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A girl stands in a blown-apart arena in this image from Lionsgate Films.
Everyone is looking out for themselves. (Image: Lionsgate Films)

The dystopian world of Panem caught the attention of book fans and movie buffs when the first movie of “The Hunger Games” series premiered in 2012. The films elevated actors Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth into stardom. Like every epic story, we wanted to know how Panem and the Hunger Games all began, and author Suzanne Collins gave us the prequel novel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” in 2020.

I recently read the prequel, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the film adaptation follows the book. Ever since “Mockingjay Part 2” was released in 2015, I’ve been meaning to dive back into this world, especially since the whole film franchise started streaming on Netflix earlier this year (but has recently been removed from the streamer).

Fans, including me, are ready for the next installment. If you haven’t read the prequel but want to know what the film will cover and more, here’s everything to know about “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

Check out our video below:

What’s the History of the Hunger Games?

A group of people set before a display of TV screens in this image from Lionsgate Films.
The Hunger Games have been deadly from the beginning. (Image: Lionsgate Films)

Panem consists of the Capitol and 12 Districts — technically 13, but District 13 was blown up during the war. The Capitol has always held control and ruled over the Districts. When rebels rose up and fought back, a war ensued for three years before the Capitol gained control once more. The result of this war? The Hunger Games.

Each year, every District has to supply one female and one male tribute for a battle royale. Children and teenagers are chosen at random from a name drawing for the games. Some believe the Hunger Games are a punishment for rebelling, and others think they’re meant to reinforce who’s in charge.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” occurs during the 10th Hunger Games. The war is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and the gamemakers are still perfecting the games. Unlike the Hunger Games that take place in the original series, the games weren’t broadcast on television, and citizens weren’t able to send gifts to tributes in the arena — these details are what make the Hunger Games in “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” more intriguing and high stakes.

What’s ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ About?

A woman with red rubber gloves claps excitedly in this image from Lionsgate Films.
There’s an evident struggle between power and romance throughout the story. (Image: Lionsgate Films)

The prequel will give “The Hunger Games” fans a glimpse into the war that brought about the Hunger Games in the first place and answer many questions they may have had after watching the original film series. “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” takes place 64 years before Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers as tribute.

The storyline will follow a young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) before he becomes president of Panem. During his last year of school, he’s one of the few students at the academy chosen to mentor a tribute through the games. He’s paired with the District 12 female tribute, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler). At first, he only wishes to win and move up the ranks within the Capitol, earning a chance at grant money to attend University. Meanwhile, Lucy relies on him to help her survive the games. The two become attached and romantically involved.

Coriolanus’ ambitions grow and change throughout the games. All the while, he’s privy to behind-the-scenes information due to his mentor status. It’s no surprise, then, that the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Gaul (Viola Davis), takes a keen interest in him.

Where Did ‘The Hanging Tree’ Song Come From?

A man in a red suit gives a white rose to a girl in this image from Lionsgate Films.
We finally learn why Snow (Tom Blyth) is obsessed with roses. (Image: Lionsgate Films)

If you remember “The Hanging Tree” song from when Katniss sang it as an act of rebellion in “The Hunger Games,” you probably wondered about its origins. “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” reveals the song’s conception and original meaning. I’m stoked that this quintessential song will make a comeback in the prequel because I’ve been wondering for the longest time where it came from and what the lore behind it was.

Music plays a large part in this movie, as it’s Lucy’s profession in District 12. She uses it to her advantage to become a likable tribute in the games. Not only does Lucy sing, but she also pens her own songs, including “The Hanging Tree.” Throughout the story — at least in the books and, I hope, in the movie — Lucy sings to get through tough times, and Coriolanus clings to her music, reading between the lines.

Who’s in ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?’

 A woman holds a snake to the horror of two students in this image from Lionsgate.
Cruelty comes in all shapes and sizes. (Image: Lionsgate Films)

“The Hunger Games” fans will recognize some familiar character names. Of course, there’s Coriolanus Snow, who eventually becomes the tyrannical President Snow (with a pristine beard). There’s Snow’s cousin, Tigris (Hunter Schafer), who appears as the much-altered woman in “Mockingjay Part 2.” Before Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), there was his ancestor, Lucky Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman), the first-ever host of the televised event.

We’ll also meet new faces, such as Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera), who’s Snow’s best friend and a moral compass. Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage) seems to have a personal vendetta against the Snows. Then there’s Head Gamemaker, Dr. Gaul (Davis), who’s known for being particularly cruel, doing what she wants, and breeding toxic mutations in her underground laboratory.

Will the Film Stay True to the Novel?

A woman in a velvet dressing gown in this image from Lionsgate Films.
Even the Snows have a rags-to-riches story. (Image: Lionsgate Films)

There’s a lot to be excited about with this installment of “The Hunger Games.” Although the costuming won’t be as over the top as it is in the other movies, it will still play a key role in the storyline. The divide between the haves and have-nots after the war is stark. The Snows were once a well-to-do family that have fallen on hard times, and they try to hide this fact from the outside world as much as possible. Tigris is a student of fashion and frequently comes to Coriolanus’ rescue. I hope to see this theme throughout the movie.

Like many fans, I’m mainly excited to see how everything began, from the war to the Hunger Games to Snow’s rise to power. Plus, seeing the mutation laboratory and mutts up close will be interesting. Collins uses in-depth descriptions regarding the mutations, and the laboratory will allow audiences to see the mutts in better detail than in the original film, when the mutts were running rampant in the arena.

When Will the Film Be Released? Is There a Trailer? Where Can I Watch the Original ‘The Hunger Games’ Films?

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” hits theaters on Nov. 17 and is worth seeing on the big screen. If you need a refresher on “The Hunger Games,” all four movies are available to stream on Peacock and for purchase or rental on Amazon Prime Video.

Watch the trailer:

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