Our world has never felt more dystopian, so of course it’s a perfect time to reignite the Hunger Games franchise. The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes will be the first Hunger Games movie in nearly eight years, and sees a few key familiar faces, but mostly new figures in this high-octane prequel.
The film is based on Suzanne Collins’ 2020 novel of the same name, which was met with acclaim for the way it depicted events foreshadowing the original series. (Collins was involved in the screenwriting of the first Hunger Games film and received an “Adaptation by” credit for the final two films, but she is only serving as an executive producer for Songbirds & Snakes.)
Like the original series, Songbirds & Snakes features an impressive cast of rising young talent and acclaimed Hollywood veterans. The lead roles here are played by Scott and Sid’s Tom Blyth, Westside Story’s Rachel Zegler, and Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer, while supporting parts are rounded out by Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis, and Jason Schwartzman. The film marks the return of director Francis Lawrence, who helmed the final three Hunger Games movies, as well as ambitious projects like I Am Legend and Water for Elephants. In an interview with Empire, Lawrence called Zegler’s character “anti-Katniss,” contrasting the reserved nature of Jennifer Lawrence’s lead. “She loves crowds,” Lawrence told the British magazine. “She knows how to play crowds and manipulate people.”
The prequel depicts the rise of Coriolanus Snow, Blyth’s character who goes on to be the malevolent president of Panem and a major force driving the games forwards. The film centers around the 10th annual Hunger Games (the original book series begins with the 74th), and sees Snow assigned to “turn these children into spectacles, not survivors,” per Dinklage’s character. He is teamed with Zegler’s Lucy Gray Baird, a charismatic competitor from District 12, the same one as Katniss Everdeen.
The world in the trailer feels slightly more recognizable and less dystopian than what we got in Collins’ novels or the original film series, a hint at the decay and corrosion caused by the games. We learn that Dinklage’s character is the creator of the Hunger Games, and get a glimpse of the flamboyant personality of Lucy. The film seems to depict how the Hunger Games themselves became a cultural phenomenon and primetime entertainment in Panem. With characters like Davis’, though, we do get a recognizable glimpse of over-the-top glamor that The Hunger Games does so well.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes will be released theatrically on November 17. In a November 2022 interview with Collider, Lawrence said that this would be a “single, stand-alone movie,” with no plans to stretch it into multiple films. He did leave the door ajar, though, saying, “unless Suzanne writes another one.”