A Star Is Born in Hunger Games Prequel

Tom Blyth impresses as a young Coriolanus Snow, opposite Rachel Zegler's tribute
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2023 1:20 PM CST

Sixty-four years before Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute in the 74th annual Hunger Games, marking the beginning of the end for Panem President Coriolanus Snow, a teenage "Corio" is assigned to mentor another District 12 tribute in the 10th Hunger Games. His subsequent rise to power is told in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, a new film from the Hunger Games franchise's returning director Francis Lawrence based on Suzanne Collins' 2020 novel, which has audiences applauding, even if critics are more cautious, giving the film a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's what they're saying:

  • British actor Tom Blyth delivers "a star-making performance" as Snow, writes Christy Lemire at RogerEbert.com. His "evolution into that tyrannical presidential persona is fascinating to watch in its grand gestures and tiny revelations." Meanwhile, Rachel Zegler, who won a Golden Globe for her turn as Maria in 2021's West Side Story, "has further blossomed in her charisma" as shown in her role as singer and tribute Lucy Gray Baird. By the third act, the tension between the two is "exquisite," writes Lemire, giving the "surprisingly suspenseful prequel" three stars out of four.
  • "Splitting the movie into three chapters seems appropriate, since the film delivers a trifecta: overwrought, overacted, and overlong," writes CNN's Brian Lowry. It "careens all over the place, from its limp romantic aspect to the personalities of the various mentors and tributes, which beyond the central duo barely register," he writes. "Perhaps that's why the movie features a whole lot of action and sumptuous sets and still manages to feel like a bit of a bore."

  • For Amy Nicholson, the chemistry between the stars was lacking. "We don't buy their first kiss, and the screenwriters Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt ... barely try to convince us," she writes at the New York Times. Still, the film's third act is "shrewd and gripping," she writes. "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."
  • The first two acts, "which take us through the Games themselves, are propulsive and thrilling," but the third is "a letdown, dragging as it wraps up loose narrative ends," writes Esther Zuckerman at Bloomberg. Still, the film is "a satisfying, well-acted melodrama with moral gray areas and real stakes for its characters." Zeglar is "a wonder" while showing off her singing talents in this sort-of musical. Zuckerman also applauds Viola Davis as the Games' orchestrator. She "seems to relish the opportunity to put on wild makeup and go big and menacing."
(More movie review stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.