The Controversy Behind The Upcoming Hunger Games Prequel Release


On November 17th, 2023, The Hunger Games film saga will continue with the release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Considering the last Hunger Games movie was released in 2014, the prospect of a new film has gathered a lot of excitement and attention over the past couple of months.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was a novel written by Suzanne Collins and published in 2020. The book serves as a spin-off prequel to the series, following the story of how the infamous Coriolanous (President) Snow came to be. When the concept of the novel was first released to the public, it was immediately faced with mixed opinions. The reason for this is because President Snow is known throughout the Hunger Games series as the main antagonist; a cruel and calculated dictator who trades violence for profit and has been President of Panem since the 20th Hunger Games. Snow’s blood thirst for power, order, and money caused endless amounts of pain and loss to the beloved Katniss Everdeen, her loved ones, and most of Panem’s districts.

With all the existing and justifiable hatred toward Snow, switching him from the main antagonist to the main protagonist was a difficult adjustment for fans to make. His new portrayal as a kind and resilient teenager named “Corio” completely contradicts the old and tyrannical President we’re familiar with. Some argued that it was a cheap move set to excuse Snow’s ruthless actions by making the audience pity him. 

Going beyond the dislike of the concept of the book, upon publication, there was an influx of negative reviews by people disappointed in Collins’ execution. In her defense, Collins did set the bar pretty high back in 2008 with the publication of the original Hunger Games book that went on to be a 4 part book series that sold over 100 million copies and generated a movie series that made almost 700 million dollars in the box office. It’s expected that globally, the Hunger Games franchise is worth about 3 billion dollars. In addition to its financial success, the Hunger Games became a staple piece of modern media and pop culture. The iconic character of Katniss Everdeen influenced young girls at the time to stand up against injustice, and the dystopian world of Panem and the Capital serves as a metaphor for what will become if injustice continues within real world governments. Since the Hunger Games had such a large impact on the mindset of this generation, some felt that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes did not live up to this expectation.

To start, fans began comparing Snow’s character in the new novel to Katniss’ portrayal in the originals. The reason Katniss, played in the films by academy-award winner Jennifer Lawrence, was as influential as she was stemmed from her imperfection but overall altruism. There’s no denying Katniss was not always likeable; She kept people at a distance, was occasionally cold and distant, and didn’t always make the right decisions. But despite this, Katniss was to her core a benevolent and kind-hearted person whose intentions always fell in the category of aiding and protecting those around her. Throughout the series, viewers can see Katniss’ growth as she begins to learn how to trust and see the positive sides of things. This complexity and growth is what fueled Katniss’ relatability and made her such an influential character. However, fans have argued that Snow as a protagonist does not represent such complexity. Reviews claim that Snow is fueled by self-interest from the very start of the prequel, and while his circumstances may have shaped his action, he remains to his core a flat sociopath. People claim it’s not the fact that Snow is evil and Katniss is heroic that makes his character less likely as a protagonist, but instead his lack of depth and complexity just makes him an uninteresting character.

Adding onto the disappointment in Snow’s character, there have also been reviews that dislike the plot. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes gives a very different perspective than the Hunger Games. Since Snow is the protagonist, the prequel focuses more so on the Capital, politics, and leaders behind the games, whereas the originals focused more on the Games themselves and how it affected the citizens of Panem. Fans claim that the plot of rebellion against injustice was much more engaging than exploring the process of those causing the injustice. The political plot of the prequel goes against the most defining trait of the Hunger Games, and some fans responded negatively to the switched point of view. 

However, despite criticism, there have been positive reviews of the prequel. Some claim that the story does not serve to excuse Snow’s actions, but to explain them. While some people felt Snow’s unwavering evil makes him a flat character, others felt this offered an alternative to the over-done plotpoint within modern media that shows a villain’s tragic background is what made them turn to the darkside. Snow’s character, some argue, can serve to show there are cases where people are just selfish to their core. In addition to this, there are a lot of reviews saying The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was entertaining and kept viewers captivated from beginning to end. Whether or not the plot of the new film will be enjoyed is ultimately up to preference. 

All in all, it’s safe to say that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has a lot to live up to. The Hunger Games series is a modern classic, and the dystopian world and characters had an immense impact on the current generation. With all this hype, the release of a prequel meant high expectations, and the book The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was met with mixed opinions. With all this controversy of the novel, it’ll be interesting to see how the film adaptation will be viewed by the public. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will be available in theaters starting November 17th, 2023.

Here’s the trailer: