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21.11.2023

Luke Yost

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This film is set 64 years before the events on the original 2012 film, and centres on a young Coriolanus Snow as the protagonist, of whom we know from the last four films becomes the tyrannical dictator of Panem and its Capitol. Him and his fellow students are each assigned a tribute to mentor and coach for the tenth Hunger Games. Snow is assigned the female tribute from District 12, which draws an interesting parallel to the original film in which the protagonist, Katniss, is also the female tribute from 12.

Snow and his classmates are competing with each other for a prize, which is won depending on how well they mentor their tributes, however, victory in the games isn’t the only way to win. Their job is to turn the tributes into spectacles for the public.

 

It was interesting to see a change of perspective in comparison to the original film. In this movie the point of view is very much that of Snow’s, a citizen of the Capitol, whereas the original was from the perspective of Katniss, a citizen of District 12 living in poverty. Interestingly, however, the Capitol does have a class divide amongst itself, Snow being at the bottom of this ladder. This is something which some of his classmates do mock him for.

 

Tom Blyth plays the lead role of Coriolanus Snow and does it exceptionally well. Somehow, we find ourselves rooting for him, despite our knowledge of what he will become in the future. I haven’t seen anything else featuring Tom Blyth, with the exception of his role as an extra in Ridley Scott’s 2010 film, Robin Hood. I will be looking out for him in future roles, although at the moment it seems like he hasn’t got much coming up.

 

Rachel Zegler plays Lucy Gray, the tribute which Snow is assigned to mentor. Whilst in some scenes she was really good in her role, a lot of the time she completely over-acts and it is really distracting and breaks any immersion in the scene. In comparison to Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Katniss in the original film, Zegler’s seemed over the top and like she was trying too hard. Some of the best acting of the original film was in the subtle performances, and the way which the raw emotion was conveyed in an extremely realistic manner.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Zegler’s character, mostly because of the singing, of which there are four or five lengthy verses throughout the film. She’s also an actor of whom I’ve not seen before, and to be honest I won’t be looking out for her in future roles.

 

Viola Davis is also in this film as the head Gamemaker. I wasn’t a huge fan of her character as she seemed a bit over the top, which of course isn’t unusual for characters from the Capitol, but frankly she was quite annoying a lot of the time. I liked her costume as it conveyed the sense of high class and aristocracy which is commonplace among the Capitol’s fashion, however the addition of her having one blind eye tipped the ridiculousness over the top and made her seen cartoonish. I think Viola Davis had a lot of fun in this role and played it as well as anyone could have.

 

The film is split into three parts, each introduced with title cards, labelled: The Mentor, The Prize, and The Peacekeeper. Each of these acts depicts a different stage in Snow’s evolution as a person. The first two acts are well-paced and are centred around the preparation and playing of the tenth Hunger Games. The third part snows Snow’s experience after the Games, wherein he is forced to join the military and work as a Peacekeeper in District 12.

 

This was by far my favourite of the three parts, however unfortunately it is also the most flawed. It was so rushed and fast paced that there isn’t much time for the viewer to connect themselves to the story, and it seems like whenever we get attached to a scene, we’re whisked off to the next stage. This is where the pacing of the film falls off, and I think it would have been much better if the first two acts, The Mentor and The Prize, were a single film and they spent the runtime of an entire second film exploring The Peacekeeper act. I’ve even heard some people say that this film would have worked better as a short television series.

 

A lot of the film was well shot and drew me into the tense and gritty atmosphere, and the film overall looked great, especially the scenes during the prologue of the film, and those at the end of the film during the third act. The director of photography for this film is Jo Willems, a frequent collaborator of Francis Lawrence, and the two also worked together on the last three hunger games among other projects.

The film score was awesome, and composed by the great James Newton Howard, known for his incredible music in films such as Unbreakable, The Dark Knight, and all of the previous Hunger Games movies. It was apparent to me in the opening scene that the score was going to be amazing throughout the film, and it’s one of my favourite soundtracks of the year so far, alongside The Creator, Oppenheimer, and Killers of the Flower Moon.

 

Overall, I enjoyed this film, however it was flawed and sometimes boring, but, as I’ve expressed, it had a lot of good qualities too. I think if you’re a Hunger Games fan you’ll be seeing this film regardless, but I wouldn’t suggest seeing this film if you weren’t a fan of the previous ones. As far as prequels are concerned, I’m glad we have more of backstory to President Snow’s character, although I would much rather have seen an origin story of Woody Harrelson’s character, Haymitch, and the story of how he won the second Quarter Quell. Perhaps this is something we might get in the future.

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