The first reactions to The Hunger Games prequel are in – and here’s the verdict
As The Hunger Games franchise returns to the big screens for the first time in eight years, the first reviews for the eagerly-anticipated prequel have arrived.
Based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place more than 60 years before the events of the original dystopian trilogy in which Katniss Everdeen fights to topple the Capitol’s oppressive regime, headed by the tyrannical President Snow.
The latest instalment charts Snow’s villainous origin story. Once an ambitious student, Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) is chosen to act as mentor to Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a brazen tribute forced to participate in the 10th annual Hunger Games.
His eyes are soon opened to the brutal reality of the Hunger Games, where innocent young people are pitted against one another in a fight to the death, as a reminder of Panem’s ruthless power over the subjugated districts.
As he falls in love with Lucy, his world view is also challenged by his cousin and aspiring stylist Tigris (Euphoria‘s Hunter Schafer) and classmate Sejanus (Josh Andrés Rivera). But evil forces, in the form of Hunger Games creator Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage) and head game-maker Dr Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis), threaten to pull Coriolanus over to the dark side once and for all.
The Hunger Games has cultivated a devoted fan base over the years, with many thrilled at the idea of a fourth film exploring Collins’ dark world. First reactions reveal whether the latest adaptation meets the sky-high expectations – and the odds are looking good.
Scott Mendelson, a film reporter at The Wrap, praised the film as “pretty great”.
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Writing on X, formerly Twitter, he said: “Superbly constructed and exquisitely acted, it wrestles with the franchise’s complicated pop culture legacy while thriving as a ‘money’s on the screen’ IMAX blockbuster.
“Zegler gives a full-on movie star turn and Davis is a macabre hoot.”
Rotten-Tomatoes-approved critic David Gonzalez echoed the sentiment. “The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes… is a gritty and complex return to the franchise, rich with stellar action, dark comedy and exceptional performances,” he raved.
“Rachel Zegler astounds with her stunning voice while Tom Blyth mesmerises [as] his morality deteriorates [and] the villainous Coriolanus Snow emerges.”
Erik Davis added to the hype after comparing it to the film adaptation of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the hugely popular first sequel in the franchise.
“Right up there in terms of best of the entire series,” the critic wrote. “Solid story, dug the twists. Great action sequences, character development and world expansion, but the real star is the cast. They crush it.”
Although some concede that the film’s running time may have been a touch too long at two hours and 46 minutes, overall there has been nothing nothing but rave reviews.
The cast and crew of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes attended the film’s European premiere in Germany on Sunday (5 November) after coming to an interim agreement with members of the industry still on strike.
Trans star Schafer looked stunning on the red carpet in a multi-coloured textured gown that would hang perfectly on the walls of an art gallery.
The Hungers Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is due to open on 17 November.
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