Review of ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’: Fallen Snow | ET REALITY

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18-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), future president of Panem, eventual tormentor of Katniss Everdeen, begins “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” with his stomach growling. This slow-burn prequel from returning franchise director Francis Lawrence rewinds six and a half decades in the life of the despot (played in the other films by Donald Sutherland) to find young Snow tinkering with the 10th Hunger Games, a mindless massacre. hosted by a meteorologist (Jason Schwartzman). (Katniss would suffer the number 74.) Only her designer (Viola Davis) sees potential in developing a Grand Guignol.

Grieved that the outer districts bombed his hometown and destroyed his family’s wealth, Snow is He’s hungry and he’s playing two strategic games. First, he must convince his snobbish schoolmates that he belongs among the Capitol’s well-fed elites. Second, he must succeed in his ultimate project: boosting the bloodbath’s ratings by turning a sacrificial tribute into a telegenic star. As for class assignments, it’s a chocolate bar fundraiser combined with caring for a hard-boiled egg.

Fortunately, Snow is assigned a beauty named Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), the only girl in the coal mine’s District 12 who wears mascara. Better yet, upon being selected to die, Lucy Gray launches a bitter shanty. Surprise! This is (moderately) a musical. Once we stop laughing, things get better. We even enjoy later numbers in which Zegler, shot to fame as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” turns down the volume on her Broadway pipes into an expressive, high-pitched Dolly Parton accent.

Compared to Jennifer Lawrence’s stoic Katniss, Zegler’s Lucy Gray looks and acts like a meringue: she will sprinkle sugar on Snow to save her life. We don’t believe her first kiss, and screenwriters Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt, working from Suzanne Collins’ 2020 novel, barely try to convince us. Better scenes expose the fragile alliance between Zegler’s calculated Miss Congeniality and Blyth’s dystopian turn on Scarlett O’Hara, a feisty braggart petrified that others will notice that her tuxedo shirt has buttons made of bathroom tiles.

By design, the gladiator sequences are a crumpled photocopy of the first film. The joke is that they are a low-budget prototype: “These drones are not very good!” Schwartzman screams, but there’s no excuse for repeating multiple plot beats. The third act, however, is clever and gripping, even if the strongest elements of Collins’ novels remain difficult to film. Child-on-child brutality should be tamed for PG-13, while knotty political cynicism would play out more gently in a Ken Burns miniseries.

In the laziest youth stories, the saviors of the Chosen One are defended; Collins maintains that everyone is corrupt. Here, both sides hurl taunts of “rebel” and “terrorist,” while Snow, raised to believe he is a victim, never asks what his previously executed father might have done to the districts. When the school’s outcast (an empathetic Josh Andrés Rivera) dares to question the status quo, he is ridiculed.

Lawrence draws the Capitol as an expanse of Stalinist blocks where Peter Dinklage, playing the vengeful creator of the Games, prowls dressed as Rasputin. Customer Trish Summerville brings her own addition to Lucy Gray’s rainbow rags: an embroidered floral bodice similar to Ukrainian folk attire. Our world so hauntingly echoes Collins’s fictions that the film, filmed last summer, has us spend its mammoth time reflecting on contemporary headlines, lamenting the generational tragedy of anger and fear that breed anger and fear.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Rated PG-13 for largely bloodless child death and disturbing content. Duration: 2 hours 45 minutes. On cinemas.

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