The Hunger Games is “On Fire” Right Now: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

A brief book review and everything you need to know about the upcoming movie


Murray Close

Rachel Zegler to play Lucy Gray Baird and Tom Blyth as young Coriolanus Snow in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Caoilainn Bischoff, Writer

Teaser poster for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Lionsgate)

If you’ve been on TikTok over the past couple of months, there’s a good chance you’ve scrolled past some Hunger Games-related content. It seems that our Hunger Games phases never have, and never will, end. With the trilogy trending on TikTok and the release of new trailers for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, The Hunger Games franchise is hugely relevant right now.

Three years ago, author Suzanne Collins thrilled Hunger Games fans with a riveting prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, published on May 19, 2020. The novel is a stark contrast to the wildly enjoyed dystopian trilogy and focuses on the origin story of Coriolanus Snow. In this bestselling spin-off, Collins lays out the history of the Games, weaving an intricate and thought-provoking account of how they came to be.

What’s more, is that a movie adaptation for the prequel is in the works and set to come out in November 2023. And about a month ago, Lionsgate Movies released the official trailer, exciting fans for the upcoming film. So, here’s everything you need to know about the novel (in case you forgot or didn’t read it), and what we know so far about the film:

Jennifer Lawrence starred as Katniss Everdeen in the first four Hunger Games adaptations (

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place during the 10th annual Hunger Games, 64 years prior to Katniss Everdeen’s story in The Hunger Games. Collins’ prequel sets the framework for the later Hunger Games world we know, and readers feel the weight of traveling back in time to a raw, immensely different yet equally captivating, Hunger Games. At the time, the Games are fundamentally different: the arena is a literal sports stadium, mentors are only just beginning to be assigned to tributes, and the Capitol doesn’t particularly enjoy the Games broadcasted throughout the country. The divide between people in the Capitol and districts is wide, and rich Capitol citizens do not express the same level of investment in the tributes as seen in the trilogy.

The original trilogy written by Suzanne Collins was a major young adult hit, selling over 100 million copies worldwide, according to Shondaland. (Mike Mozart)

Thus fits in the story of Coriolanus Snow, the future villain of The Hunger Games. Snow is a student at the Academy (a high school for the Capitol elite) tasked with guiding a tribute throughout the Games to pique interest and develop an appearance of unity between the Capitol and tributes. Snow, whose family was left in social and economic ruin after the war, is determined to restore his family name by leading his tribute to victory. However, when he is assigned Lucy Gray Baird from District 12, the idea seems overly ambitious. Poor and malnourished, Lucy Gray poses several challenges for Coriolanus—she’s unlikely to win, thus Snow is pushed to find innovative ways to better his tribute’s odds.

One of the strengths of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes lies in Collins’ ability to portray the complex nature of human morality. She challenges us to question the boundaries between right and wrong, as Coriolanus is forced to make difficult decisions and navigate a world where survival comes first. The culmination of an evil character is highly intriguing, especially as we see Snow’s soft side emerge in some parts of the novel. He was not always a villain as he is in The Hunger Games, and Collins explores his different sides, some of which are inherent to his character and others that are the result of the brutal reality of Collins’ fictional world.

Snow and Lucy Gray form an unexpected alliance to better their odds against survival and success—which leads to Snow’s battle with conflicting feelings regarding his mentee, as well as the line between good and evil (Murray Close)

Collins’ writing is as captivating as ever, seamlessly blending action, suspense, and political intrigue. She weaves together themes of power, class division, and the consequences of one’s choices, reminding us why the Hunger Games series became a phenomenon in the first place. However, it is worth noting that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has a different tone and pacing compared to its predecessors. While it delves into the darker aspects of human nature, it lacks some of the urgency and high-stakes intensity that outlined the original trilogy. Some may find its slower pace less engaging, especially if they are expecting the same level of ongoing action seen in the original Hunger Games novels.

So, who’s playing all these characters, and how long do we have to wait for the movie to come out?

Original Coriolanus Snow, Donald Sutherland, accepting the Crystal Nymph Award (Festival TV Monte-Carlo)

Up-and-coming Tom Blyth will replace Donald Sutherland (the original Coriolanus Snow) to play 18-year-old Snow. Blyth is known for his previous role as Glen Byam Shaw, in the 2021 historical drama, Benediction, as well as his characters in HBO’s The Gilded Age and Billy the Kid.

Meanwhile, Rachel Zegler will star as Lucy Gray Baird. Known for her talent in singing and acting, you may remember her as Maria from Steven Speilberg’s West Side Story (2021).

Another familiar face we’ll see in the film is Hunter Schafer from Euphoria, who will play a younger Tigris Snow (whose character appears in Mockingjay Part 2).

Look for other award-winning actors like Peter Dinklage (who’ll star as one of the founders of the Hunger Games, “Dean Casca Highbottom”) and Viola Davis (the villain of the film “Dr. Volumnia Gail,” head gamemaker).

Additionally, Francis Lawrence (who worked on Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1, and Mockingjay Part 2) will continue directing the series. Collins is also an executive producer, and the screenplay was written by Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt.

In terms of dates, the prequel started filming last July 2022 in London, and wrapped in early November 2022, according to Rachel Zegler. The release date for the film is set to be Friday, November 17th, 2023, and will be exclusively in theaters. Additionally, each of the Hunger Games films runs over two hours, so we can expect a similar length for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, if not longer than the original first four films.

A compelling addition to the Hunger Games series and the teen dystopian universe, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a thought-provoking exploration of the origins of a well-known, beloved series. Collins’ ability to create complex characters continues to shine through in this novel (and can be expected in the movie adaptation), and she effortlessly builds on her previous works through this elaborate origin story.