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‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’ Review

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is one of the best films I’ve watched in the 20 years of my existence. I know that’s a big claim, but it genuinely left me speechless… and I love talking. 

Set 64 years before Katniss Everdeen first volunteered as tribute, the prequel to the original Hunger Games trilogy is transformative. A villain-origin story at its heart, the movie focuses on Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), his youth, and his moral collapse. It’s a fantastic watch, but above all else, it is a masterclass in film-making. 

Firstly, the cinematography is stunning. Every shot is so precise that the story in itself is elevated to a level beyond. The film is graphic and violent, and yet, because of that, there is a sense of beauty amidst all the chaos. 

Divided into three parts, the film ebbs and flows through different aesthetics, set locations and more. It would have been easy for the film to lose touch and feel disconnected as a result. However, the movie manages to remain cohesive.

Creating a world for viewers to immerse themselves in would be impossible without the attention to detail paid to aspects like wardrobe choices. All the colours in Lucy Gray Baird’s (Rachel Zegler) dress, the gentle flourish in Tigris’ (Hunter Schafer) designs, and even the structure of the school uniforms may seem small, but they brought these characters to life. 

Aside from that, the acting in this movie itself is unparalleled. Tom Blyth’s first foray into the mainstream world of cinema is perfection. If The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is anything, it’s a prophecy of Blyth’s inevitable success. 

In his promotional interviews, it’s easy to become entranced by his boyish charm. And yet, when the camera pans to him in the film, Blyth sheds it all off and becomes the young Coriolanus Snow. Like water, he craftily moulds himself into the varying versions of his character, unselfish at first and then, in a moment, entirely resentful. 

Rachel Zegler, in a similar fashion, embodies grit and resilience as she takes on the role of Lucy Gray Baird, the songstress tribute from District 12. Singing live during each take of the film, it’s difficult to shift your eyes off Zegler. Her voice is an anchor, grounding key moments in the plot and tying them all together. 

Zegler’s Baird is brilliant as the antithesis of Blyth’s Snow, softening him with her goodness and eventually stoking his insanity with her strength and willpower. 

Viola Davis is as effervescent as usual, and once again, she does not disappoint. Generally taking on roles that are ethically ambiguous or inherently good, having Davis play an unhinged scientist is a treat. With her acting guns blazing, she seamlessly transforms into the villainous Dr. Volumnia Gaul, reminding us all that she is, in fact, the greatest of all time.

If I did have to critique the film, it would be in comparison to the book it’s based on. Having never read it meant that I enjoyed the movie as an independent piece of art without expectations or hope. I suggest doing the same because if you’re looking for a visual representation of the text, I will give you a heads-up — it’s not even close

The book gives depth to a lot more characters and presents a compelling story to bind them all together. The film, on the other hand, simply does not have the same privilege, instead focusing solely on Snow’s descent into blood-curdling immorality. 

Regardless of what anyone else says, I believe that 2023 saved the best for last! Having been such a massive year for film already, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes only adds to this year’s greatest cinematic accolades. If you haven’t already seen the masterpiece, I recommend purchasing a ticket and doing so as soon as possible. 

No one loves consuming content in the comfort of their rooms more than I do, but I would still suggest heading to your local theatre. Trust me, to prevent yourself from fully experiencing it in all its colossal glory would be a huge mistake.

What are you still doing here? Go watch the film!

Lynette George

Toronto MU '24

Lynette George is a third-year journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University. She enjoys writing about art, culture and social justice, with a specific focus on telling South Asian stories. If she's not typing away on her laptop, she's usually consuming some form of content at an alarming rate. She loves documentaries, eating spicy food, and she's always on the lookout for recommendations on new fiction books. Find her on Instagram @_lynette_george_