THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES is an entertaining flick

The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes (English) Review {2.5/5} & Review Rating

THE HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES is the story of a bond shared by a mentor with his tribute in times of despair. The film is set 64 years before the events of the first film in the series. 18-year-old Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) lives in the capital city of Panem. He belongs to the Snow family which was once quite powerful but suffered immensely in the War. To win back the prestige of his family, he studies hard and comes out with flying colours. As a result, he’s chosen to mentor a tribute (a participant) in the 10th edition of The Hunger Games. He is assigned the District 12 female tribute, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler). She catches attention with her singing skills. When she reaches the capital city, Coriolanus goes to meet her in the Capital Zoo, where all the players are kept. The footage is shown on television and it earns the sympathy of the residents. Dr Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis), the head gamemaker, is upset with Coriolanus’s behaviour. But Coriolanus explains that the games are not getting good viewership as viewers don’t feel connected to the players. He gives ideas to increase the viewership, which gets accepted. Meanwhile, Coriolanus forms a bond with Lucy and both get quite close. The games finally begin and Coriolanus tries his best to help Lucy win, by hook or by crook. Unknown to all, Coriolanus has a hidden agenda. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

The film is based on the novel ‘The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes’ by Suzanne Collins. The story is gripping and imaginative. Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt’s screenplay is effective but gets too lengthy after a point. The dialogues are normal. The absence of English subtitles makes it a bit difficult in some scenes.

Francis Lawrence’s direction is neat. He keeps the storytelling simple and introduces the characters and the setting effectively. The previous two parts of the series had faced criticism and the director seems to have corrected those minuses. A few scenes stand out like Lucy’s entry, Coriolanus and Lucy bonding in the zoo at night, Lucy being sent water bottles to save herself, etc. The finale of the games is very memorable. In fact, the nail-biting moments are aplenty in the film.

On the flipside, the run time of 157 minutes is way too much. Secondly, moviegoers might feel a bit cheated since The Hunger Games episode ends an hour before the end credits roll. The third act has its share of moments but it’s not something viewers have signed up for. Also, it is not as thrilling as the second act.

THE HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES belongs to Rachel Zegler. The actress has been getting better with each film. She performs the difficult role with élan and perfection. Tom Blyth gets a bit overshadowed by Rachel but delivers a solid performance. Viola Davis is needlessly loud, although her act is watchable. Peter Dinklage (Casca Highbottom) leaves a mark, as expected. Jason Schwartzman (Lucretius Flickerman; television host) is entertaining. Josh Andrés Rivera (Sejanus Plinth) is okay. Hunter Schafer (Tigris Snow) and Fionnula Flanagan (Grandmother) don’t get much scope. Nick Benson (Jessup; male tribute from 12th district) and Mackenzie Lansing (Coral; who is determined to finish Lucy in the games) make their presence felt.

James Newton Howard’s music has a cinematic feel. Jo Willems’ cinematography is spectacular, especially in the games arena and climax. Uli Hanisch’s production design is very appealing. Trish Summerville’s costumes are stylish. The action is not too gory. VFX is top-class. Mark Yoshikawa’s editing is weak. The film should have been shorter by at least 15 minutes.

On the whole, THE HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES is an entertaining flick and will be loved by the fans of the series. But the lack of promotion, competition from TIGER 3 and the crucial World Cup final match on Sunday will eat into its business.

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