By Grace Ruthe
Mixed emotions are certainly an understatement when it comes to Suzanne Collins’ “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” (Songbirds). Both the novel and the new Francis Lawrence film of the same name that hit theaters on Nov. 17. Audiences have had several conflicting opinions when trying to answer the question: Did the story live up to the seemingly untouchable trilogy and set of films that took the 2010s by storm?
The story places the audience 64 years before the first “Hunger Games” and offers a backstory on the infamous Coronlianus Snow, played by Tom Blyth, future president and tyrant of Panem. His relationship with songbird and District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird, played by Rachel Zegler, is passionate and heartbreaking all at the same time. Their on-page and on-screen chemistry is unlike any relationship featured in the previous novels and films — even Annie and Finnick.
The Rotten Tomatoes score for the new film is currently at 66%. However, the audience rating is at an incredible 90%, the highest audience score out of any of the Hunger Games films. Critics have been flooding the review section with mixed emotions towards the new film, some loving what Collins and Lawrence have put together, others condemning the film for being too long and telling an unnecessary story.
Some pop culture reviews say this story has broken the “prequel curse,” but others such as critic Susan Granger called “Songbirds” a “banal, dull, boring prequel.” Despite the reviews on the content, it is hard to argue that the cinematography falls short of the original films. Collins’ words truly do come to life during the film, and Lawrence does an incredible job, cinematically, capturing the most pivotal moments of the novel on adapting them to screen.
Complaints have been piling up about the number of musical breaks within the film. Fans have taken to X to express their feelings on the matter.
“Watching a movie called the BALLAD of songbirds and snakes and getting mad at the amount of ballads is crazy,” wrote user @criminalplaza. The musical aspect of “Songbirds” was impossible not to include in the film, as the novel centers around Lucy Gray’s ability to capture an audience through song. Avid readers questioned how Lawrence and Collins would adapt this to screen.
Executive music producer Dave Cobb offered exactly what the film needed to properly bring the lyrics to life throughout the film. A Nashville producer who had worked with big names such as Christ Stapleton was the perfect choice for “Songbirds.”
“One of the things that was so attractive about working on this film [is that] I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a more intelligent person in my life than Suzanne Collins. She’s an absolute genius, by any measure,” Cobb said in an interview for Billboard Music.
The folk songs and stories they tell made the movie what it lived up to be: a tale of love, loss and survival.
The real question is: how does “Songbirds” compare to the original trilogy or original films? Nostalgia is the answer. Many find comfort in the originals, both the films and novels, and throwing a new story into the mix rubs some the wrong way. “Songbirds” offers something new and intriguing to long-time fans and even new viewers, yet the familiarity and originality of the first Hunger Games trilogy and films are unmatched.