‘Hunger Games’ series prequel reverses narrative

Coriolanus Snow rises to infamous status in "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes"

· Nov 30, 2023 Tweet

Abby Cima/The Badger Herald

Eight years after the cinematic series concluded on our screens, Suzanne Collins has brought back her dazzling world of rising revolutions and fallen empires. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” focuses on a new protagonist, Coriolanus Snow —played by Tom Blyth — in his ascent to presidency, fame and inevitably evil.

An 18-year-old Coriolanus is tasked with mentoring the 10th annual Hunger Games, a mission he finds much more challenging than he originally anticipated. He must transform Lucy Gray Baird — played by Rachel Zegler — a district 12 girl with small odds of winning, into a spectacle for all of Panem while saving her from a near-certain death.

It’s a familiar premise, but our expectations are quickly dashed with each revelation about what was previously the central one-dimensional villain of the original trilogy. In this film, Coriolanus emerges as his own person, fleshed-out and playing the role of the hero.

With marveling sets, costumes and magnifying performances by Blyth and Zegler, the film reshapes perspectives on a beloved franchise and finds meaning in previous moments that resurge what might have been considered a dead franchise.

Finding characterization and sympathy for a character that had little for eight years might have been challenging for Suzanne Collins, had she not tapped into the ultimate human weakness — love. Without Coriolanus’ inner monologue, we can feel lost throughout the film, falling underneath his charms like everybody else. Maybe this was the goal director Francis Lawrence sought to accomplish — for us to fall in love with him, just like Lucy Gray.

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Coriolanus’ fierce protection and possessiveness for her drives most of his ambitions through the majority of the film, while hinting at his underlying true desires — power. His thirst for power leads him to success and, as we ultimately see, his demise. It is his fatal flaw — that he will sacrifice anything to achieve his goals. His sacrifice of beloved characters Sejanus Plinth and Lucy Gray stands as one of the few reality checks this film presents.

Coriolanus is not the agreeable and determined boy he leads everyone to believe. There is a tyrant brewing beneath his false charm. His assumed betrayal of Tigris Snow — played by Hunter Schafer — stands as a testament to his character throughout the franchise. The closeness and loving bond he shares with Tigris feels like a gut-punch when we know her fate, and reminds us that his tyrannical nature started long before he dealt with Katniss Everdeen.

This film presents Coriolanus’ character as an underdog and in love, two positions that are easy to root for. How easy it is to root for him and other characters that follow the same archetype is what makes this story so compelling.

There are very few stories that follow the villain’s perspective, and with a story as impactful as “The Hunger Games,” this movie is able to stand with its predecessors that had such a substantial effect on pop culture many years ago, and transforms those stories into complex metaphors of tyrannical leadership.

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This article was published Nov 30, 2023 at 10:00 pm and last updated Nov 30, 2023 at 10:00 pm

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