Don Reviews "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes"
It is well documented on our show how I feel about rushed movie sequels and their track record, but one of the most recent trends is making prequels or origin stories. From Kingsman to Alien and the Harry Potter franchises, some have worked and some have not. The latest franchise to take their turn at the prequel is The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes returns Francis Lawrence to the director’s chair (he has done almost all of them) and stars Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage, Max Raphel and Jason Schwartzman. Taking place sixty-four years prior to the first film during the time of the tenth Hunger Games after a “revolt” against the capital by the districts, viewership of the games has declined. In order to spark interest again, Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Davis), the head game maker and Dean Casca Highbottom (Dinklage) decide to make students at the capital’s academy mentors to the tributes with Coriolanus Snow (Blyth) mentoring District 12’s Lucy Gray Baird (Zegler). From there, they go on the adventure of a lifetime within the games and more.
This film had a lot going for it even before it is released: the book it is based on was written by Suzanne Collins (the original author of the book series and supervised the script writing), a returning director, huge budget, studio support, and more. With all of that, there are some issues I have, but let’s start with the positive. There are great performances by Zegler and Blyth (I really like his work in Billy the Kid) as well as Dinklage and Davis, but I do not see any acting nominations coming from it. There is also a great supporting cast, but my shout out has to go to Schwartzman as a man who is originally “stuck covering the games” and is able to turn his character is to be the all-in host which pushes the public interest in the games. Visually, this film excels as well with its budget paying off in this manner.
Unfortunately, that is where the praise of my film stops. At almost two and a half hours, this runs WAY too long. The story is fine, but that should have ended it at the end of the second act because the third act gets complicated in trying to put it all together. The final turn at the end of the film got me interested into going back to the other films again, but they tried adding new elements and it felt like a mashed mess. One of my biggest gripes is that it felt like this origin film needed its own origin film because I had a lot questions of how Coriolanus got into his current situation which led to a lot of assumptions. The best example here is dealing with showing the original revolt by showing the before and after but not the during.
The best way that I can put it is that The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has many great ingredients, but when they cooked the meal the main course ended up being a dinner you waited a long time for was bland and going home hungry (pun intended). I cannot recommend watching this in a theater, but I will recommended watching it on a cable service where you can stop the film and take breaks when needed.