The Hunger Games is the only book series that I have ever finished reading. I love to read, and I read a lot. However, the commitment that a book series requires is something that overwhelms me. It’s hard to motivate myself to read thousands and thousands of pages of a story where I already know the characters and the way that world works. But, somehow, with The Hunger Games, it was easy. There was something so captivating about the series. It made sense why so many people went ballistic for the franchise while the movies were still coming out.

I was always jealous that I was too young to partake in the Hunger Games mania in 2012. However, with the release of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, my jealousy has been sated. I finally got to have my Hunger Games era.

I had been anticipating this movie since 2020, when I first read the book. I had become so fascinated with Coriolanus Snow and his Machiavellian tendencies. Suzanne Collins wrote his internal monologue with such precision and detail that I wondered how a film would go about adapting it. I grew concerned with the quality of the film, all the while being excited for its release. I know that on the virtue of being an adaptation, the film may not try hard enough. Audiences would come whether or not the movie was good. I certainly would.

I go to see it on opening night. The theater is bustling with people. I know the TikTok hype helped this movie immensely. I laugh as I think back to the dozens of videos on my “for you page” fawning over how hot the young President Snow is. But there was a Hunger Games resurgence occurring even prior to this. There were so many creators theorizing about the franchise. There were people creating edits. There were people selling Hunger Games-themed merch. The fandom was just aching for its return. The full theater on a Thursday night proves that.

I am glad that I am in a crowd. I love watching movies with hundreds of other people. This summer, Barbenheimer was my nirvana. And I feel like I’m almost there again as I hear hushed whispering about Katniss and Peeta and Finnick. I see people with mockingjay pins. I often keep my interests close to my heart. I did not dress up or accessorize. I do not like to sound like a nerd so I am not spilling Hunger Games lore to my date that night. But I am glad others have put in effort that I have not. It makes me so, so excited.

The audience is immediately drawn into the film. The first minute of the film has no dialogue. It is just music and sound effects. We watch as two children run and hide in a war-torn city. We see the corpses lining the streets. There is minimal lighting. The city is dark. The only source of illumination is the backlighting behind the children. A halo of light surrounds them. From this first scene, we know this world, and we know the value of children. The audience is quick to understand the depth of the depravity that is sending children into slaughter.

However, the film does not always stay so ambient. Classic Hollywood seeps through. There is something strangely plastic-like about the film. There is a sense of glamour present that there should not be. There is a lack of grit in this world. Everyone is too pretty. It is hard to believe that any of the children we are seeing are starving and poor. And when we see the violence, it is sterile. The only instance of “violence” that feels real and visceral is during a quiet moment where one of the tributes lunges at the camera. This scene makes me jump. It makes me feel something. Most of the movie does not.

What I had most anticipated was watching the gradual moral decay of Coriolanus Snow. However, the film did not satisfy me. The audience was not given any access into his mind. We simply watched him. We were not privy to his Machiavellian tendencies. We do not know that he is primarily motivated by self-interest. Snow simply seemed like a nice, charming, well-meaning teenager. That could have been used to this film’s advantage. The audience could have been manipulated by Snow, just like the characters on screen. However, they do not do this. He seems alright. His motivations do not seem immoral or depraved. When he finally does transform into the Snow that we know from the original trilogy, it seems abrupt. 

However, though intense emotion was missing from the film on the screen, it was present in the theater itself. I find myself laughing at jokes that I do not find funny. I love laughing with a crowd. I love feeling like I am a part of something. The movie itself is okay. It is a cookie-cutter dystopia. The pacing is off. There is something missing. However, the theater experience is electric. I may never see this film again, but I loved the experience of viewing it for the first time.



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