‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ should have been a TV show

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Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents’

The Big Picture

  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes tells an ambitious story in a very short time, successfully exploring the early life of Coriolanus Snow.
  • Despite being the longest film in the franchise, the film does not have enough time to develop its large cast of characters, leaving some interesting people undeveloped.
  • The pace of the film is a bit uneven, with the second act being the strongest and most interesting, while the third act feels less exciting and more like an epilogue. Overall, the story would have benefited if it had been adapted as a television show.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes tells the ambitious story of a complex figure, young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), in the world of The Hunger Games, but perhaps it is a story that would have been better suited to the television format. This is not to say that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes it’s a lousy film that needs major restructuring. Far from it, like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes It’s a very good movie. However, it could have been an even better TV show that went into the prequel story.

The Hunger Games Movie Poster The Ballad of the Songbirds and the Snakes

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes follows young Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) – the last hope for the once proud Snow family – who is reluctantly assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a proposal from poor District 12 for the 10th Games Hunger Snow begins a race against time to survive and find out if he will become a songbird or a snake.

Release date
November 17, 2023

Francis Lawrence

Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Viola Davis, Tom Blyth, Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, Burn Gorman, Fionnula Flanagan


Running time
165 minutes

Sci-Fi, Drama, Thriller

Michael Lesslie, Michael Arndt, Suzanne Collins

Production Company
Color Force, Good Universe, Lionsgate

‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ achieves a lot in a very short time

Tom Blythe as Coriolanus Snow in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Photo via Lionsgate

The prequel deserves credit where credit is due, like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes accomplishing a lot in a very short time. The epic still follows the classic three-act structure, with a running time of two hours and 37 minutes. Therefore, it is the longest film in the history of the franchise. It delves deep into its three-chapter story to decent enough effect, revealing three crucial events from Coriolanus Snow’s early life before he becomes the deadly leader of Panem, watching on against Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence).

The first chapter of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes sees young Coriolanus as a student who is on the verge of winning a life-changing prize money, which can only be obtained by giving an unhappy Hunger Games participant a real shot. Coriolanus has named a young singer from District 12 Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), and although he really wants the prize, he also starts to develop feelings for Lucy Gray. The second chapter presents the main event: the 10th Annual Hunger Games. In the end, Lucy Gray comes out on top, but partly through the treacherous intervention of Coriolanus. Coriolanus’s formidable rival, Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage), who sends the young man away to become a Peacekeeper in District 12. So, in the third chapter, Coriolanus reunites with Lucy Gray, but the next Their happy meeting ended in tragedy.

It’s the biggest theme of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes

Photo via Lionsgate

The story in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes well told. And, among stories about the origin of a villain like Maleficent and Cruellathe film expertly shows how young Coriolanus became the repugnant President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the original series. That said, one of the biggest issues is pacing, especially in the third act. The first act does a good job of establishing what Coriolanus wants and needs and what he is motivated by. The second act, which mainly features the title match, is the strongest part of the film, which contains an interesting and original look at the infamous gladiatorial proceedings. The exciting high presented in the second act is a double-edged sword, however, as it makes the rest of the film feel a bit disjointed.

The third act, which details how Coriolanus and Lucy Gray’s relationship inevitably changes, is a key part of the main character’s journey. It’s not even poorly executed, but it’s just not as exciting or tense as its predecessor. So, this entire series feels less like a third act and more like an epilogue. If the plot and characters had a little more breathing room, perhaps there would be more pressure and urgency attached to this necessary decision.

‘Hunger Games: A Ballad of Birds and Snakes’ Doesn’t Take Enough Time to Develop Strong Characters

Despite being the longest film in the franchise’s history, it’s still close to enough time to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes to develop his large cast of characters. The most important character to focus on is Coriolanus without a doubt, and he consistently feels like the focus. That said, some of these characters are so interesting and different from figures we’ve seen before, but it’s impossible to fully develop them in a feature-length time frame.

By far, the characters that should be given more attention are the Tributes chosen for The Hunger Games. Admittedly, the film does a good job of patiently and visually presenting the personalities of these characters, but their underlying stories are too interesting to ignore. For example, Reaper (Dimitri Abold) is shown as an emotionless killer at first, but his sympathy for the sick Dill (Luna Steeples) and the rest of the fallen Tributes are displayed in the games. There is also Lucy Gray’s partner, Jessup (Nick Benson), about whom we don’t learn much except that he cared enough for Lucy Gray to protect her from rabid bats. Even the main antagonist of the second act, Coral (Mackenzie Lansing), looks like more than a heartless killer, with her showing real fear and anguish in her final moments.

The characters in the life of Coriolanus could have used more attention as well. Members of his family in the Capitol, Tigris (Hunter Schafer) and Grandma’am (Fionnula Flanagan), get some incredible screen time, so we don’t learn a ton about them. The film tells us that Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andres Rivera) and Coriolanus are close friends, but they do not interact with each other nearly enough to justify such a connection. Finally, the revelation that Dean Casca Highbottom is heavily swindled as the creator of The Hunger Games (with Coriolanus’ father being the direct cause of that) is so interesting that it might even deserve its own TV show with a backstory -information from a younger Highbottom.

‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ would have been better on TV

Photo via Lionsgate

That’s exactly why The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes it would have been better for a television release than a feature film. Of course, the most obvious case against the prequel being a TV show is its impressive box office performance so far, finding The Marvels for the number one spot. However, there are so many interesting characters to explore and interesting stories to tell outside of the (admittedly) very interesting backstory of Coriolanus Snow. It’s easy to split the movie into two parts, especially since this franchise already had two essential parts with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. As for the prequel, there was enough potential here that the film didn’t even have a chance to explore.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Snakes in theaters now. The Hunger Games Movies are available to stream on Peacock.

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