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The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Film Review

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Film Review
Julian Ortiz

With the era of YA novels turned massive Hollywood films over, the “Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” offers an encore to the genre, even if it’s a temporary performance. On the one hand, the first two-thirds of the film is genuinely enjoyable and at times gripping, but unfortunately, the last third sucks all of the energy out of the film even with the top-notch performances of both Tom Blyth and Rachael Zegler. Directed by Francis Lawrence and written by Michael Ardnt and Michael Lesslie, the “Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is for the most part a welcome return to the world of the Hunger Games. Both fans of the series at large and newcomers will feel right at home with the film; also it’s important to note that if you have never seen or read The Hunger Games you will not be left out. I would recommend, despite a lackluster last third, to go out and see this film whenever you can.

Back of the DVD Summary: Taking place during the 10th annual Hunger Games, Coriolanus Snow, played by Tom Blyth, seeks to bring prosperity to his family and win a grand prize that will elevate his family’s standing in the Capital. To fulfill his ambitions, he must turn Lucy-Gray, an upstart participant from District 12, played by Racheal Zegler, into a spectacle, and potential winner of the Hunger Games. All the while both Coriolanus’ classmates and social elites conspire against him at every turn, and every choice made. Lucy-Gray herself is a rebel who invites attention to herself through her almost hypnotizing voice and song. The unlikely pair must work together in order for Coriolanus to fulfill his ambition and for her to survive the brutal, barbaric Hunger Games.
As mentioned previously, the first two-thirds of the film are engaging and have a sense of thrill and mystery. I was unsure who was friend and foe, whether that be outside or inside the arena. The action and direction kept me enthralled. I will credit the filmmakers too for avoiding the usual trappings of a prequel. Since I know what happens, why should I care about what’s going on now? The solution: write interesting characters with clashing motivations. Yes, I know Coriolanus will survive, but what about Lucy-Gray? Or what about Coriolanus’ best friend, Sejanus Plinth played by Josh Andrés Rivera, what is his fate? As a long-time fan of the franchise, I found the origins of the games to be interesting, as well as seeing where they started vs. where they ended up in the later films and books.
The film primarily takes place in the Capital and among the ruling class, as opposed to the poorer, less fortunate districts. The cast elevated the material, with the leads being the standouts, but Jason Scwartzman’s character, Lecritius, stole every scene he was in. While some big-budget films fail to utilize their effects to a convincing degree, there was never a moment when the special effects took me out of the movie, which was a relief.
Unfortunately, because the character motivations, world, and stakes were set up so well in the first chunk of the film it makes the last third flounder. The film is divided into three parts, and by part three the majority of the plot was solved, with only one dangling thread, but that thread alone was not enough to sustain the extra 50 minutes of the story. I found myself shifting from engaged to wondering when it was going to be over, which is a shame because up until that point, I was rather enjoying it. I am curious to know if the book it’s based on also suffers from the same issue as the script, making it more of a source material issue. Regardless, I would say as a whole, I liked this movie. When you have time, go out and treat yourself to a solid blockbuster film.

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About the Contributor
Julian Ortiz, Staff Writer
Julian Ortiz is a staff writer with a particular focus on writing movie reviews. He is a JAMS major, creative writing minor. Coming out of Keizer Oregon, Julian loves to write, and to create. In his free-time he enjoys watching video essays on Youtube, going to the movies, writing, and talking way too much about storytelling.

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    Jacob BarnesDec 22, 2023 at 4:40 pm

    Riveting. A fantastic character and plot analysis.

    Reply