Reviewed by Cliff Homewood

I loved The Hunger Games films, they came on the back of a trend, started by Battle Royale, of people battling to the death movies, but did it decently, with emotional and story heft.  Now we have the prequel, again based on a Suzanne Collins novel.  I’ve never read the books and never needed to until now.  This was The Longer Games, 2 hours 38 mins, and did I feel them.  I didn’t realise The Hunger Games was played on an audience’s endurance.  It has a 3-act structure and the end of part II felt like a natural end, but you have another hour to sit through.  The Games being played are as usual riveting and when it ends feels like the film should.  It’s the final third where it’s felt the worst, readers of the books state it is rushed and I agree, character motivations are changed without good reason, I can surmise why, but the film didn’t tell me or make me feel it.  The plot twist was not earned.  Book readers inform of motivations which were not explained on film.

The lead’s a singer, we see her singing, fair enough.  But I did not expect the film to turn into a musical, waiting for songs to end so the film could continue.  The music is folksy, not my style.  The leads, Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler, do have good chemistry and its always nice to see Peter Dinklage.  This tells the story of how Coriolanus Snow created the Games.  Named after Shakespeare’s play, Coriolanus, and its plot is paralleled in The Hunger Games.  Viola Davies playing a harridan who set up the games before him.  This feels like passing the buck, what next a prequel for Viola revealing another character behind The Hunger Games before her?  There seemed to be a continuity issue with what Hunger Games we were shown.  The film starts with ‘3 years before the Hunger Games’.  The Host announces ‘I’m glad to be the first host of the first ever Hunger Games’ but then later refers to it being the eighth Hunger Games.

Coriolanus’ family at beginning of the film add nothing and could easily be excised.  Existing only as a tick-box exercise.  The heart of the film is when he’s paired with a contestant and the sooner you get to where it soars, the better.  Whenever it leaves the arena it becomes leaden.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is as long as its title.  It’s The Hunger Games equivalent to the Star Wars prequels showing Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader, but not doing it well enough.