The ballad about the snake and the songbird, one adaptation too many?

We are not in 2012, but in 2023, and yet, here we areHunger Games is entering our cinemas again. The literary saga of Suzanne Collins has not said its last word and offers itself the final adaptation, taken from the prequel released in 2020. Released in theaters on November 15, 2023. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Bird and the Snake the singer takes us 64 years before Katniss Everdeen’s draw to the District 12 harvest. In the Capitol, which is still damaged by the war, the story is told this time from the perspective of a symbolic character: Coriolanus the Snowy. The one who would become the president of Panem, the true tyrant and antagonist of the main story, was not always the evil being we know.

WITH Songbird Snake Ballad, the author invited readers to discover the past of the tortured man, to better understand the challenges of his post-apocalyptic universe. How did a country born from the ashes of North America begin to celebrate the deaths of children to establish a semblance of peace in the territory? These increasingly dark and political premises make this new part one of the most interesting in the saga. However, if the thick manuscript revels in complex human relationships, among other honesty-worthy twists, the film adaptation is largely distorted.

The Hunger Games from another angle

After telling the story of a revolution, the franchise takes its usual twists and turns to tell the foundations of a reign of terror. Katniss Everdeen’s search for justice in the face of this nameless cruelty is the origin of the saga’s success. Despite the masterful conclusion, readers and viewers were left wanting more. This time from the point of view of the Capitol and its inhabitants, at a time when the Hunger Games were just beginning, the previous sequel invites you to discover how these morbid games became an institution in the world of Panem.

From your first plans, A ballad about a snake and a songbird reveals the Capitol which is the complete opposite of the luxurious and extravagant city as we know it. The war did not spare this capital, home to the wealthiest citizens of Panem, who are now willing to indulge in cannibalism in order to survive. The film uses this brief introduction to burn the residents’ trauma into the audience’s minds. However, is such suffering enough to justify the creation of The Hunger Games? The feature-length film then starts on an excellent path of reflection. As the audience begins to think about this question, the first suspicions of the characters appear on the screen: this new tradition is immoral. The film reinforces this idea for an even more brutal return to reality. Not only will the games go on as usual, but this tenth edition inaugurates a mentoring system that intends to use the children of the Capitol to popularize the unhealthy spectacle.

© Metropolitan Films/Lionsgate

From this initial observation, the film establishes a climate suitable for a moving journey back in time. Pitting young people of the same age against each other based on the simple criterion of social status reinforces the unsettling nature of The Hunger Games. Especially since at that time the tributes were not yet treated as kings, but as animals in a cage. The young protagonist of this new story, Coriolanus Snow, receives the young Lucy Gray Baird of District 12, a meeting that promises to be the foundation of the future of Panem and its future president. With its retro art direction and European and Soviet settings, this return to basics is stunning and very different from previous works. But after the grandiose opening, the tensions and political games collapse in favor of a poorly told love story.

Impossible adaptation?

The exercise of film adaptation of a book is never easy. For readers, the comparison with the original work is inevitable, while the filmmakers do everything they can to make sense of what is usually a much longer story. But these films give a new perspective on popular stories, and sometimes manage to satisfy all kinds of viewers. The first Hunger Games adaptations won this bet by brilliantly dominating the teen movie industry. Again offering the services of Francis Lawrence, director Hunger Games – Catching Fire AND Rebellion part 1 and 2, Lionsgate seemed to guarantee the success of the prequel. But we must admit that some phenomena deserve to remain in the past.

The Hunger Games 5 Arena
© Metropolitan Films/Lionsgate

A ballad about a snake and a songbird is an excellent novel that sublimates the saga Hunger Games with the help of a powerful story, carried by complex political and human relations. President Snow’s future hatred of the Districts, as well as the evolution of the games, lies in the important events recounted here. If this new book proves to be just as effective even ten years after its publication Rebellionthis is because it is fundamentally different from its predecessors. Since fans know the future, the developments and evolution of the innocent Coriolanus are even more heartbreaking. However, these elements that make up the novel’s strength also make the adaptation work towards its downfall. Faced with an initial narrative structure that is almost impossible to respect, Francis Lawrence’s film takes the liberty of trying to emulate what made previous productions successful.

The prequel then faces an obvious problem of pacing and narrative coherence. The complex relationship between Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird turns into a strange love at first sight, which somehow hopes to make the duo the new Katniss and Peeta. Then it becomes difficult to understand the bond between these new lovers whom fate wants to separate at any cost. The long weeks of courtship described in the book are here limited to a few days. One would almost wonder why Coriolanus would go to such lengths for a person he does not know. Since the stakes in this story revolve around this relationship, their interest collapses at the same time as the credibility of this love affair. However, that doesn’t stop the film from refocusing its forbidden love on gaming, an art that has largely become depleted.

Battle royales: we’re tired of them

If Hunger Games he reawakened in 2010 the genre that was initially popularized by the novel Royal battle Koshuna Takami, this kind of dystopian scenario has been presented tirelessly ever since, to the point of tiring viewers. Except for Squid game and his darker and more pessimistic writing in which no character emerges as a hero protected by the script, productions of that genre today struggle to create the same sense of surprise and anxiety. Suzanne Collins then did the previous sequelHunger Games a story in three different parts, the script of which is not only based on the progress of the games, but on their impact. The film proudly follows this structure by presenting chapter titles to clearly separate the three main stages of Coriolanus’ journey.

However, one wonders what the point of such an approach is when a feature film decides to focus mainly on The Hunger Games. If this adaptation offers many liberties in the course of events and relationships between the characters, the games are going through the biggest overhaul that is hard to justify. While the novel does its best to avoid glorifying The Hunger Games and instead presents the event as a cruel means of pushing man to his limits, the film does quite the opposite. Initially presented as calm and emotional, this issue here becomes a simple excuse for hemoglobin-charged action scenes. Some of the murders are almost disturbing and have nothing to do with the tone the work is supposed to have.

Credit: Lionsgate / Metropolitan Films

This complete disconnect will not only affect readers of the novel. The film fails to match the words and the script, and in the end loses the viewer in a disorganized whole. The emotional impact of this edition of The Hunger Games seems almost non-existent, enough to make the final part of the story lose all interest. This adaptation is the longest in the saga at 2 hours and 45 minutes. But after devoting most of this time to the games and their organization, the conclusion of the story is nothing more than a long series of gratuitous scenes given the lack of detail and (too) many changes to the script of this version. This film is ultimately just an opportunity to surf the nostalgia of a popular license by repeating its codes in an identical fashion, even if that means distorting the author’s novel to make it a tasteless adaptation. Saga Hunger Games it’s not just about throwing characters into the arena.

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