It’s been over ten years since the first Hunger Games film hit cinemas, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson.
The franchise, based on the iconic book trilogy by Suzanne Collins, spanned four films and as many years – but with a prequel set in the same universe, fans have been swiftly transported back to Panem.
Again based on a novel by Collins, The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes follows Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird; a performer forced to take part in the tenth ever Hunger Games.
Released in cinemas on 17 November, reactions to the prequel – which also stars Hunter Schafer and Tom Blyth alongside Viola Davis and Peter Dinklage – have been fairly mixed.
Here’s exactly what critics had to say about The Hunger Games: A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes...
“… Our world so hauntingly echoes Collins’s fictions that the film, shot last summer, moves us to spend its gargantuan running time reflecting on contemporary headlines, mourning the generational tragedy of anger and fear begetting anger and fear.”
“[It] feels like a natural extension of the saga, balancing blood sport, endangered young love and a heightened level of political commentary that respects the intelligence of young audiences as only Collins can. Her message is less about resisting fascism than recognizing how systems use entertainment to distract and manipulate the masses. But even within that critique, Collins leaves room for a soulful folk singer — the title’s metaphorical songbird — to serve as the voice of resistance.”
“In the end, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is a film of contrasts — visually stunning yet narratively uneven, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the origins of Panem, but not without stumbling over its own ambitious intentions. Thankfully, there is enough action and suspense.”
“Ballad seems to respect the fans and the franchise, not just in terms of investment but in building out things sideways instead of forward. And in this age of cheap cash-ins and cinematic universes increasingly tying themselves into Gordian knots, that’s the best you can hope for. “
The Guardian – 1/5
“It’s easy to lose the will to live halfway through the title, never mind the actual film – in all its exhausting, convoluted silliness. This is a pointless new iteration of IP content from the Hunger Games franchise, based on Suzanne Collins’s original YA bestsellers…
“For this prequel, however – taken from Collins’s 2020 novel of the same title – the interest, dramatic momentum and energy have frankly expired, and all we have are the ridiculous outfits, the hallucinatory hairstyles, the zero-suspense action sequences, the standard-issue CGI cityscapes, the non-satirical flourishes about media control and Rachel Zeglerdoing a frankly bizarre suth’n accent…”
IGN – 7/10
“It works as a faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ prequel novel, yet falls flat when it comes to depicting the maze of interpersonal manipulation and emotions that make up its main characters’ ultimately doomed relationship. Actors Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler are brilliant additions to the franchise with equally magnetic takes on their very different characters, but aren’t given enough time to fully flesh them out.”
The Times – 3/5
“Some muscular central performances and a firecracker finale nudge this Hunger Games prequel away from the worst instincts of the franchise. The actual games, always the dopiest element of the series retain their “meh!” status as the new heroine Lucy Gray battles her way through the kiddie pile a mere 64 years before the Jennifer Lawrence era.
“It’s gripping, deftly performed and could have been a satisfying movie on its own terms, no games allowed.”
The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes is in cinemas now.