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The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” movie adaptation lands on top

The fourth installment in the infamous Hunger Games franchise tells the origin story of one of the most hated characters in the Hunger Games Trilogy, dazzling audiences and answering unanswered questions of the original series.
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is a fun, impressive film, building on the lore of the original Hunger Games trilogy and showcasing stunning visual effects.

In the original Hunger Games novels, Coriolanus Snow is referred to as President Snow, the tyrannical leader of Panem who tormented Katniss throughout the Hunger Games and the eventual Rebellion against the Capitol, always making his presence known, even when he wasn’t always present, with an ominous white rose. We learn about the origins of the signature rose and so much more about Snow’s rise to power in the newest Hunger Games prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” and its movie adaptation, which was released in theaters on Nov. 17.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is set 64 years before the original trilogy. The book starts with a familiar idea, the Reaping Ceremony, but this time it is from a Capitol perspective, as students from the Capitol Academy are to be paired with tributes as their mentors in the 10th Annual Hunger Games. Their performance as mentors will determine who will win scholarship money, known as the Plinth Prize, to attend the Capitol University. It is in this scene where we meet eighteen year old Snow, attempting to guard his family’s great honor. However, he is not as rich as he makes himself out to be, meaning he needs that money if he ever wants to go to university.

To his dismay, Snow is paired with sixteen year old Lucy Gray Baird, the “runt girl” from District twelve. Although Baird may not be the strongest fighter, she makes her presence known by dropping a snake down another girl’s dress, and entrancing the audience with her beautiful voice. 

Baird soon entrances Snow as well, as the two of them form a budding, yet dramatically star-crossed romance. Snow not only wants her to win the Hunger Games because he needs the money, but also because he is madly in love with her. 

The romance becomes twisted, however, as Snow’s rise to power leads to the downfall of every personal relationship he has, ending the novel with a new, even more twisted world view.

The book is extremely off-putting, with the same amount of bloodshed as the original series. It gave me a sinking feeling while I was reading. Although I loved the early relationship that Coriolanus and Lucy shared, I could tell that it was tainted with something vile. 

Although he was likable throughout most of the novel, the book displayed the various evil qualities that led Snow to take the path that he did, and the circumstances that heightened those qualities throughout the story. 

The novel, while told in third person, displayed Snow’s detailed inner monologue. While he was charismatic and calm on the outside, he was a mess of angst on the inside. He proved to be selfish, manipulative, prejudiced and jealous with just his thoughts, and eventually his actions, worsening by the end of the story. 

And while the book was entertaining and captivating throughout, the ending proved to be unsatisfying. While it made sense through the context of the main character’s personality and the events he had to go through to get him to the state we saw in the original trilogy, the ending felt rushed, especially considering the detail the rest of the book dives into.

The novel is quite lengthy for a Hunger Games book, stretching a vast 500+ pages, while the others in the original series averaged around 300. This was definitely evident in the story, which is chock full of detail and numerous heart wrenching plot twists. I felt like the story, spare the ending, could have been a little quicker paced, but most of the development was necessary to worldbuilding or character development. 

This is the reason why the movie was almost three hours long. This movie is one of the most accurate adaptations I’ve seen, at least since the Harry Potter series. I have seen too many book adaptations, such as the Percy Jackson series, that throw the original novels and their plots and descriptions in the garbage, and this was not the case. 

You can tell that every single person working on the development of this film actually read the book, from the numerous word-for-word quotes to the casting and performances of the characters, the original book truly came to life in the film adaptation. 

The standout part of the movie for me was the music and visual development. The costume and set designers had big shoes to fill from the grandeur of the original movies, but nonetheless, these designers stepped up to the plate. The costumes and makeup were gorgeous, creating and encapsulating the specific aesthetics of all the districts and the Capitol of Panem, with a strong emphasis on the use of color.

The music was enchanting. In the book, the songs are passages in the story, passages that I mostly skimmed through since I had no melody to imagine them with. To hear them in the movie, however, was a really beautiful experience. Rachel Zegler showcased an amazing voice, which lined up perfectly with my vision of Lucy Gray. Zegler has a mournful alto register and a vibrato straight out of an old folk song. 

One of the biggest fan-specific easter eggs was the origin behind the song “The Hanging Tree,” which we learn was written by Lucy Gray. This song later becomes the battle cry of Katniss’s rebellion in Book Three of the original trilogy. Not only do we get to see Lucy Gray write the song, we also see all of the events that inspire the song. 

We also meet characters that are mentioned in the original series, like Tigris,  who is shown in the trilogy as an ex-stylist for the Hunger Games who we learn is actually Snow’s older cousin. The pair share a close bond, contrary to Tigris’s relationship with him in the trilogy, where she despises him and aids the rebels invading the Capitol. 

The consensus I came to after watching the film was, that in order to truly appreciate it, you have to have read the book. I went to the movie with a friend who had seen all of the Hunger Games Movies but was going into the prequel blind, contrary to myself, who had read the book. This led to conflicting experiences at the theater. While I was enjoying the movie, since I already knew everything that was going to happen and I had the detailed exposition from the book running in my head, my friend was confused. What was missing from the movie was the inner monologue of Snow’s thoughts, the thoughts that show his true emotional downfall.

If you are interested in watching the new movie, I’d definitely recommend brushing up on your Hunger Games knowledge, and giving the prequel a read. As daunting as the size may seem, it truly is worth it, as it not only will give context to the movie, but holds a great story as well. 

Book: 8.5/10

Movie Adaptation: 8.5/10

Movie Accuracy: 9.5/10


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About the Contributor
Adrianna Bean
Adrianna Bean, Staff
Swiftie and first year Journalism writer Adrianna Bean can be found screaming the lyrics to whatever album she’s obsessed with right now (it’s always different). From animation and art, performing in plays and musicals, writing about topics she cares about, to re-reading her favorite books, Adrianna loves a good story, fiction and nonfiction. Story of Us? Love Story? Long Story Short? “The story starts when it was hot and it was summer and…?” She loves them all!
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