The scene we are set is an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow as a student bidding to win a university scholarship, following the downfall of his family due to his father’s death. To win such a scholarship, Snow must mentor a tribute for the upcoming 10th Annual Hunger Games, with the winning mentor being awarded the scholarship.
It is here Snow meets the District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird. Frustrated at first due to District 12’s weak status, he begins to be charmed by her charisma and uses his opportunism to benefit the both of them. As the story progresses, we see a relationship form between Snow and Lucy Gray, showing the audience a new side to the cold villain we have known from the previous films.
The film as whole is rightfully centred around Snow, and Blyth must be credited for his portrayal of the future Panem president. As Snow is not in a position of authority during this period, we are shown a more sensitive side to him with Blyth being able to perform as a cunning charismatic student, yet still include the sinister Snow overtones the audience have become so familiar with.
Although she was arguably overshadowed due to central Snow narrative, Rachel Zegler successfully caught the essence of Lucy Gray Baird. It can be said that similar to Snow, Lucy Gray also possessed the ability to use others for her advantage, but of course in much less sinister ways. Zegler maintained the upbeat and quick-witted personality that was required of her, which would only compliment her powerful musical performance that gripped both the characters and audience alike.
However, the most notable performance must be awarded to the ever-experienced Viola Davis. Her performance as the ‘Head Gamemaker’, Dr Volumnia Gaul, simply gave one chills through each interaction she had with Snow and his classmates. She excelled in her role to anchor Snow into becoming the psychotic authoritarian leader seen in the original trilogy.
A standout feature within this prequel is the increased emphasis on the film soundtrack. Within the books, there is a large musical element embedded into narrative, and it was difficult to pinpoint a tune to the songs that were written into it. Dave Cobb was chosen as the lead musical producer for the film, a role in which he shone with the songs taking a mixture of influences from British Isles and Southern music. Each song seemed to have its own unique spin, and it was quite simply satisfying to see such potent lyrics from the book, now become paired with numerous strong melodies, which in turn strengthened the narrative of the relationship between Snow and Lucy Gray.
All in all, considering the success of the original Hunger Games trilogy, it would have been enticing to go back to the overarching dystopian feel each film possessed. Although there are clear dystopian tones within The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, one can’t help but admire the relatively short yet sweet hints of sentiment, the powerful song writing and the somewhat innocence of Snow give Hunger Games fans a new outlook on the world of Panem, which in turn makes Snow’s villainous arc so much more intriguing.