The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2 (out of 5)
When The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 ended the lucrative franchise, it left cinemas filming the coffers with close to $3 billion (US) to celebrate the world of Panem. Except fans of the series yearned for more, and Suzanne Collins was inspired to write a new book to bring the districts back to life. Since she had created one of the most feared villains of modern cinema, she decided to look back instead of moving forward with the storyline. In this instalment, the author unpacks the history that made Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) the future President of this dystopian world.
Audiences will be reintroduced to the infamous leader when he was a child and during the era that led up to the creation of The Hunger Games. The Snow family once had been a well-respected part of society until their father was identified as a rebel leader and was put to death, which left Coriolanus and his sister, Tigris (Hunter Schafer) as orphans. They lived in poverty with their grandmother, but did their best to show that the Snow name is still one of honour. As a young man, Corio graduates from high school at the top of his class and, along with his classmates, is tasked with mentoring the latest tributes for the 10th edition of the Games. His assignment is to take the tribute Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) from being seen as an impoverished citizen of District 12 and make her into a reputable and revered warrior. A task that would take a surprising degree of cunning motivation and creativity to be achieved. Yet, he would never have expected to develop feelings for the young songbird and discovers he would do anything to see her win the games.
Many viewers may ask if there is still an appetite for more of this franchise since it lost steam and appeal toward the end of its cinematic run in 2015. Surprisingly, Suzanne Collins and franchise director Francis Lawrence have breathed new life into this series with fresh talent and a compelling storyline. They bring freshness and humanity to the dystopian landscape with solid characters and an effective, albeit familiar narrative. By returning to the beginning of Coriolanus Snow’s life, they add layers to his character and this world, building this world into a multidimensional atmosphere that moves past the love triangle involving Katniss Everdeen.
One of the most significant challenges was to overcome the everpresent shadows cast by Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, and the beloved cast of the previous films. This obstacle is overcome by the inclusion of the stellar supporting cast of Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis, and Jason Schwartzman, who give richness to the building of this world-building. Yet, none of this works unless the central characters fail to connect with the fanbase or help to reflect the roles they represent in the series.
This aspect lifts this film from being a stock standard cash grab as the young cast members fulfill their characters with convincing form. Tom Blyth is perfectly cast to fill the shoes of the future leader of Panem as he manages to tap into the human side of Coriolanus Snow while unearthing his progression into the darker side of the man. The only thing that works against this young actor is that he is too good-looking to truly embody the legendary actor. Still, most may be concerned about Rachel Zegler’s inclusion in the cast with all of the drama from the upcoming release of Disney’s Snow White. Thankfully, she shows why she was cast in this role as she acts and sings in combined form, making her character an engaging addition to the franchise.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes was a pleasant surprise to this cinematic season as it proves to be the best chapter of this franchise to be introduced since the 2012 original film. Also, the film offers something for fans and those introduced to the franchise to enjoy in cinemas this holiday season.
REEL DIALOGUE: Trust is the key
At the heart of this new chapter of The Hunger Games, the notion of trust is critical to consider. Between the games and the love unfolding between the lead characters, there is the ever-present issue of questioning the loyalty of those within the storyline. Coriolanus Snow has never been the poster child of trust, but his character does crash through the door to this topic.
In this world that has become increasingly interconnected, it has become less obvious who we can trust. Knowing who is the bearer of truth and justice. The government, schools and even churches have proven to be suspect regarding trust. Thankfully, there is one place where the truth can still be found. Not to sound cliched, but the Bible does provide answers to this question and more.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. - Proverbs 3:5
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