The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the latest novel by Suzanne Collins in the Hunger Games world. With the success of the Hunger Games franchise (a whopping $2,968,191,442 worth of success worldwide no less!), it was inevitable that a movie would be made and I suspect a large part of the motive for writing this book was to see if they could cash in a bit more from the awesome quadrilogy of movies starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth.
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In April 2020, it was announced that a movie would be adapted from this story, with Francis Lawrence back to direct. But for those of you that do not like reading, don’t have much interest in the book series or just haven’t got around to picking up the book yet, you may be wondering what the movie will be about. Well fear not, we’ve got your back. Don’t worry, this article is spoiler-free.
What will the upcoming movie be about?
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows a young Coriolanus Snow (future president and main villain in the Hunger Games trilogy) in his last year of school. The Hunger Games itself is in its 10th year and the students of the Capitol academy have been drafted in as mentors to the tributes for the games (like Haymitch did for Peeta and Katniss), hopefully, to increase the popularity of the games which are barely viewed in Panem. The Capitol itself is still reeling from the war and many once noble families, including the Snows, are still suffering majorly from the economic backlash of beating the rebellion.
Snow is devastated when he is assigned to mentor what is thought to be the lowest of the low tribute, the female from District 12. However, this tribute turns out to be a girl called Lucy Gray Baird, who Snow soon realises he can use to his advantage and she could well have an outsider’s chance of a good result. Nevertheless, Snow still must overcome his poverty, the enmity of Academy Dean Highbottom and the mysterious motives of Head Gamemaker, Dr Volumnia Gaul…
Will there be any recurring characters from the Hunger Games series?
Yes, but not very many at all. As mentioned previously, Coriolanus Snow is there but apart from that, there is only one other character that I know of that was in the Hunger Games series, which is Tigris. You may not remember her, but she was the tiger-like, surgically altered lady that sheltered Katniss and squad 451 in Mockingjay (part 2 of the Mockingjay films). She is apparently the cousin of Coriolanus, and they live together. Other than that, there won’t be any other characters from the series. There won’t be any Katniss, Peeta or Gale cameos as it is set 64 years before the beginning of the first book/film.
There are some ancestors of characters in the book though, with surnames, such as Crane and Heavensbee being included. Another interesting point to consider is that Mags, the old lady tribute in the 75th Hunger Games and Finnick’s mentor, won the 11th Hunger Games. So there is the potential to see a District 4 reaping shot, with a young actress given the “Young Mags” acting credit, but this is fairly far fetched conjecture and would only be a little Easter egg for die-hard fans.
Whenever you hear that a movie is being made of source material you know, it is often fun to fantasise over who could be cast for the characters. There have been no names announced, so I’ve got fairly free reign on who I pick.
Starting off with Coriolanus, I think a young, well-postured actor is needed. Immediately Tom Holland comes to mind, but there are many young actors, such as Tye Sheridan from Ready Player One or George MacKay from 1917, who could fulfil the role. Tigris is an interesting one, I feel we need a strong actress who could play a homely, comforting role. Florence Pugh or Chloë Grace Moretz could be a good choice. As for Coriolanus’s Grandma’am, I think Maggie Smith or Julie Andrews would both be awesome.
Lucy Gray, I don’t think it’s too massive a spoiler to say, needs to be able to sing. So a tough, young actress who sings nicely is needed. I think Zendaya or Hailee Steinfeld would be a good choice. Coriolanus’s “friend” Sejanus’s role could be filled by Jaeden Martell or potentially Tom Holland’s Spiderman buddy, Tony Revolori. The hardest character to cast in my head was Dr Gaul, who needs to be slightly deranged, wicked and unafraid to be themselves. For this, I think Olivia Colman or Helena Bonham Carter (I’m thinking some cool Bellatrix vibes here) would do a good job.
Do I need to see the Hunger Games films to watch this film?
I don’t think that watching the Hunger Games series would be strictly necessary. With a different timeline, area of focus and cast of characters, I think that this film should stand perfectly well on its own two feet. There will be recurring themes, place names and activities that pop up for the people that have seen the Hunger Games, but hopefully, the events should be removed enough to not need prior knowledge. All I’d say you need to know is that the Capitol rules the districts, who have just been beaten in a civil war and are punished every year by being forced to give up two children to fight to the death in an arena, this being called the Hunger Games.
Do I need to read or see The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?
The answer to this question is difficult, I think. If you are invested in the world, books and/or films, then I think you “should” give it a go, but it isn’t essential. A few of my friends have all been reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and the consensus is that it is an enjoyable read and well worth it if you love the Hunger Games. But I would say that although it is impactful and formative for the series, I don’t think it strictly needed, it’s just extra detail.
The film could be really great though. With a similar tone and consistency, along with some cool CGI, this film could be a real hit and is bound to make lots of money. There is one element in particular that I feel could be amazing on screen, which is some very colourful snakes. There is plenty of potential to shock an audience with this film as well. I have optimistic hopes for the upcoming film and I’m definitely going to see it, and my opinion is that you should give it a go too.
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