Did you know I never actually reviewed the book? Not anywhere, at any time, even a mini-review? Ha neither did I! So… that obviously slipped through the cracks, whoopsie? Well whatever, now the movie is out so we can go ahead and take a crack at the whole thing!

Sidenote: This… maybe contains spoilers? But… did you really think that this was going to be an HEA or something? You… did read the OG books right? 🤷‍♀️

The Book

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #0
Published by Scholastic on May 19, 2020
Pages: 520

Ambition will fuel him.Competition will drive him.But power has its price.

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined—every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death.

Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

I read this like three years ago, yeah? So I don’t know. No, I do, sorry. Okay, look. I love the original series, and nothing was ever going to compare, I won’t lie. And I do think a lot of the fandom was a little… leery of a Snow-based prequel? We’re over here clamoring for Haymitch or Finnick or Mags or hell, give us Beetee even, but Snow?


Yeah, this fucking guy. You can see why everyone was a wee bit scared to read a book about him, no?

So yeah, I probably harbored some kind of feelings going in that were… less than enthusiastic. Also, this was mid-pandemic, no one was in a good mindset for goodness sake! I digress. Look, I did not dislike this book. But I think it seemed that way compared to my love for the OG series? I genuinely want to reread it now so that I can figure out how much of it I liked. I will say, I really did enjoy the first 2/3, and probably would have given it five stars based on those parts. I loved the early Games, and learning a lot of the Capitol backstory. It’s certainly thought provoking and terrifying, right? The last third is just so damn depressing, it is hard to not feel a little sad about it. That doesn’t make it bad; on the contrary, it is really well-developed and makes a ton of sense for the characters, especially knowing what we readers know happens. It just… it bummed me the hell out, honestly.

The Movie

on November 17, 2023

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is a 2023 American dystopian action film directed by Francis Lawrence from a screenplay by Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt. It is based on the 2020 novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, serves as a prequel to The Hunger Games (2012), and is the fifth installment in The Hunger Games film series. The film stars Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, Hunter Schafer, Josh Andrés Rivera, and Viola Davis. Set 64 years before the events of the first film, its plot follows the events that lead a young Coriolanus Snow on the path to becoming the tyrannical leader of Panem, including his relationship with the Hunger Games District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird during the 10th Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes held its world premiere in Berlin, Germany on November 5, 2023,[5] and was released in the United States on November 17, 2023, by Lionsgate. The film has grossed $112.6 million worldwide and mixed reviews from critics.

Can I admit to adoring the movie without sounding like a complete sociopath? Cause I did, I really did. I cannot believe I will say this, and no shade to Ms. Collins at all, because she was heavily involved with the movie too, after all, but… I liked the movie more? 😬 Don’t judge me!

Calm down Sejanus, I’ll reread the books, okay!?

Look I think the reason that this hit me stronger in movie form is twofold: One, I am bad at picturing stuff in books, and the visuals in this movie are simply extraordinary. Two, there is a pretty heavy musical element of both the book and movie, which for me (especially as someone who doesn’t love music in books translates much better on screen. I was captivated from start to finish, nevermind the fact that the movie is nearly three hours in runtime. And if you know the relationship I have with movies… that says a lot.

The Verdict

The stuff I loved about both:

  • The connections to the OG world. Obviously, they are bountiful, but seeing how things were back in say, Mags’ day is so fascinating. It’s sort of like us heading back in time to the post WWII era or something, just… mind-reeling, and then to see it in film? Even more extraordinary! The Games are so rudimentary, but it is so clear to see how and why they evolved into the spectacle we see in the later (earlier? You know what I mean) books.

