Tom Blyth (left) as Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler (right) as Lucy Gray Baird star in “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” (Photo Credit: Murray Close/Lionsgate).
(“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” trailer courtesy of Lionsgate Movies)
This might seem like blasphemy to loyal “The Hunger Games” fans.
But “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” might go down as the best one in the franchise because it takes a history lesson to understand the present and the future.
And “The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” tells a compelling story of how rebellion leads to rebuke and how authentically caring for people can easily turn into abuse of power because all people have good and evil dwelling within their souls.
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” will resonate with many across the globe because of the desire of many current world leaders to become dictators, while also desiring to punish their critics and detractors.
But the moral of this story begins well before thoughts of power begin for the protagonist.
One thing that “The Hunger Games” franchise depicts is how fickle and fragile success can be.
People can one day be living their best life.
Then, the very next day they could find themselves in a rut.
That sad reality happens in the districts with the commoners when the Hunger Games approach.
It even happens to the elites in the Capital when rebellion occurs.
In “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” the Snow family is at the top of the totem pole when it comes to the country’s hierarchy.
However, when Coriolanus Snow’s (Tom Blyth, “Billy and the Kid”) father gets killed by a rebel the entire family’s fortune changes overnight.
Sure, Coriolanus still gets the best education and runs in the right social circles.
But because of the lack of resources that the family has after his father’s death, Coriolanus looks like the commoners in the district that his bourgeois friends look down upon.
When he needs formal attire to attend certain events, Coriolanus must wait until his cousin Tigris (Hunter Schafer) designs him an outfit using discarded materials and hand-me-downs from his deceased father.
The clothes do not necessarily fit properly either because the family’s lack of money has caused Coriolanus to lose a massive amount of weight.
But being the great young man that he is, Coriolanus still skips meals so that his grandmother Grandma’am (Fionnula Flanagan) can eat first.
In “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” Coriolanus knows that if he can win the top prize at his school’s competition, he can afford to get the education required to get his family back to the upscale lifestyle that they enjoyed before his father passed away.
The annual Hungers Games are approaching where each district nominates two residents to compete against people from the other districts in a battle to the death.
Whoever is the last alive in the arena is the winner.
Although many have questioned the morality behind the games, far too many people from the Capital find it amusing to see the poor commoners kill each other to think about canceling the games.
The battles are so popular that they are even televised.
Therefore, picking the right fighters, with the right personalities and back stories, might even increase television ratings, fattening the coffers for the people from the Capital.
For this year’s games, the Capital has assigned elite students like Coriolanus as mentors to those chosen to compete to the death.
While many of his pompous classmates use the opportunity to demean their pupils instead of actually mentoring them, Coriolanus sees a lot of himself in his mentee, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler, “West Side Story”).
They both know what it means to struggle to eat.
And they both have dealt with the loss of a parent.
In “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” Coriolanus is so determined to prove to Lucy Gray Baird that he is not like the other mentors that he sneaks into the zoo, where the competitors are caged, just to support his pupil who has a special gift that might benefit her in the games.
Since everything is televised, competitors in the games have a chance to win over the people of the country.
And if the viewers like a competitor, they can donate money to that person.
That competitor can then use the money to purchase things like water and other necessities that might help them win the games.
In “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” Lucy Gray Baird has an angelic voice that Coriolanus is convinced can help them survive the competition.
Unfortunately, the games have rules.
And if someone breaks the rules to help their mentee win, then they might find themselves on the wrong side of Dr. Volumnia Gaul’s (Viola Davis, “The Woman King”) vengeance.
But Coriolanus always says “snow lands on top” in a play on his surname, which means that regardless of the obstacles, his family will eventually end up on top.
Unfortunately, to get the top it often takes nefarious behavior and that seems unlikely for a person as pure at heart as Coriolanus seems to be.
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” is another opportunity to marvel at the talents of Blyth, who absolutely kills his role as Billy the Kid in the Epix television series.
That performance and this performance will make moviegoers forget that he is British because his accent is totally gone in many of his roles.
Additionally, it is always great to see Davis in unorthodox roles like “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” and “Suicide Squad” because many see her as such a serious thespian who would not take a role outside that serious lane.
However, the star of the show is Zegler whose vocals and dramatic chops stands out in a movie full of stars.
But the message in the movie is what viewers should take with them, not just the great performances.
There is a thin line between democracy and autocracy.
And even those with those purest intentions can find themselves going down the road that favors autocracy, which truly is detrimental to the people as a whole.
Unfortunately, “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” must take two “Ls.”
One “L” for the extremely long title.
And another “L” for the long run time.
However, “The Hunger Games” franchise keeps winning.
And with this origin tale, the prequels look like they’ll be just as good, if not better, than the real thing.