It is time, the moment we have all been waiting for. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is out in theaters. Last month, I was lucky enough to attend the NYC pre-screening with a few others from the Bookstr team, and I can finally share my opinion! Before I dive into this article, I want to share a brief overview of my movie thoughts.
Firstly, this is my favorite released movie of the year. Every actor did an outstanding job filling their role and killing it on screen. If the actors flopped, I would not have been into the movie as much as I was. But every actor ate and left no crumbs. Secondly, the crew SMASHED the book and movie comparison. After the pre-screening, I recently read the book version, and I was shocked at how similar the two were. I prefer movie adaptions to be as true to the books as they can, and Director Francis Lawerence nailed it. I could not leave my seat to pee because I was glued to the screen.
Though the movie had a few different details, I applaud Mr. Lawerence and his ability to bring Suzanne Collins’s marvelous writing to the big screen. I love this movie with all my heart. This may have to do with my Hunger Games obsession, as I am no movie critic. I hate Pulp Fiction. I have never seen Star Wars, and any movie with Tom Cruise makes me cringe. But The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is one of the few movies that left me thinking for days. It is the movies that leave you in awe that directors should aim to make, and Mr. Lawerence and his crew did exactly so.
Moving forward, I want to focus on one specific theme from the movie that stuck out most, and I must warn if you have not seen the original movies this may become a little confusing. In this piece, I will be comparing changes in Panem’s society from the prequel to the original series. I will focus on two main themes. The first is the personality change in Panem civilization, and the second is the tribute treatment change after sixty years of The Hunger Games.
SPOILERS AHEAD: If you have yet to read or watch The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes or The Hunger Games, please be aware that spoilers are ahead.
Drastic Societal Personality Change
If you read or saw the first movie, you know who Katniss Everdeen is. Katniss, the wonderous girl on fire who touched all of our middle school hearts, is a shadowing image of the original District 12 winner, Lucy Gray Baird. The two are polar opposites in terms of shyness and performance. Katniss is reserved and no performer unless forced. Yet Lucy Gray will take death if it means she can sing one more time. Though this keeps them apart, the two are courageous, clever, and a symbol of fighting for what is right.
You may be asking, why are we comparing Lucy and Katniss? The most fascinating thing about the movie was the differences between sixty years in Panem’s past and future. Of course, society will change indefinitely through technology, population, etc. But as an over-analyzer like myself, I noticed a sudden change in Panem’s societal personality.
Lucy and Katniss are the perfect example. Lucy Gray, even when she was at her worst, still had her fun and playful charm. Whether she had to for the camera or not, Lucy’s overall personality was warm and welcoming to all. Sixty years later, Katniss, the polar opposite image of Lucy, is serious and firm, and her form of fun is to hunt for her family’s supper. Lucy, to charm her viewers, uses her friendly personality and captivating nature to keep the spectators interested in her survival. She also uses her gorgeous voice to sing and make a show of her suffering, covering all her emotions with a sheet of performance.
Comparing her bubbly personality to Katniss, you can see how they differ. I find Katniss to be likable because of her mysterious personality. While on stage in front of thousands, she stays restrained and has a subtle approach to outside viewers, maybe she’ll throw in a witty comment if she’s feeling it. Ultimately, she does not seem to get the attention of her watchers until she shows off her iconic ‘girl on fire’ dress, which Cinna should get credit for.
Her relationship tension with Peeta also keeps her viewer’s attention, and further on, she shows off her talented bow and arrow skills to the game makers, earning her the highest-rated score out of all the tributes most likely to survive. Out of all this, we learn that Katniss is not one to put a show on for her viewers. Even when she is forced to do so, her approach seems stricter than Lucy, who has a go-with-the-flow attitude while being interviewed.
Even after her time in the arena, Lucy arrived back to District 12 ready to sing and dance with her fellow district members. When Katniss arrived home, she stuck to her old habits of hunting and isolation, even with her newly gifted home and riches. Though Lucy was suffering on the inside, she was well able to put on a show and put the past behind her, focusing on her future escape and keeping her bubbly personality at a high. However, Katniss nose-dived into her trauma and continued her survivalist behavior. The two could not be more opposite in terms of personality.
I imagine this personality clash conveys the dying hope of Panem’s civilization. Regular members of society, like Lucy and her fellow District 12, manage to sing and dance, even while in fear for their own lives. Yet Katniss and her district have lost that hopeful trait. There is no room for cheerfulness in a society with over seventy-four hunger games, and you can visibly see it in their personalities. After Lucy Gray’s escape, I imagine years of suffering and torture finally broke society’s cultural spark, damaging individuality and leaving its people as reserved as Katniss.
