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The Seahawk

REVIEW: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” deserves the highest praise

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” (Courtesy of Lionsgate)

The release of the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes brings viewers back to Suzanne Collin’s dystopian world of Panem, 60 years prior to the original trilogy. The Hunger Games trilogy captured the minds of viewers with the unimaginable concept of children fighting to the death. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes gives the audience a glimpse of how the Hunger Games developed into the spectacle it is in the original trilogy. Collin’s commentary on human nature is conveyed through the tumultuous events and decisions Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) experiences and the people he holds dear to his heart 

Debra Zane and Dylan Jury serve as the casting directors for this movie, and they exceeded expectations.

Dr. Gual (Viola Davis) is thrilling to watch on screen. Her performance is both entertaining and terrifying to witness as she plays a strong hand in molding Snow’s views on human nature.  

Lucky Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman) is also a delight every time he appears. He provides comedic relief with his commentary during more unsettling moments. He leaves a lasting impression on the audience that sometimes the only thing left to do is laugh.  

On a similar note, Rachel Zegler brings a certain sweetness to her role as Lucy Gray Baird, the female tribute from District 12. Baird is an innately selfless person who truly cares for the people around her. She is a member of the Covey, a traveling music group who currently reside in District 12. Baird is a performer who enchants others with her voice and powerful lyrics. She is a force of nature and her songs leave the audience mystified.  

Blyth gives an award-deserving performance as Snow. His facial expressions and body language express his thoughts as he makes irreversible decisions that have lasting impacts on those around him. Blyth does an excellent job of making Snow someone the audience can sympathize with. His relationship with Baird, although complex, shows he is not immune to caring for another person.  

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” (Murray Close)

The events of the movie are shown through Snow’s perspective and it is fascinating to see how he views the Hunger Games and the Districts. He views the Capitol as civilized, and believes without it there would be chaos. To Snow, the Districts are not human. He considers citizens of the Districts animals and does not believe they are capable of making their own decisions.  

When Snow meets Baird, he interacts with her as though she is his pet. He is assigned as her mentor, and if she wins the games, he will be able to afford University. Snow sees Baird only for how she can advance his status and power, and is possessive of her as a result. As their relationship progresses, he grows fond of her, but he never views Baird as an equal.  

Coriolanus Snow’s relationship with Tigris Snow (Hunter Schafer) is integral to his character development. The two are cousins who both lost their parents at a young age during the war between the Capitol and the Rebels. Tigris Snow sees the good in her cousin and hopes he will use it to help Panem. She is empathetic and shows Snow unconditional love. Although they are both children of war, Tigris Snow’s experience made her kind and selfless. Coriolanus Snow uses his experience to justify his views of the Hunger Games and his decisions. In their last interaction, the audience can see the beginning of their change into the relationship seen in the original trilogy.  

The way Coriolanus Snow interacts with Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera) reveals how calculated and manipulative he is. Plinth believes Snow is his best friend and he believes Snow cares for him. Plinth is pure of heart and does not want to cause anyone harm. He has a strong hate for the Hunger Games because he is originally from District 2. Snow never sees Plinth as equal to him and only uses Plinth to grow his power. Snow is unable to comprehend why Plinth wants to help others without reaping any personal benefit. The events that play out between the pair and their contrasting personalities ultimately lead to Plinth’s downfall.  

The movie does the book justice as much of the dialogue mirrors what happens in the book. The depiction of Marcus (Jerome Lance), the male District 2 tribute, and his outcome is as heartbreaking as it is in the book. This scene is difficult to watch, and the movie does an amazing job at showing the horror of these events without gore. Reaper Ash’s (Dimitri Abold) actions in the arena as the male District 11 tribute are even more powerful in the movie than the book. His fury is imprinted in viewers minds, making him a memorable character. 

The scene where Snow and Baird are at the cabin by the lake is perfect and as devastating as the book. This scene shows the true character of Snow and how he only cares about what is best for him. Snow’s emotions and thoughts drive the events that occur as he spirals into panic.  

Overall, the movie is accurate to the book, but there are some key details and characters not included that impact the movie’s message. Clemensia Dovecote (Ashley Liao) is included in the movie, but her character has a more important role in the book. She undergoes a transformation in the book that plays an integral role in a decision Snow makes in his mentorship of Baird. Dovecote and Snow are childhood friends and their long-term friendship is not conveyed in the movie. 

The other mentors alongside Snow play a significant role in humanizing the tributes. Lysistrata Vickers (Zoe Renee) is the other mentor for District 12, and she bonds with Snow because their tributes are allies. Snow and Vickers work together to help their tributes, but the movie does not show the importance of their friendship.  

Baird and Snow’s relationship develops differently compared to the book. The pair has many opportunities to meet and develop a connection before Baird enters the arena in the book. Many of these moments are cut from the movie, making their relationship and chemistry feel rushed. In the book, their relationship progresses at a natural pace and this does not translate on screen.  

A character that is erased in the movie is Pluribus Bell. He holds an important role in the book by serving as a confidant for Snow. Bell supports the Snow family during difficult times, and his erasure disregards important details that impact their lives.   

Ma Plinth is another character who is not present in the movie. She is Sejanus Plinth’s mother and plays an integral role in Snow’s relationship with him. Ma Plinth adores her son, and her character makes Sejanus Plinth’s outcome heartbreaking in the book. The weight of the scene is not as impactful in the movie because of the exclusion of Ma Plinth.  

The audience is also not introduced to the Covey in District 12. Baird considers the Covey family, but they are not important roles in the movie. The Covey is Baird’s life, and because they are not introduced to the audience, her decision in the end of the movie is not as impactful as in the book.  

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes demonstrates how a person is only as good as the decisions they make. Snow had every opportunity to help others and be a good person, but he chose not to. He is surrounded by good people with good morals, yet he only sees how they can advance his status and power in the Capitol. The movie does an effective job of showing how Snow has always been evil and apathetic. Ultimately, Snow grows in the person he was always destined to become. 

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