The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

‘Hunger Games’ Makes Victorious Return to Dystopian Arena with ‘Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’

From+left%2C+Hunter+Schafer%2C+Tom+Blyth%2C+Rachel+Zegler+and+Josh+Andr%C3%A9s+Rivera+pose+together+at+the+Nov.+13+Los+Angeles+premiere+of+Ballad+of+Songbirds+and+Snakes.
AP Newsroom
From left, Hunter Schafer, Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler and Josh Andrés Rivera pose together at the Nov. 13 Los Angeles premiere of “Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

The Hunger Games franchise has slithered its way back into mainstream media with the release of the prequel “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

Directed by Francis Lawrence, “Ballad” follows a young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), future president of Panem, in his time as a student mentor in the tenth annual Hunger Games, where he is assigned to the female District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler). Determined to win the prize money offered to the best mentor, Snow does everything in his power to get Lucy Gray as much attention from the Capitol as possible, twisting the rules of the games in the process.

In this three-part film, the watcher follows the steady corruption of Snow’s character as he is pulled in opposite directions by his good and hopeful “songbird,” Lucy Gray, and his psychotic mentor Dr. Gaul (Viola Davis), who is the head gamemaker of the Games. 

Though there is much plot-propelling action in “Ballad,” the story of Snow’s descent into evil is largely dialogue-driven. The film successfully dissects the descent through the eyes of the people who love him, or at least used to.

Near the start of the film, the viewer sees Snow in conversation with his friend Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera), his cousin Tigris Snow (Hunter Schafer) and Lucy Gray. Arguably, these are the people who trust Snow the most. With them, Snow exudes boyish charm and a lovable eagerness to prove himself.

But at the end, when he has decided to “land on top” by whatever means necessary, we see these characters in one-on-one conversation with him again. 

He argues with Sejanus about his allegiance to the Capitol. Tigris tells him he looks like his father, whom she has long disapproved of. Most memorably, Lucy Gray realizes he is beyond saving when he lets slip that he previously lied to her about how many people he killed.

These conversations are impactful in part because of a moving script, but credit must also be given to Tom Blyth’s mastery in the role. Being one of the up-and-coming actor’s bigger roles, Blyth’s performance as Snow could not have been easy to conquer.

Given the circumstances of his post-war life, Snow undergoes significant changes throughout the movie. In part one, Blyth exudes empathy through Snow’s character, who creates deep connections with many others and sacrifices his well being for the success of Lucy Gray in the Hunger Games. Snow leaves for the Games in the beginning of the film, hopeful to win the prize money for his family. He tells his grandmother and cousin, “Snow lands on top.”

Though still relatively early in his career, Blyth has proved to have mastered the art of subtlety. Part of what makes Snow’s transformation so chilling is how slow his character changes. It’s almost unnoticeable until Blyth redelivers his line in part three, menacingly telling Dean Highbottom (Peter Dinklage), “Snow lands on top.”

These lines are particularly interesting because, despite their different meanings and deliveries, they’re identical and contribute to the deconstruction of Snow himself.

Embodying the Joan Baez-esque Lucy Gray is Rachel Zegler, who delivers clever and witty lines in a country twang that makes the audience immediately root for her. Zegler’s capability to charm shines through in the nearly 3 hour runtime.

From the moment Lucy Gray is introduced, Zegler radiates an immediate familiarity within the character that makes her so loveable. In this fictional world full of betrayal and mistrust, Zegler was the perfect actress to serve as, what seems to be, the sole silver lining in Panem.

Lucy Gray is filled with sympathy and logic, which makes her arguably the most relatable and personable character in “Ballad.” She has no moments that are questionable or frustrating and is a realistic, humane character that the audience can easily relate to, making her endlessly watchable.

Zegler’s performance confirms the old time charm that she has shown in the 2021 remake of “West Side Story.” She has proved to audiences exactly why she is becoming a household name.

But this film would be nothing without its ballads and songbirds, the most notable of which being the original songs written into the book series.

Lucy Gray, the “songbird,” vocally soars over the lilting acoustic guitar in the original tracks, “Nothing You Can Take From Me,” “Pure As The Driven Snow,” “The Ballad of Lucy Gray Baird” and “The Old Therebefore.”

Zegler’s voice was perfectly suited for this role, and she expertly weaved her own musical theater background into the classic Appalachian instrumentation of District 12. It makes it even more impressive that all of her singing was done live on the days of shooting.

All the instrumental tracks were scored by James Newton Howard, who has collaborated on the composition of the tracks for the four previous movies in The Hunger Games franchise. Though the final movie was released eight years ago, the consistency in composition established a familiarity between the new and the old.

The film achieved a Box Office rating of No. 1 when it hit theaters. Its subtle symbolism and inspection into human behavior, paired with the phenomenal execution of acting and music leave no doubt: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is the deserving victor.

About the Contributors
Owen Anderson, Staff Writer
Owen Anderson is a senior and a second-year journalism student. He is a second-year member of EHS Yearbook holding the position of co-managing editor. He plans to major in English on a pre-law track. In his free time, he enjoys listening to music, writing reviews for movies on Letterboxd and reading. One thing about Owen is that he has a blasé attitude about anything, yet has a strong opinion on everything, even topics he is not quite informed on.
Georgia Gaughan, Student Life Editor
Georgia Gaughan is a second-year journalism student at EHS. She is the student life editor for The Claw and Tiger Times Online. Outside of journalism, Georgia is the vice president of National Honor Society and enjoys planning homecoming with student council. Her favorite month is October and she will never pass up the opportunity to eat at a new Mexican restaurant. After high school, she hopes to major in finance at Purdue University but will continue to write for student publications in college.
Sydney Andrews, Staff Writer
Sydney Andrews is a senior and a first-year journalism student. She is an officer for National English Honors Society, the president of Tri-m Music Honors Society and is a member of NHS and Spanish Honors Society. She is also very involved in EHS Drama Club and loves to read in her spare time (not that there is much of that). She plans to pursue a career in law but has always taken an interest in journalism and hopes that it will help better her writing skills this year.
Pera Onal, Editor-in-Chief
Pera is a senior and third-year journalism student. In addition to being the editor-in-chief of Tiger Times Online and The Claw, she’s part of the EHS swim and dive team and the local club team, Metro East Titans. She is also a member of National English Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society. Outside of school, she lifeguards and gives swimming lessons at the YMCA. When she has free time, Pera likes to read, journal, and go to the movies with her friends.
Sami McKenney, Opinion Editor
Sami McKenney is a junior, a second-year journalism student, and the opinion editor of The Claw and Tiger Times Online. She is co-president of Creative Arts Club and a member of the Women’s History and Empowerment Club, NFHS, French Club, and the Ethics Bowl team. Outside of school, Sami can be found almost every day at Turning Pointe Academy of Dance, either in classes or in rehearsal for its pre-professional company: Tour Dance. Additionally, she is an avid reader, cat lover, and Taylor Swift enthusiast. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism and is extremely grateful to be part of such a supportive program and capable team of staff members with whom to start her journey!