It is a small detail to point out; however, I could not stop thinking about Lucy’s extroverted personality compared to Katniss. The two are both so fearless, yet so different. Lucy’s cheekiness really captures her surrounding community. After ruthless years of war, they are only at the beginning of The Hunger Games stages. I picture that after sixty years of the games, district civilians slowly molded into survival mode and lost their personas, and soon, nothing was left but a dying country with hopeless people.
What struck my curiosity most was the sudden change of tribute care in the prequel. For anyone who has not read or seen the original movie/book trilogy, the compassion given to the newer tributes is insanely different from the tribute in the prequel. There are numerous examples to discuss.
Traveling to Panem
Firstly, the tributes from the tenth annual Hunger Games travel to the Capital in horrible conditions. They are brought on a cargo train, starved, and left in the dark for days. Lucy’s District 12 companion, Jessup, is an example of their horrific treatment who (in the movie version) is bitten by an animal on the train ride while protecting Lucy, infecting him with rabies and later killing him. (In the book version, he was bitten by a rat while kept in the tribute pen). When they arrived in the Captial, the tributes were greeted only by Cornelius Snow and his white rose for Lucy, only to be immediately thrown into another stinky transport.
Comparing this to the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and her fellow District 12 tributes travel to the Captial in extravagant style. The two are brought on a train full of golden decor, riches, and too much food to eat. When they arrived in the Capital, they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans, hoping to get a peek at their future tributes. The two are treated like royalty in chains, meaning their surroundings are plentiful, but at a cost. However, at least they were not tied up and left in a grubby, rabies-infested train for multiple days.
While living in the Capital, Katniss, Peeta, and all their fellow tributes are kept in luxury. Their living areas are filled with fabulous furniture and beautiful decorations to spoil their last possible days alive. Lucy and her fellow tributes are not as lucky. These tributes are tossed in an empty zoo display with no beds, food, or water to keep them alive.
Even worse, the zoo is open for visitors to come and stare at their future dead tributes. These kids are treated inhumanely and punished for no crime, some younger than 13. It is shocking to see their treatment continue, especially after seeing Katniss’s opulent housing. Of course, Katniss and her fellow tributes are in a sadistically cruel situation. Yet they are given a lavished dwelling while Lucy and her tributes sit in muck for their final days.
Another significant difference is the original tribute training compared to the 74th. While Katniss, Peeta, and the group of various tributes are given a wide range of training (from studying different poisonous berries and plants to learning how to use a sword). They are even given a chance to show off their skills to the game makers in the hope of swooning viewers to send them gifts in the arena. In the 10th Hunger Games, the kids have no training whatsoever. They are thrown into the arena without any idea what they are doing.
Finally, I want to bring up the rewards for the winning tributes. In Ballad of Song Bird and Snakes, Lucy barely makes it out alive. Though the movie and book had two separate endings for her time in the arena, both were brutal wins. After her win, she is sent back to District 12 like nothing ever happened. After all she had fought for and all her sufferings, she returns with less than nothing (however, in the book version, Dean Highbottom secretly sent her home with money from him, reasons unknown).
After Katniss and Peeta’s sneaky win, they are sent back home like Lucy. However, they are welcomed with two new homes full of lush furniture and other costly bits. They, like other winning tributes in the future, were given riches and care in return for their time spent in the arena.
As a viewer, you expect the beginning tributes to have the same treatment as Katniss’s year because they deserve some appreciation before their horrific battle. Though there are many reasons as to why this might be, the most obvious is that the Hunger Games is still in its brainstorming stages. Although we hate to see the tributes in horrible conditions, the Hunger Games is barely breathing, meaning the tribute’s suffering is worthwhile. Until the Captial begins to show interest in their tributes, they will be treated like livestock. Sixty years later, after years of connecting with thousands of tributes, the best way to keep viewers happy is to keep their tributes happy. Therefore, the further the Hunger Games continue, the better the tributes are kept.
I find it horrific yet fascinating to see how unorganized The Hunger Games was in its beginning stages because Katniss’s year is so assembled; it is quite engrossing how sixty years of the games have drastic differences. Thankfully, The Hunger Games is fictional. However, Suzanne Collins did an outstanding job at capturing its beginning stages. As a huge Hunger Games fan, I never imagined the event having such difficulty at its starting point, so it was a very absorbing story to witness. Similar to the personality changes in Panem’s society, it is mad to see the overall changes from sixty years in the past, and I imagine all of you Hunger Games fanatics will love it as much as I did.
I do hope my over-analyzation will encourage you to see this film. The movie will be out in theaters near you on November 17th.