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Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Review: An Interview with Two Superfans

The Hunger Games hysteria is at an all-time high once again and with good reason. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel to the well-known series, released in theaters on November 17th, reigniting the flame within all of the longtime fans- as well as welcoming in some new ones. Based on the novel of the same name, the story surrounds Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) and Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) as they navigate the world of Panem, the dangers of the Capitol, and the early beginnings of the games themselves. We decided to talk to two of the staff on our team, who happen to be massive fans of the series, about how this new addition fits into the already brilliant world created by author Suzanne Collins.


How long have you been a fan of the series? 

Lucy - I remember being obsessed with the books as early as elementary school. I was super into the YA Dystopian genre, and still am, but The Hunger Games was always my favorite. 

Ashley - Oh gosh, probably since I was about 9 or 10 years old. The hyper fixation hit hard and fast and hasn’t left my brain since. I know I have a picture of younger me somewhere in a Katniss costume for both Purim and Halloween!

What’s your favorite Hunger Games movie? 

Lucy - Besides Ballad, I think I’d have to say Catching Fire. Even though it’s not necessarily the most accurate adaptation it’s still a great movie, and the focus on the Quarter Quell makes it even more special. Plus, Finnick. 

Ashley - Catching Fire by FAR. The superior choice. But, I will say, that TBOSAS did give it a run for its money. I’d say it’s pretty on par with Catching Fire for me. I’m also just a huge Rachel Zegler girly so that already made this movie go higher in the rankings.

If you’ve read the books, what are some changes from page to screen that you noticed? What were your thoughts on them (did you like them or not)?

Lucy - I think something I was really missing from the movie was the connections between Coriolanus and his classmates. The only classmate of his we get any insight on is Sejanus, for obvious plot reasons, but I think cutting out Corio exploring and analyzing the relationships with his classmates and how close they all were despite their differences was a bummer. Another thing that I felt was missing from the movie was the introduction of The Covey. We see bits and pieces of them, but they’re featured much more in the book, and they’re a fun group to get to know. Besides that, I think the changes made made a lot of sense and were necessary to make sure the runtime wasn’t too long. 

Ashley - Of course, some scenes were cut and lots of side characters were diminished. One thing that surprised me that was changed was Lucy Gray and Corialanus’ first kiss- that was pushed to much later in the story. But, the thing I noticed most was the lack of Clemensia, The Covey, and all of the songs that didn’t make it into the movie that they sang. Clemensia has a whole storyline in the book that helps to further just how vindictive Gaul is. After she is bitten by the rainbow snakes, she comes back to sit with the other mentors while the games progress and ends up being the last one, along with Coriolanus. We miss out on the aftermath of the bites, the yellowish eyes, the scaly skin, and just the overall horror that Gaul caused her. Personally, I do wish that had been in the movie but I can understand why it was cut. Now, The Covey all had a lot more of a role in the novel. It was much more of a familial atmosphere than was showcased in the movie. Sure, you can interpret that from the way they interact but I quite missed seeing it on screen. Again, I do understand why it was cut. The thing I missed most of all was the songs that didn’t make it into the movie. Specifically, I was surprised to see that “Deep in the Meadow” didn’t make the cut, as that song is vital to the first movie as well (reminder: Katniss sings it to Rue as she passes away in the arena). I truly think that would’ve been incredibly interesting to throw in that not only did Lucy Gray write “The Hanging Tree” but she also wrote this other melody that comes back to haunt Snow in his later years. Overall, I can definitely see why all of these changes and cuts were made. But, rumor has it there’s another hour of the film out there that was cut… Just saying.

What is your favorite part of the movie?

Lucy - Oh my God this question is so hard. Okay. I think my favorite part of the movie had to be Rachel Zegler's performance of “The Old Therebefore” at the end of the 10th Hunger Games. The shock the spectators feel the love and emotion that’s produced by her song, and the way Lucy Gray stares right into the eyes of the viewer so you feel like you’re there watching the games in real-time. Just wow. It’s truly one of those moments that makes you want to be able to watch a movie for the first time again. 

