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Devils' Advocate

The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” fails to live up to expectations

The+Ballad+of+Songbirds+and+Snakes+stars+Rachel+Zegler+as+Lucy+Gray+Baird%2C+a+tribute+from+District+12+who+must+fight+in+the+Hunger+Games.
Kaan Turkyilmaz
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” stars Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird, a tribute from District 12 who must fight in the Hunger Games.

Lionsgate released “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” on Nov. 17. The movie is based on the bestselling novel by Suzanne Collins and serves as a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy, which is set in the dystopian society of Panem. 

The central premise of the trilogy is the Hunger Games: a fight to the death between 24 teenagers, two from each of the 12 districts in Panem. 

President Coriolanus Snow, one of the creators of the brutal Hunger Games, was a morally ambiguous character throughout the trilogy. The most recent movie took a new creative direction by examining Snow’s descent into evil. 

Set 64 years before the original trilogy, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” follows the 10th Hunger Games and the initial clunky machinations of the event. Snow was tasked with mentoring one of the 24 tributes, Lucy Gray Baird from District 12, by giving her advice and supplying her with gifts throughout her time in the arena. 

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The original trilogy was adored by many fans, including Central students, for its creative narrative full of dark twists.

“I was really excited for the new movie because I’ve always been a fan of the Hunger Games [trilogy], it’s one of the best dystopian series [from] the past decade,” said Dana Karim, junior. 

The film takes place in Panem, a dystopian country that forces two tributes from each of their districts to fight in the Hunger Games. (Kaan Turkyilmaz)

However, this new addition to the franchise fails to live up to the spectacle of the original trilogy. 

From a plot perspective, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” dabbles in too many themes at the same time and covers a broad expanse of time rather than focusing on one specific event. 

The movie is divided into three parts: the first part centering on Snow’s mentorship of Baird before the Hunger Games, the second part focusing on the games themselves and the third part examining the aftermath of the games and Snow’s demotion from mentor to peacekeeper in District 12. The third part of the movie could have been cut entirely, as too many side characters and associated arcs were introduced to keep track of.

From a cinematography perspective, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” fails to deliver a cohesive plot with a consistent flow due to the fast-paced nature of the movie. The movie jumps from one scene to another, lacking the solid transitions that could have improved the cohesion. 

This glaring problem is most evidently seen in the first scene in the movie, wherein young Snow and his cousin Tigris are shown wandering through the streets of the capitol, desperately trying to find food due to the lingering impact of the civil war in Panem on supply chains. However, this scene is completely rushed and the plot jumps back to the present day without an intertitle that signifies a change in time frame. 

The transition between part two and part three of the movie further displays these shaky cuts between scenes. To set the stage for the third act, Dean Casca Highbottom, the head dean at the capitol academy and Snow’s direct supervisor, learns of Snow’s unlawful choices as a mentor during the games and punishes him for his actions. In the books, this scene was drawn-out, and the reader could physically sense the anxiety that Snow felt upon receiving his punishment. In contrast, the movie spends less than one minute on this scene in total, making the transition to part three unclear for the audience. 

The one aspect that undoubtedly shines throughout “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is the phenomenal acting. Both Rachel Zegler, who played Baird, and Tom Blyth, who played Snow, display their respective characters with a unique flair while staying true to the books. 

In multiple scenes throughout the movie, Baird belts out various folk songs filled with intricate lyricism. Zegler’s smooth, silky delivery perfectly captures the songbird-like quality of her personality emphasized in the book. 

As well, Blyth was able to perfectly encapsulate Snow’s descent into evil, starting as a young, innocent member of Panem to the eventual president of the country and the ruler over the Hunger Games, as seen in the Hunger Games trilogy.

“[The] plot twist at the end was one of the best parts of the movie,” said Natalie Kalman, senior. 

Despite the tumultuous plot of the movie amplified by shaky cinematography choices, the acting in “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” redeems the movie enough to rate it a solid 6/10.

“I thought it was an enjoyable watch over Thanksgiving break with a solid cast,” said Daniel Peev, junior. 

Many young adult franchise movies fall down the same slippery slope as the Hunger Games trilogy where extension movies, namely prequels, fail to live up to the grandeur of the original movies and struggle to keep audiences interested. Still, the contrast between the prequel movie and the original Hunger Games trilogy is compelling enough to where the movie was a semi-enjoyable watch that addressed underdeveloped side arcs and question marks in the original trilogy. 

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is playing in select theaters. You can purchase tickets through Fandango or AMC Theatres

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About the Contributor
Kaan Turkyilmaz, Writer
Kaan Turkyilmaz, junior, is excited to continue writing for Devils’ Advocate this year. In addition to contributing to the online newsmagazine, Kaan is a copy editor of the print newsmagazine and designer of the Daily Devil and What’s Trending columns. At school, he enjoys participating in BPA, Forensics and Link Crew. During his free time, Kaan enjoys watching “The Great British Baking Show.” You can contact Kaan at kturkyilmaz5248@stu.hinsdale86.org.

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