Raise your hand if you had NO IDEA there was a Hunger Games prequel. Yep, even me as a Hunger Games fan, was left in the dark about this one. In fact, the last Hunger Games film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, I reviewed in 2015! Happy to be back to report on this new installment. [Editor’s Note: “The Hunger Games, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” is not playing at Village Theatre, but it’s bridgeworthy.]
First off, if you are reader before watcher, like me, let’s talk. The book was released on May 19, 2020. There was a much larger topic happening at that time, so it is no wonder it was swept under the chaos. If you would like to read the book, you can find it at Bay Books.
The book is phenomenal. I found it to be absolutely brilliant. Working backwards from the Hunger Games we know, to see where the games started and how some of these evolutions were brought to be made the games all the more interesting.
I am, admittedly, a villain lover. To watch Coriolanus Snow, a man we only know as the tyrannical President of Panem, as a young caring man. Mind blown. Series author, Suzanne Collins, successfully created a character that everyone could not stand and walked him back to a place of empathy. A redemption arc I never saw coming. There is so much more I want to say, but let’s dive into the movie!
If you have never read the Hunger Games or seen a Hunger Games movie, fear not! This is the easiest movie to jump into as it is a prequel! While it is so fun to find the Easter Eggs in the film, it is not necessary to have any prior Hunger Games knowledge to enjoy this one. Sit back in those comfy movie theater chairs and throw back your popcorn as director, Francis Lawrence, takes you to the fictional Panem. While you won’t get any Jennifer Lawrence sightings, you do get the pleasure of watching Viola Davis and Peter Dinklage who are both top notch in this film.
The story begins three years before the Hunger Games were instituted, following Coriolanus and his cousin Tigris darting around the war inflicted streets of the capital. It then jumps to present day in a clunky fashion, leaving the audience to figure out that they are now 13 years past the opening scene.
Getting to know Coriolanus’ well off classmates with their noses in the air, compels you to feel for Coriolanus hiding his poverty behind the school issued uniform. When the classmates are given the task of mentoring the tributes for the first year, there is just as much in common with the districts as with the capital. While Coriolanus longs to fit in, the story follows the dark and twisted path Coriolanus takes to embody what it means to be part of Capital society.
An All Star Supporting Cast
What I appreciate about the movie is the supporting cast that really shined in their own right. Tigris was electric. Unsurprisingly, Peter Dinklage as Dean Casca Highbottom and Viola Davis as Dr. Volumnia Gaul were lawless, bringing to life this film’s villains.
Lucy Grey was show stopping from her voice to her expressions. When she opens her mouth to sing, I swear, Christina Aguilera comes out. Also, if you thought the Chris Rock slap was bad, the Lucy Grey slap will leave you jaw-dropped. SO. MANY. MOMENTS.
The character that surprises is weatherman turned Hunger Games host Lucretius Flickerman. In the book, there are pages upon pages between massive events, letting it simmer between them. In the film, the violence was felt head on as we went from a glass in the neck to a snake bite to a bombing all within a twenty minute period.
Insert Flickerman providing some VERY necessary comedic relief, such as calling a restaurant – mid hunger games battle – to tell them he may be a bit late to his reservation and adding a line about the high chair. You mean to tell me that this self-centered weatherman with no compassion for the death of the tributes has a child?! Yes, yes indeed. While the lineage isn’t directly addressed, Caesar Flickerman is the host of the modern Hunger Games. The shared last name is enough of a nod to assume there is some relation.
You do not need to be knowledgeable about the Hunger Games fandom to watch this film. However, the premise of the Hunger Games is that there is one boy and one girl from 12 districts, so 24 children/teenagers, going into an arena to fight to the death, equaling presumably 23 deaths. My mom walked out of the theater, looked at me in disbelief and said, “I thought this was a love story.” It may have some love in it, but if you want a love story go see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3. I found this Hunger Games film to be just as intriguing as the book. The top notch cast brings it really to life. However, there are many, many murders and the whole film has a dark tone and the same skewed lightning as The Batman.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Director: Francis Lawrence
Actors: Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage
Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for strong violent content and disturbing material.