What are critics saying about The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird and Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Murray Close

The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes which takes place 64 years before Katniss Everdeen volunteered as tribute, and decades before Coriolanus Snow became the tyrannical President of Panem officially hits theaters in America this Friday and some select theaters as early as Thursday, but some lucky critics have already screened the film and are sharing their thoughts.

Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes follows a young Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) who is the last hope for his failing lineage, the once-proud Snow family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With his livelihood threatened, Snow is reluctantly assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a tribute from the impoverished District 12.

But after Lucy Gray’s charm captivates the audience of Panem, Snow sees an opportunity to shift their fates. With everything he has worked for hanging in the balance, Snow unites with Lucy Gray to turn the odds in their favor. Battling his instincts for both good and evil, Snow sets out on a race against time to survive and reveal if he will ultimately become a songbird or a snake.

As of writing this, Songbirds & Snakes is ranking a lukewarm 60% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 82 reviews. Nevertheless, the film is expected to take the #1 spot at the box office and projected to earn between $45-$55 million over the weekend, based on above-average advanced ticket sales.  

Here’s what top critics are saying:

Jake Coyle from the Associated Press said, “The Hunger Games kicked off a YA craze in film that had its ups and downs but petered out several years ago. Whether The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is enough to relight those embers remains to be seen, but it is a reminder how good a platform they offered young actors. It’s a ritual worth returning to.”

Brian Truitt from USA Today had this to say, “Imagine if The Phantom Menace was better than every episode of George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy. Kind of bonkers to think about, right? But that’s pretty much the situation with The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, an enticing blend of dystopian action epic and musical drama that surpasses the previous films starring Jennifer Lawrence.”

Peter Debruge from Variety declared, “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes feels like a natural extension of the saga, balancing blood sport, endangered young love and a heightened level of political commentary that respects the intelligence of young audiences as only Collins can. Her message is less about resisting fascism than recognizing how systems use entertainment to distract and manipulate the masses. But even within that critique, Collins leaves room for a soulful folk singer — the title’s metaphorical songbird — to serve as the voice of resistance.”

Chase Hutchinson from Seattle Times raved about Rachel Zegler’s performance, “Zegler exudes movie-star charisma in the role, believably commanding the audience with each song she sings. More than the well-directed action scenes, the moments when she silences the noise of the unfolding murder spectacle with her music are the standouts. Though there are strong supporting performances from Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis, and Jason Schwartzman, Zegler is the key. Even when the film itself starts to increasingly hit false notes, Zegler never does.”

Jordan Hoffman from The Messenger put it succinctly, “The lore of the Hunger Games is so wacky you simply have to respect it.”

Perri Nemiroff from Collider Video enjoyed the film, “Another rock solid addition to the film franchise. Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes loses some steam in the last chapter, but the first two are phenomenal, and the cast is on point. Tom Blyth excels playing a protagonist with a deteriorating moral compass.”

Of course, not every critic enjoyed the film and there are a few “rotten” reviews:

Michael Phillips from the Chicago Tribune said, “Songbirds and Snakes takes its job Super-seriously, with more solemnity than imaginative excitement.”

Tomris Laffly from TheWrap had this to say, “The taxing and bloated The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is the kind of film you will remember more for some of its individual scenes (and Trish Summerville’s dizzying array of impressive costumes), rather than its whole. The Hunger Games might be needed every year to show us who we truly are, as the deliciously icy Volumnia Gaul puts it in the film, but amid all its expensive spectacle, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” unlike the stellar predecessors of the series, feels curiously starved for real insights into the opposing shades of the human soul.”

Nick Schager from The Daily Beast wasn’t much of a fan, “With a title almost as cumbersome as the film itself, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes gives viewers more of the ridiculously named characters, absurd outfits and hairstyles, and child-murder tournaments that made the franchise a YA success. What it doesn’t deliver, however, is a center of attention with even one-tenth the charisma of original star Jennifer Lawrence, or a story of any significant consequence or suspense. A dreary and protracted (165 minutes!) prequel about how nefarious President Coriolanus Snow (previously played by Donald Sutherland) became evil, this rote affair would deserve the designation “for fans only,” if not for the sneaking suspicion that even they won’t be wowed by this return trip to Panem.”

David Rooney from Hollywood Reporter said, “If only there were something truly new and innovative about this chapter to fully justify resurrecting the Hunger Games franchise eight years after Mockingjay – Part 2. The intention to illuminate the political machinations of the Capitol and the importance of the games in maintaining the divide between the ruling class and the powerless plebs yields little beyond turgid gloom.”

Hanna Flint from Empire Magazine agreed, “It has a few laughs and some stylish outfits, but this is unfortunately a shallow prequel, one which fails to breathe new life into the Hunger Games franchise.”

Alonso Duralde from The Film Verdict said, “This tedious, overlong prequel sheds little new light on the Hunger Games universe, although Viola Davis and Jason Schwartzman camp it up with gusto.”

Watch the trailer here:


The film stars Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Peter Dinklage, Hunter Schafer, Josh Andrés

Rivera, Jason Schwartzman, and Viola Davis and is directed by Francis Lawrence. The screenplay is written by Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt based on the novel by Suzanne Collins. The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes is produced by Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, and Francis Lawrence and Executive Producers are Suzanne Collins, Mika Saito, Jim Miller, and Tim Palen

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