Note: This story contains spoilers for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”
Lucy Gray slowly inches backward toward the edge of the rubble she sits upon. Unnatural blue, green, and purple snakes designed to kill her continue to move closer.
Coriolanus Snow watches the large TV screen intensely from the game room with his fellow mentors. He is confused. Every other tribute is dead. Gray is the last one. Yet she has not been taken from the arena. Snow looks at Gaul, the head gamemaker, anxiously waiting for her to make the call to relieve her.
Then, Gray begins to sing.
The snakes begin to coil around her body, but Gray does not fight. She looks directly into the camera in front of her and continues the song.
The Capitol audience, moved by the act of defiance, begins to chant.
“Let her out.” “Let her out.” “Let her out.”
Snow turns to Gaul, reminding her that without a victor, no one will ever watch the Hunger Games again. Gaul raises her hand, and the crowd stops chanting. She gives in.
Snow had done it. Lucy Gray is announced as the winner of the 10th Hunger Games.
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” subverted my expectations, because this scene did not conclude the movie.
If you haven’t read my previous article (see “Breaking Ground – 10/2/23”), you should know that my expectations for this movie were not very high.
Prequels are never necessary. If made, it has to connect to its predecessor and add to its storyline.
President Snow didn’t call for a backstory. In the novels and films, Snow is a convincing antagonist and serves his purpose. The audience was disgusted by him, making them root for the protagonist’s (Katniss Everdeen) victory.
Yet, we got it anyway – and it worked.
My biggest concern was that the film would try to make the audience sympathize with the villain, but that never happened to me.
The young Snow had a good character, but signs of his true nature are signaled throughout the entire film, eliminating the storyline that President Snow was a man who got lost and then became corrupt. His fondness for power was always there, just hidden.
One issue I had with this movie was that Snow’s motivation became lost as the film progressed.
In the beginning, we see that Snow deeply cares for his family. He wishes to bring them out of poverty in the Capitol and participates as a mentor in the game to earn the Plinth Prize in order to get that money. However, as his romance with Gray grows, Snow is willing to abandon his family to be with her.
It changes again. Snow states he wants a life in the Capitol. He takes multiple actions, including betraying his long-time friend to demonstrate his loyalty, ultimately earning the respect of Gaul and a higher position that helps his ascent to power.
This part of the plot lacks consistency.
The romance between Snow and Lucy Gray did not overshadow his development. Even when Snow shows his compassion or concern in a scene, how his personality contrasts with her goodness helps highlight how Snow is drifting away.
Her presence becomes the breaking point in Snow’s descent into madness.
Although Snow ultimately becomes a villain, he is not so in this story. He is the protagonist.
Gaul is the antagonist and a good one at that. When she first appeared, I could already tell that she was going to be an instrument of evil. She takes pride in her job as head gamemaker, the person responsible for the terrors placed into the Hunger Games, and does not bat an eye when she sends someone off to their death, whether it be inside or outside the arena. Gaul is a reflection of the future President Snow.
Casca Highbottom, the creator of the Hunger Games, could also be considered a secondary antagonist.
It turns out that his idea of sending district children to fight to their deaths as punishment for rebellion was a mistake, as he was drunk when he thought it up. However, Snow’s father, Crassus, stole and submitted the idea, making it a reality.
Casca, you can tell, is a man who regrets his decisions. He is addicted to Morphine and reluctantly carries out his duties, but he is not hesitant to enforce order and punish Snow for his actions.
Aside from the characters, the film did a great job displaying how the Hunger Games were still new. The highly sophisticated technology used in the 74th Hunger Games had yet to be developed, but the audience will recognize the early references to the original films.
Some Easter eggs are easy to spot, others only long-time fans and readers of the books will recognize. “The Hanging Tree,” for example, was sung by Katniss Everdeen in the originals and was revealed to be written by Lucy Gray about her experience with Snow.
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” prequel is extremely entertaining, and I believe it to be a successful prequel that deserves to be included in a Hunger Games movie marathon.