The prequel novel to the hit YA series “The Hunger Games” is being developed into a movie.
It’s been six years since the last movie installment of the science-fiction series was released in theaters.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” (2015) was the culmination of a four-film franchise based on Suzanne Collins’ beloved YA trilogy about a girl, Katniss Everdeen, who inspires a revolution that destroys an oppressive futuristic class system.
In 2020, Collins added to the novel series with a prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” which focused on the original series’ main antagonist, President Snow.
Despite complaints from fans about the decision to focus a book on the villainous dictator, a movie adaptation of the controversial prequel is moving forward at Lionsgate, which also released the original four films.
Deadline reported in August last year that production will start in 2022. Lionsgate announced during its 2023 CinemaCon presentation that the movie is slated to come out on Nov. 17, 2023, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming “Hunger Games” prequel movie.
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” follows the villain of the original series, President Snow in his teen years, when he’s tasked with mentoring a tribute from District 12.
There’s been no shortage of “origin story” films that aim to give a backstory to established villains in recent years, from Disney’s “Cruella” to Warner Bros.’ “Joker.”
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” does the same by focusing on the dictator in the original “Hunger Games” series, President Snow.
The book focuses on 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow who is trying to seek fortune for his family by becoming a mentor in the 10th annual Hunger Games. He thinks his hopes are shot when he’s forced to mentor Lucy Gray, the tribute from the country’s poorest District 12, until he sees how promising she turns out to be and plots to help her win.
According to THR, the official movie synopsis reads: “In this return to ‘The Hunger Games,’ years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow sees a chance for a change in fortunes when he is chosen to be a mentor to Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12.”
But the story doesn’t humanize him.
Fans of the original series pushed back before the prequel’s release, arguing that the book may have attempted to make readers sympathize with the fascist leader. Aiden Thomas, the author of New York Times Bestseller “Cemetery Boys,” wrote on Twitter: “the very last thing i’m interested in is humanizing a fascist dictator because he has a ~tragic past~”
However, there ultimately wasn’t much in the way of sympathizing with Snow in the prequel; Collins instead shows readers how Snow was just as cruel as a teen.
If you’re worried that “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” attempts to somehow redeem the character by giving him a tragic backstory (à la Anakin Skywalker in the “Star Wars” prequels), don’t be. In his mind he might be a hero fighting to save Lucy Gray, but Collins makes it abundantly clear that Snow is a cold, ruthless teenager well on his way to becoming the cruel tyrant we first meet in “The Hunger Games.”
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is set 64 years before the first “Hunger Games” book and shows a darker, more brutal Hunger Games.
The original series is set in a futuristic dystopia where a country is split into class-based districts and Katniss Everdeen, a girl from the poorest district, overcomes all odds to inspire a revolution that ultimately destroys the old order.
In “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” we see the earlier days of the 12 districts and the Capitol, 64 years before the events of the original trilogy.
This was a couple of years after the war that put the Capitol in charge, hence the Hunger Games of this book is a lot more simple and brutal than the elaborate and sophisticated event we see in the original series.
In addition to mentoring Lucy Gray, teen Snow is also enlisted to help come up with ideas for “improving” the twisted battle royale — ultimately showing how he helped shape it into the spectacle it is by the time Katniss and Peeta are thrust into the fray 64 years later.
The director of the first four “Hunger Games” movies is set to return to direct “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” No casting announcements have been made yet.
None of the actors from the original movie series are expected to return for the series’ prequel unless the adaptation makes major changes from the novel.
While the novel makes references to “The Hunger Games” trilogy, only Snow’s older cousin, Tigris, appears in the book. That’s because, set 64 years before the original novels, none of those characters are even close to being born yet.
Even Donald Sutherland, who plays Snow in the movie series, may not reprise his role because “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” only focuses on one year when Snow was a teenager. There are no casting announcements for the movie, so we don’t know yet who will star as the younger version of Snow.
However, behind the scenes, Lionsgate said that Francis Lawrence, the director of the original films, will return to direct the prequel, and franchise producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpsons are returning.
Deadline reported that Collins will write the film’s treatment while Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt will write the screenplay. Arndt had also served as a writer on “Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” British writer Michael Lesslie is also a writer for the moving, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
By Ayomikun Adekaiyero