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The 2010s were marked by the dystopian saga Hunger Games, both on paper and on screen. Katniss and Peeta have caused a lot of discussion over the last decade and have marked the adolescence of many readers and spectators. Between a trilogy of books published between 2008 and 2010 and four films released between 2012 and 2015, fans of dystopia and science fiction have been spoiled.
Today, Hunger Gameshas become a pop culture monument. At the center of the saga? Famous murderous game shows in which two young people from each of the 12 districts of Panem, a sort of post-apocalyptic America, must compete to the death. All of this is therefore broadcast on television to the delight of the inhabitants of the Capitol, the modern and opulent heart of Panem. The participation of the cheeky Katniss Everdeen opens the door to a revolution…
But then, interests change and over the years, dystopian sagas have no longer monopolized our screens as much. Until Suzanne Collins, the author of the literary saga Hunger Games, publishes a prequel to his work in 2020.
Three years later, an adaptation of Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Serpent and the Songbird therefore appears in our dark rooms. So, since this Wednesday, November 15, fans of the saga will be able to dive back into this extremely popular saga. But is this prequel up to par? Above all, The Ballad of the Serpent and the Songbirddoes he manage to make us appreciate, just a little, the antagonist of the initial saga? Because yes, the abominable Coriolanus Snow is at the center of this new film.
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Return to Panem
Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Serpent and the birdalready opens with a flashback. Before the establishment of the famous games, the war rages between the Capitol and the rebels led by District 13. During these “dark days”, the father of Coriolanus Snow is assassinated. With her grandmother and cousin, Snow now lives modestly but still benefits from the fame of her once powerful family. The frightened boy is now a bright young student who hopes to receive a scholarship that will allow him to keep his family safe.
But unfortunately, Dean Casca Highbottom has taken a dislike to the young man and to obtain this famous scholarship, there is a new test to pass. After a decade, the Hunger Games no longer interest as much as before. For this tenth edition, each prestigious student will be responsible for a tribute. Bad luck for Snow, he finds himself with Lucy Gray Baird, with a strong character and who should not last long in the arena. Coriolanus Snow will therefore take the female tribute of District 12 under his wing and do everything to enable him to survive and, why not, win this edition of the Hunger Games.
After a long decade away from Panem, it is good to return to the very special universe of Hunger Games. The foundations of the Capitol are still feverish following the “dark days”, much more than in the original saga. Thus, The Ballad of the Serpent and the Songbirdmarks the first ever televised edition of the games. To increase the audience, the Capitol can count on an ancestor of the emblematic Caesar Flickerman. Now we understand why this legendary character from the original saga is such a good speaker. Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman, who we meet in this new adventure, is incredible and Jason Schwartzman is simply made for this role.
A mask that cracks
But above all, the film dissects the relationship between Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird, who come from such different universes. Out of interest, but not only, the two protagonists agree to stick together. But the Hunger Games transform anyone, near or far.
If, at the beginning, Snow is rather endearing, his character is more complex than one might believe. Little by little, the protagonist gets lost in the choices he must make and in the actions he must undertake. Even letting us glimpse the Coriolanus Snow that we know well, at the head of Panem more than sixty later in the initial saga. The task that fell to Tom Blyth was far from easy, but we manage to understand the protagonist.
For her part, Rachel Zegler succeeds in embodying Lucy Gray Baird who is a stain on the Capitol. Although she is annoying on several occasions, we end up being touched by this young woman who sings and moves the spectators of Panem.
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Like the original saga, Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Serpent and the Songbird is not a Manichean work. The plot as well as the main characters of the feature film have multiple layers and other nuances. Enough to keep the viewer in suspense. Here and there we find nods to the saga and we can only rejoice.
Verdict: should you go see the songbird from The Hunger Games?
For more than two hours and thirty minutes, Francis Lawrence, who has nothing to do with the actress, arrives at keeping our attention on the fate of Lucy Gray Baird and her makeshift mentor Coriolanus Snow. To do this, he develops a complex and gripping plot, with several excellent twists and turns. If Lucy Gray Baird sings perhaps a little too much for our tastes, The Ballad of the Serpent and the Songbirdsucceeds in making us return to Panem with undisguised pleasure. Visually, the film is splendid and the staging is sometimes very ingenious.
Most of the actors starring in the Hunger Games prequel are not unworthy . Viola Davis, in particular, gives us goosebumps in the role of the ruthless Dr. Volumnia Gaul. Finally, the bet of The Ballad of the Serpent and the Songbird is successful. For a moment, we found the vile Coriolanus Snow sympathetic.
Without being the film of the year, this new opus should delight fans of the cinematic saga. While it's not as good as those released a decade ago, Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Serpent and the Songbird manages to get us through a good time nonetheless. Unfortunately, having not read the novel, we cannot dwell on the quality of the film adaptation. However, we all know how dangerous this is.