Ashley - My favorite part was definitely the entire sequence towards the very end where Coriolanus loses his mind after Lucy Gray leaves him alone for a mere two minutes. Girl saw the red flags and RAN! We truly see Snow reveal just how insane he is for the first time on the outside rather than just deciphering it through his eyes and the tension in that scene is wild. It is impeccably constructed and keeps the audience’s eyes glued to the action for fear that they could miss something, just like Coriolanus feared he’d miss a glimpse of Lucy Gray evading him.

Favorite performance (acting-wise)?

Lucy - Overall I’d have to say Rachel Zegler, because, holy shit. She is just so talented. I’ve been a fan of her since my freshman year of high school and it’s so exciting to see her get the positive attention she has worked so hard for, it is so well deserved. Rachel Zegler you will always be famous!!! Another great performance came from Josh Andres Rivera. He made the most of every moment he was on screen, and his final scene was absolutely heartbreaking. Fantastic performances all around. 

Ashley - Rachel Zegler. Oh, how I love her. She did NOT disappoint (and never has, so I wasn’t surprised). Her emotion is so real and raw no matter what the situation is. And, don’t even get me started on her voice- it is ETHEREAL. Rachel gives 100% in everything that she does and that is not lost in this film at all. From watching her YouTube videos to seeing her lead a blockbuster hit, I feel so honored that she shares her talent with the rest of us.

Favorite original song? 

Lucy - When I heard the book was getting adapted into a movie I was SO excited, but also so nervous because music is featured so heavily throughout the novel. It was absolutely amazing to see how well they translated the lyrics off the pages and onto the screen. With that being said the one that has been stuck in my head the most is “Nothing You Can Take From Me”. I think this song especially showcases not only the strength that Lucy Gray has when we first hear her sing it but also how much we miss by not seeing more of the Covey when they join her the second time she sings it, full-out performing the fantastic folk song. I think the song perfectly displays the duality of Lucy Gray’s character, her resilience, along with the bubbly bright side that her family brings out in her. 

Ashley - Obviously, “The Hanging Tree” immediately hit home with me considering that that’s from the original series so I do have a special place in my heart for the absolutely GORGEOUS new version we got. But, I will say, I think my favorite was probably “The Old Therebefore”. One of the reasons was most definitely due to the pure power and strength that Rachel Zegler put behind the song as she sang it. It was, in one word, breathtaking. That specific part of the scene where Lucy Gray looks straight into the camera and sings at it has not left my brain for one minute since seeing the film.

How many Peeta edits do you get on your TikTok FYP (specifically variations on the whistle video)?

Lucy - It’s every other video at this point. Honestly, I don’t even mind I think they’re hilarious. My FYP right now is just Hunger Games edits and Josh Hutcherson “Whistle” videos. 

Ashley - An endless amount and I’m thankful for it. I hope they never stop (especially the Josh Hutcherson “Whistle” ones).

Do you think that, overall, the movie was adapted well from the book?

Lucy - Absolutely! In my opinion, it’s the best adaptation out of the entire series, and I’m so glad it’s been so successful. Being able to watch the story of the book unfold in front of me on the silver screen was just fantastic. The Hunger Games renaissance is upon us and I couldn’t be happier. 

Ashley - For SURE! Besides Catching Fire, I think that this was one of, if not, the best out of the entire series that was adapted (so echoing what Lucy said). I got to see it early at the NYC premiere event and immediately after I left the theater and bought a ticket for another showing. It was phenomenal getting to see a novel adapted so well to the screen as that doesn’t seem to happen often in a truthful manner anymore.

Final thoughts?

Lucy - Just go see it. If you like The Hunger Games at all go see the movie. Read the book too. It’s so cool to see what is written come to life throughout the film, and there are so many moments that are adapted line by line. 

Ashley - The entire cast is amazing. Not a single person faltered once and everyone brought their character from page to screen so well. Please go check out the film if you’re even the least bit interested- even if you haven’t seen the original series! And, if you want even more, you should read the novel itself. It is so wild to see everything through Snow’s point-of-view be accompanied by the insane words of his inner thoughts. Suzanne Collins, you are a genius.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is out in theaters now! Check it out!

Written and Interviewed by Lucy Anderson

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