to the lack of direct gore. 

Although the main genre of this film was action, dystopia, and drama, romance was also a prevalent subplot. The relationship between Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird led to the greatest dilemma of the film for Coriolanus, the protagonist, as he wrestled between running away with Lucy Gray or leaving her for power and money. Ultimately, Coriolanus chose power over love, setting up his villainous depiction in the original “Hunger Games” trilogy. 

“I think the prequel was unnecessary because the original book series was really good,” Hannah Kim (10), “Hunger Games” fan, said. “I assumed that the prequel might be disappointing in comparison.” 

The movie lacked many important details of the book, including the erasure of the 10th Hunger Games, which was the main focus of the film, and the fates of characters such as Clemensia, a friend of Coriolanus. The film also greatly condensed the first and third parts of a three-part novel. This lessened the development and significance of the relationship between Lucy Gray and Coriolanus, leaving many feeling as though the movie was rushed through. 

Though the movie was action-packed and thrilling to watch, breaking the novel into two parts may have allowed fans of the book to feel more satisfied with the movie adaptation. 

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About the Contributor
Grace Lee, Reporter
Grace is a sophomore reporter for Tiger Times. She is interested in literature, loves watching soccer games with her parents, and listens to pop music during her free time. Feel free to approach her with book recommendations or anything else!

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