Photo: Lionsgate Films
Francis Lawrence, the director of “The Hunger Games” (2012), was able to depict a surreal film franchise in reflection of Suzanne Collins’ original “The Hunger Games” books. This prequel was released on Nov. 17, 2023, igniting excitement about what the movie would entail.
The prequel depicts the past life of Coriolanus Snow, who later becomes the president of Panem in previous films. Snow, played by Tom Blyth, was a student at the Academy located in the Capitol. “The Ballards of Songbirds & Snakes” (2023) begins with a scene of Snow and his cousin Tigris as children, which represents their youth and innocence before the rest of the story unfolds. The movie continues with extravagant scenes depicting intense emotion and action leading to the rise of President Snow. It essentially showcases Snow’s villain origin. Lawrence did an amazing job of depicting the characters and drawing parallels from previous movies. In the original movie, Katniss Everdeen becomes the protagonist when she volunteers as tribute to save her younger sister Prim from taking part in the game. In the newest film, Everdeen parallels Lucy Gray as they both show rebellious traits. They exhibit many comparisons throughout the film through their actions, their curtsy or their ability to make a scene when provoked to appear in the games.
One of the main differences between Gray and Everdeen is that she’s presented as a performer throughout the movie. Gray received support from the districts by displaying her passion for singing. When Gray was rigged to be chosen for the games, she gracefully went on the stage and sang. This displayed her assertion of dominance by stating that she wasn’t going to let this get to her. However, later in the film she confides to her mentor, Snow, that she was scared and didn’t want to die. Gray put up a front to hide the fear she faced entering the games.
Gray reminded me of a previous character in the original film, Peeta Mellark. He was from District 12 with Everdeen, as they had to fight the games together. He was able to survive alongside Everdeen, eliminating the rule that there could only be one survivor from the games. Throughout the “Hunger Games” films, Mellark is presented as a selfless character which becomes a disadvantage for him. He was used by the Capitol against Everdeen to destroy her strong demeanor.
While watching the new film, I enjoyed the way the audience received small pieces of information that tied together a bigger picture with knowledge from the previous movies. The main thing people noticed was the songs sung by Gray. It was interesting to see the correlation, as the songs from the previous movies were inspired by Gray’s original songs. This reflects how much the relationship with Gray affected Snow and why he was harsh towards Everdeen in the original film, as she reminded him of his past with Gray.
Snow and Gray’s relationship extended beyond just a mentor and mentee relationship; they progressed to having real feelings for each other on the big screen. Their romance seemed heartfelt before Snow showed his true colors. The dynamic of their relationship on screen seemed unleveled from the start. It was unclear to me whether or not Snow’s intentions with Gray were purely from love or self-interest. Snow was eager to win the games as a mentor to receive a scholarship – he played the game in hopes of winning over the audience.
The movie portrays levels of Snow that reflect his character while with Gray. He seemingly wants to protect Gray from the Capitol while having his agenda in the back of his mind. After the Capitol discovers Snow’s attempt at rigging the games for Gray, he is sent to District 12, Gray’s home, to serve as a soldier. There, he finds her singing and instantly is back in touch with his feelings.
Though, it doesn’t lead to a happy ending. While at District 12, Snow receives an opportunity to go back to the Capitol, meaning he has to choose between his ranking and his love for Gray. After some fatal decisions, including murder, Snow and Gray are forced to run away. On their voyage, Snow reveals that he has betrayed Gray’s trust as he accidently reveals information indicating he secretly murdered another person.
This catches Gray’s attention but she plays it off, but not enough for Snow not to be suspicious. They continue their journey but Snow’s paranoia grows, eventually leading him to scare Gray off. Gray announced that she would be going out to pick Katniss flowers, but Snow hesitates on this as it’s raining out. When Snow goes out looking for Gray, he finds her nowhere near. He’s then bitten by a snake — that he assumes Gray planted for him — leading him to have hallucinations. The next scene showcases him shooting aimlessly at Gray, which leads viewers to consider whether or not he killed Gray. Without Gray as a loose end, Snow eventually makes it back to the Capitol and is offered a position alongside Dr. Volumnia Gaul, the gamemaker of the Hunger Games. This leads to Snow’s obsession with the games and his need to continue it throughout the years.
I found it very intriguing to learn the backstory behind Snow as it reflects the overall series. I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship dynamic between Snow and Gray, as Lawrence did an amazing job of directing the holes in their relationship. It was made clear from the start that Snow always had a self-interest. It was also interesting to fully understand where Snow’s hatred for Everdeen stems from. She’s from the same District as Gray and represents her in many ways, becoming a reflection of Gray. She forces Snow to face the guilt and feelings he had for his past love. I enjoyed Lawrence’s choice of the beginning and ending scenes; it shows how Snow’s hunger for power affects his relationships around him, especially his relationship with Tigris. Snow and Tigris being children together evolved to Tigris showing disappointment for Snow’s new position near the end of the movie.
The film did an amazing job at drawing the audience to sympathize with Snow but also recognizing his rising flaws that led to his desire for power. I enjoyed this specifically as Lawrence wasn’t trying to make Snow’s character purely “good.” His character and dialogue allow the audience to see through the persona he put up and understand that his yearning for power will lead to his downfall.
After watching the “Ballards of Songbirds & Snakes” (2023), I now feel obligated to have a “Hunger Games” marathon to tie everything together. Hopefully, I’ll pick up on more parallels and symbolic measures for the characters.
Brianna Chau is a third-year Political Science and Philosophy major. BC976136@wcupa.edu.