Warning: this will not be a typical movie review. If you are Liberal, easily offended, or thin skinned, please skip this post.
Last week we watched the entire Hunger Games trilogy in preparation to watch the most recent installation, a prequel to the Hunger Games story. In the trilogy, the bad guy is President Coriolanus Snow, played by Donald Southerland. This stand-alone prequel (The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes) is the origin story of Southerland’s character. We rented it at the local video store. It is also available on Amazon.
From this point forward there will be some spoilers.
The movie opens with the Snow children (Coriolanus and Tigris) living with their grandmother. Some internet sites say that they are cousins and not siblings. The family is poor and barely surviving in the capitol district. Coriolanus is trying to do the typical middle-class drill of getting good grades to get into college. His family was once rich but not anymore. College is viewed as the gateway to success. Since he is poor and ambitious, he of course gets into conflict with the rich children in the district.
His college conflicts occur during the tenth Hunger Games. At this point, due to low viewer ratings, the Hunger Games are on the verge of being cancelled. Snow takes the opportunity to think outside the box and try to boost the ratings of the games. This brings him into even more conflict with his peers and the school’s faculty.
His major opponent on the faculty is Severus Snape, oops I mean Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage). Dinklage is awesome in his role as are several other characters. If you liked Dinklage in the Game of Thrones, then you’ll love him in this movie.
Despite opposition from faculty and his peers, Snow’s plan to amp-up the Hunger Games is implemented.
From good ‘ole District 12, comes the Songbird, Lucy Gray Baird, played by Rachel Zegler. Snow is assigned to prep her for the Hunger Games. He falls in love or lust with her (you can decide which) and does what he can to help her win, including gaming the system and cheating. Clearly the skills you need nowadays to win the presidency are evident in his behavior from an early age.
Snow gets caught with his finger on the scales and is punished. The rest of the story arc is him making his way back to the Capitol.
To lift a phrase from Clint Eastwood, I now present the good, the bad, and the ugly of this film.
Why the film works.
The writer and the moviemakers of this film pull off what George Lucas failed to do with Darth Vader. They make a cogent and convincing case as to why Snow became evil. The movie dedicated to making Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader fails miserably on this point, despite a budget of millions of dollars, the move to the Dark Side was not satisfying or believable. Only Midi-chlorians were a worse plot point in StarWars.
Snow is led step by step into varying degrees of evil and is comfortable with each step as his conscience and morality disintegrate over the course of the film. Parts of it are creepy and uncomfortable to watch as you hope he will act morally but does not.
Rachel Zegler actually sings the songs that she belts out during the movie. They are not dubs of some faceless off-screen person in a recording studio. My biggest complaint is that the first few chords of almost all the songs start like Wayfaring Stranger and then branch out into other chords. For the sake of following the lyrics of each song—which are related to the story—you might want to turn on Closed Captions.
The other reason for Closed Captions leads us to the ugly part of this story. The people that made this movie did something that is not advertised on the DVD box or movie posters. They did something so shameful that it makes Disney look like a Republican run corporation. In fact, were it up to me, I would make the film rated R. I don’t know why smoking now makes a film R rated but this is worse. Tigris, the “cousin” of Snow, is a chick with a dick.
Yep, sorry Troll but it’s true.
We are watching the film, and my wife starts looking up the actors on the Internet. She then informs me that Tigris is a dude. Hunter Schafer used to be male. I will let you read the carefully curated details on Wikipedia if you wish.
Folks you can’t unsee that it’s a guy in drag once you know that. The volume of the audio track for Tigris is very low in every part of the dialogue. (Hence my recommendation for Closed Captions.) Guess, he can’t fake a girl’s voice. Also, there is a scene when I think they Photoshopped out his Adam’s Apple.
My demand for the R rating is based on this; how do you explain to your nine-year-old that the actor is a dude? Just hope they don’t notice? Sorry, it’s all over the Internet. If you don’t tell ‘em someone else will; oh, and as an added bonus they will undermine your values in the process.
The themes in this film are dark and adding this perversion is just another layer to deal with.
I think this film going woke in a different and more subtle direction and will be repeated. Look for more Hollywood flicks to try this tactic to check the pervert inclusion box in their movies.
I think Zegler will win some awards for her performance; especially considering the new woke criteria of the Academy Awards.
Tom Blyth was great as Coriolanus Snow. I’ve never heard of the guy before, but his performance will open doors to more movie opportunities.
The lost soul, Hunter Schafer, will get an award just for being in the film. The contributions of the actor were minimal but I’m sure letting the producers check the pervert box will be rewarded.
If you are an adult that likes YA books made into movies or movies about dystopian worlds then by all means watch the movie; just beware that it is a potential recruiting tool for coopting your children by undermining your faith and values.
Treat this as an adult only film for people that grew up with the original trilogy.