After waiting seven years, the highly anticipated prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, gives fans a chance to journey back into Panem. The official announcement of a release date by Lionsgate at CinemaCon last April was received by fans with open arms. The Hunger Games film franchise saw massive success ever since the first installment, The Hunger Games, was released in 2012. The last movie, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, was released in 2015, leaving fans of the trilogy yearning for more.
The new prequel film is set to take fans into history, being set many years before the events of the first Hunger Games movie. President Snow will be the main focus of the film. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will be directed by Francis Lawrence, who has worked on previous films in the franchise. Michael Arndt will also be returning to write for the prequel. He has previously written for Catching Fire. In terms of plot, cast, and other details, here’s all we know about the prequel film!
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Songbirds and Snakes: The Plot
Similar to the first movies of the trilogy being adaptations of novels bearing the same name by Suzanne Collins, the prequel also has its basis in a novel by Collins, published in May 2020. While we can’t expect the film to strictly adhere to the novel, we can most likely expect the film to center more or less on the same core plot of its source text.
The prequel film is set sixty-four years before the start of The Hunger Games, the first installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. To be more specific, it is set in a period known as the Dark Days, ten years before the district’s First Rebellion. Taking place before the birth of the leading characters in The Hunger Games, including Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, the prequel will focus on the early life of the dictatorial Coriolanus Snow (President Snow), whom viewers of the trilogy are familiar with.
The official synopsis of the film reads:
“Young Coriolanus is handsome and charming, and though the Snow family has fallen on hard times, he sees a chance for a change in his fortunes when he is chosen to be a mentor for the Tenth Hunger Games… only to have his elation dashed when he is assigned to mentor the girl tribute from impoverished District 12”
Given the plot of the film and the timeline in which the prequel is set, viewers might be able to get more insight into the history of Panem and why precisely the Hunger Games were created. The focus on Snow will also hopefully clarify how and why the character evolved into the tyrannical leader we see in the Hunger Games trilogy.
A short teaser trailer for the prequel was released by Lionsgate Movies on June 5, 2022, fanning fans’ excitement. Not much about the movie can be garnered from the trailer, except that there’ll be lots of snow (pun intended) involved. Golden snakes and songbirds, in keeping with the title of the prequel, accompanied by a hauntingly suspenseful melody, also make it evident that viewers are in for another epic film.
An interesting fact about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is that the film has reportedly been in development even before Collins’ book was published in May 2020. So, it looks like the directors have decided to get a headstart on the prequel, which will hopefully have the same success as the Hunger Games trilogy.
Songbirds and Snakes: The Cast
At the time of writing, the only cast announcements that have been made are that Tom Blyth will star as the young Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird. Blyth has appeared in works such as HBO’s period series, The Gilded Age, while Zegler has previously starred in films such as West Side Story and Shazam! Fury of the Gods. As reported by Entertainment Weekly, director Francis Lawrence, talking of Zegler, said:
“Like everybody, I first saw Rachel Zegler in West Side Story, and like everybody, I knew I was watching a star who would command the screen for a generation. Lucy Gray is a perfect match for her as an actress: the character is bold, independent, and defiant, but also vulnerable, emotional, and loving. Rachel will make this character unforgettable.”
Given the timeline of the prequel, there is a high probability that none of the characters from the trilogy will be making a return for the prequel (given the fact that many aren’t even born yet). As such, viewers will most likely be treated to an entirely fresh cast in addition to the already announced Blyth and Zegler.
In terms of the characters that Blyth and Zegler will be playing, while viewers are already familiar with Blyth’s Snow, who goes on to become President in the trilogy, Zegler’s character is relatively new to the series. Deadline, providing some background to Lucy Gray Baird, describes her as Snow’s mentee, “the girl tribute from impoverished District 12.” Although not too happy with having to mentor her, Snow’s ideas of the girl change “after Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the repeating ceremony.” Uniting their talents, Snow and Lucy race against time in a bid to reveal who is a songbird and who is a snake.
Although the film is still in production, as per an announcement made at CinemaCon in April 2022, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is scheduled to premiere on November 17, 2023.