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A REVIEW by Lily Wheadon

  2023 has been a year with countless memorable movies, and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was another incredible addition to the Hunger Games franchise and the growing list of this year’s standout films.

  The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel to the original Hunger Games series, taking place 64 years before The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen is selected for her games. This film centers around Lucy Gray Baird, the first Hunger Games victor from District 12 (Katniss’ home), and Coriolanus Snow, the tyrannical leader of Panem (the dystopian setting of the franchise).

  In the original films, Snow proves himself to be an undeniably complex villain that although evil, is incredibly fun to watch. Songbirds and Snakes offers valuable insight into his layered past, which was even more interesting than his present-day character arc. Snow does not start off as purely evil; viewers are able to see how he is torn between duty and integrity when he meets Lucy Gray. As Snow mentors Lucy Gray before and during her games, he breaks countless rules and grows rebellious in the name of love–or obsession.

 The prequel makes Snow’s character feel more complete. The similarities between Lucy Gray and Katniss were endless, from their strong-willed spirits to their affinity for mockingjays, which explains why Snow is almost obsessed with Katniss when they meet 64 years later. Seeing the origins of the Hunger Games as a public spectacle was surprising, especially since the addition of sponsors, tribute interviews, and live broadcasts of the games were all Snow’s creations.

 The film’s casting was superb, with familiar faces such as Viola Davis and Hunter Schafer putting on spectacular supporting performances, and leads Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler capturing the hearts of hundreds of thousands of viewers. Blyth and Zegler delivered great performances, but their on-screen chemistry was excellent, as they illustrated Snow and Lucy Gray’s complicated relationship so beautifully.

 Near the end of the film, when Snow and Lucy Gray are planning on escaping Panem, Lucy Gray mentions how she believes people are inherently good and can choose whether to “cross that line into evil” or not. This line verbalizes an internal conflict that viewers see Snow struggle with throughout the film. It is hard to determine exactly where he crosses the line, as he feels conflicted and remorseful following most of his heinous actions. However, it is clear that this line is crossed at some point, as Snow begins the movie as an ambitious and even somewhat caring young man, but ends up a violent, sociopathic villain. Regardless of when he becomes purely evil, Snow’s villain origin story is surely one to be remembered.