  • The characters. This has always been a huge strength in these books. Not that there are any weaknesses even, but you know what I mean. I would die for Sejanus Plinth, frankly. And Tigris! It is so easy to see how she became such a hero- and why she was both allowed to live, but ostracized in the Capitol. And as always, even the “villains” are complex, and frankly, who even are the villains? It could be anyone, couldn’t it? After all, Coriolanus Snow wasn’t the baddest baddie of them all, was he?
  • The emotions. Look, a series about killing kids for sport is always going to be rough, right? But I feel like they were like “hmm how can we out-Rue ourselves?” and Wovey came in and said “hold my beer juice”.  I think interestingly enough, the other tributes in this installment were even  more sympathetic, because there really were no “careers” as we knew them. Sure, some are more brutal, but at the end of the day, they all just were very desperate to live. Not get the glory and fame from the Capitol, as that doesn’t even exist yet. Just live another day. Add to it, I think even the more awful Capitol citizens are a bit more… not sympathetic, exactly, but you can at least sort of see why they don’t want another war, after seeing how rough things were. Obviously they’re not handling it appropriately, but.

Honestly, the movie made me want to reread the book, so there’s no way any of that is negative, right? I am endlessly impressed with Suzanne Collins’ ability to weave so many intricate details into this world! Things I hadn’t even thought about that ended up connecting were just… ::chef’s kiss:: Did she always have this in her head? Because it seriously is a pretty amazing feat, if not. Even if yes. That said, I would give just about anything for more books/movies set in this world, because the possibilities are truly endless.

Have you read the book or seen the movie? Are you not-so-secretly hoping that Suzanne pops back in next year to tell us she’s coming out with Haymitch’s backstory or something equally thrilling? 

Posted November 24, 2023 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Bookish Movie, Review / 15 Comments


15 responses to “Bookish Movie Chat: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

  1. Yes!! I loved the movie adaptation quite a bit more than the book too. I was really surprised to realize that I liked it just about as much as Catching Fire. Tom Blythe and Rachel Zegler both gave such strong performances – and the music worked for me a lot better on the screen. The movie didn’t feel at all like it’s length. I definitely want to get myself a copy of the soundtrack. I guess we can both be sociopaths together! 😁

    • YES omg same! I was honestly amazed at how great they did- I will fully admit to not really knowing either beyond their name before seeing it, but wow they nailed it. Too funny because I added like half the soundtrack to my Amazon playlist heh. So glad you loved it too! (And I hope if enough people love it, we’ll get more!)

  2. I’m glad you liked the movie! I haven’t seen it yet and will probably have to wait until it shows up on my TV. I liked the book a lot, even though it felt very unnecessary. The original trilogy was fine without it. I like villain stories, so of course I’m drawn to this type of book.

  3. So like I was telling you we watched Catching Fire the other day and it totally reignited (see?) my desire for Hunger Games all the things. So now I want to see this in all the theater spectacle where before it was hardly in my radar. I have a newfound (or revitalized) amazement/ respect for the world Collins created. Funny how a fe years away from the franchise dulled my memories. Anyway- I’m soglad you enjoyed both!

    • Bwhahah fabulous pun! 😂 It was seriously so unexpectedly good! I was kind of apathetic about seeing it tbh, so I was really pleasantly surprised. I now want to rewatch all of them, between you watching Catching Fire, and seeing the prequel and everything. Actually- I bet it would be VERY interesting to read them/ watch them in in- world chronological order!

  4. I never got around to reading the book, which is probably good, as I read and loved the first three, and then the movies were disappointing, even as good as they were, because of the stuff left out. But I loved this movie! Now I want to go back and read this book that I never got to! Great review of the movie as someone who had read the book!

  5. I read the book. I did enjoy the earlier have and did find the later half more draggy. So I am with you on that part. I did not plan to watch the movie but you may have changed my mind.

  6. I have to agree with you, the movie brought that extra dimension that made the book slightly…well, boring 😅 It’s not that it was bad, but it slightly dragged for me, and the music aspect was far better in movie form. Also, the casting was perfect. The way you never truly knew what was on Snow’s mind and what he was up to..Tom Blyth is the perfect Snow.

  7. Did I forget this even existed, until I saw a copycat of a costume from it? Yes. Yes, I did. But now I’m gonna watch the movie- thanks for confirming it’s entertaining and well produced!

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