The New Hunger Games Movie Shows How Both Snow and the Games Took Shape

Chủ nhật - 19/05/2024 21:51
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes filmmakers on making sure to not forget Snow's eventual villainy and if there could be more films in the series.
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After an eight-year absence, the Hunger Games franchise returns to the big screen with The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. An adaptation of franchise mastermind Suzanne Collins’ 2020 novel, the film is a prequel to the original films, set 64 years before, as a young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) is chosen to be a mentor in the 10th annual Hunger Games, long before he will be president of Panem and face off against Katniss Everdeen. With a shaky future, Snow does all he can to ensure the Tribute he’s mentoring, District 12’s Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), will win – or at least put on a good show before she’s killed. However, Snow begins to feel connected to Lucy Gray, even while his aspirations for a bigger and more important role in Panem put him at a crossroads.

Returning behind the scenes, Nina Jacobson is back as producer, a role she’s had with the Hunger Games films from the start, while Francis Lawrence – who began guiding the series with the second film, Catching Fire – is back in the director’s chair. The duo spoke to Fandom about depicting the origin of a villain, bringing the Hunger Games themselves back to a much earlier and more grounded era, and where the series could go next.


Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate

Snow is the main character in Songbirds & Snakes but he’s the central villain in the other films (where he was played by Donald Sutherland) – someone seen sanctioning and ordering many despicable things throughout the series.

When it came to getting the audience to invest in the character here, and yet, at the same time, not forget what he is capable of, Francis Lawrence remarked, “I think that was the big challenge for us was, knowing that he’s the villain of the original stories, wanting to make sure that we create a character that we can get the audience behind, an audience empathizing with him, rooting for him, rooting for his relationships. But making sure — and this is what really took the work — that while doing that, we’re still seeding in his ambition, his greed, his need for power, all those things, so that when he goes dark, it feels truthful and honest and believable.”

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Murray Close

Nina Jacobson said that as much as they wanted the audience to understand Snow, “You also don’t want to make excuses for him, you don’t want to justify his actions. You’re just seeking understanding, as opposed to trying to get everybody just to fall in love with him.”

She went on to praise Tom Blyth’s performance, noting “Particularly when you’re playing a character people already know they hate, the audience really does have to sign up to see the world through your eyes. And for that, you need an actor who can really get the nuance and complexity and play a guy who is both hero and villain and yet is neither hero nor villain. At the same time, at this stage, he is still figuring out who he is. And these people are pulling him in different directions… In order to believe that tug of war, you have to kind of leave him still emotionally open enough and accessible enough for the audience to see the transformation.”


This is the fifth Hunger Games movie but only the third with a true Hunger Games in them, given the Mockingjay films were telling a different kind of war story. In this film, the Hunger Games are only ten years old and far from the polished, high tech and glossy spectacle we saw in the first two films.

As Lawrence put it, “We’re talking about a much more rudimentary time. This is the first time the games aren’t just in a walled in arena. The landscape has just changed for the first time, but it’s in a real environment. Because the technology is so much more rudimentary, we’ve taken out all the sort of fantastical elements of it for the most part.”

The Hunger Games barbarically force children to kill one another and Lawrence said they were aware that in Songbirds & Snakes, this needed to be underlined perhaps more than ever, explaining, “There is a much more intense sense of the brutality of it all, because you also get a sense of the unfortunate body count and because they’re not hiding in bushes or getting plucked out by hovercraft. It’s a very different sort of tone and feel.”

In the film, the Capitol are beginning to experiment with how to make the Games more of a true show, including adding a host for the first time – Jason Schwartzman’s Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman –  and Lawrence said “The fun on the world building side is that we’re doing a period piece to the other movies. We’re showing not only the origin of Snow, but the origin of the games, how the games are changing, and how they’re including the audience in the participation of the games… These characters in this story are sort of just discovering the kind of entertainment value of things and how the audience can participate and how they have to get better ratings and get more people to watch. And so we’re really back at the beginnings of it here.”

On top of that, he added, they were able to depict “The origin of some of the music, like ‘The Hanging Tree’ and the songs, the origin of relationships, like Tigris and Snow. And so if you’re a fan and you watch this movie, and you go back, suddenly you get new meaning to a lot of the people and dialogue and moments that you can see in the earlier films and stories.”


Viola Davis as Dr Volumnia Gaul in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Murray Close

On a recent rewatch of The Hunger Games films, it was hard not to think about the topicality of much of what occurs, particularly in Mockingjay – Part 2 with its look at the cost of war and debates regarding what is acceptable in a war scenario. Lawrence said the series owed so much to Suzanne Collins for giving it these strong underpinnings, remarking “What Suzanne Collins does is that she starts from theme, and she sort of builds story and the characters around theme.”

With Songbords & Snakes, Lawrence said, “She started to feel the polarization not only of America but of the world and wanted to write a story about the state of nature debate. This belief that some people may believe that innately we are savage and brutal by nature, and [other] people believe ‘No, no, no, we’re innately good and deserving of rights and freedoms and independence.’ And that’s kind of what this is all about.”

Director Francis Lawrence in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Murray Close

Jacobsen felt Collins was able to use the world of the Hunger Games to reflect “living through these times, where democracy is challenged and the fragility of democracy is on display around the world – to then be able to sort of take this deeper look at these characters and say that, if you’re somebody like [Head Gamemaker] Dr. Gaul, who believes that the Hunger Games shows humanity at its core and that is who we are, and that left to our own devices, we will tear each other apart. Versus somebody like Sejanus or somebody like Tigris, or even Lucy Gray, who’s able to see the good in people, and in the case of Sejanus, who believes that our government’s role is to protect our individual rights and to protect our liberties and that, left to their own devices, if protected, people will do good things, not bad things… To have material that allowed us to explore those complexities felt like a real gift and a very timely gift.”


Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird, Luna Steeples as Dill, Cooper Dillon as Mizzen, Producer Nina Jacobson and Lucas Wilson as Panlo in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Murray Close

The book The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes came out a few years after the Hunger Games films had wrapped up, giving the filmmakers new material for an adaptation. It’s a self-contained story though, not setting up a new trilogy, and so far, Suzanne Collins has not written or announced plans to write anything further in this world. So would the team behind the movies always want to wait for her to provide more source material or could they branch off on their own?

Lawrence and Jacobson were both clear on their perspective, with Lawrence saying “We’d always wait for Suzanne. I said it after Mockingjay – that if she wrote another book, I’m in. And she wrote another book, and I was in. So now I have to wait and see what she comes up with. And again, because she starts from theme, I think that’s what gives the movies their weight and the meat and the gravitas and the relevance. If she writes another one, I’m in.”

Said Jacobson, “For me, Suzanne’s the North Star. If there’s a story she wants to tell, I’m on board. I would be honored and thrilled to make as many stories that Suzanne feels are worth telling because she doesn’t crank them out. She tells us stories that mean something to her, that she thinks have something to say, characters who she thinks are resonant. And she has an incredible sense of both history and the way history sort of rhymes with the present. And so if she has more stories to tell, I’m down. If she doesn’t, I’m lucky to have gotten to tell this many so far.”

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes opens November 17.

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