Suzanne Collins‘ The Hunger Games prequel is finally being released this year, and Lionsgate is already poised to turn it into a movie. The original trilogy began with the 74th annual Hunger Games, but this story is set 64 years before that – ten years into the Capitol of Panem’s oppressive rule, which is driven by murderous, nationally televised games where children murder each other.
Now we know who the protagonist of this prequel story will be, and…well, it’s a choice. The new novel, which is entitled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, will follow a heroic young version of Coriolanus Snow – the same man who eventually becomes President Snow, the tyrannical leader of Panem and primary villain of the Katniss Everdeen trilogy.
Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt from the forthcoming book, and the outlet refers to Snow as the new protagonist, “a teenager born to privilege but searching for something more, a far cry from the man we know he will become. Here, he’s friendly. He’s charming. And, for now anyway, he’s a hero.”
Stories which humanize popular villains seem to have become trendy in recent years – I’m thinking of things like Wicked, which tells the origin story of The Wizard of Oz‘s Wicked Witch of the West, and Maleficent, which complicates the Sleeping Beauty villain’s backstory. So while this approach isn’t exactly new, it’s tough to think of one that has so explicitly humanized an oppressive government leader. It’s baffling how Collins could look at the roster of characters she created in the original Hunger Games trilogy, and then actively decide to make her chief villain a hero. It’d be like someone who has chronicled the chaos of our current political moment deciding to write a story in which a young Donald Trump is depicted as the hero. Could it be dramatically interesting? Sure. But would I ever want to sit down and read it? Hell no.
I was listening to a podcast recently (forgive me, I can’t recall which one) that was suggesting that The Hunger Games may have been the biggest film franchise of the 2010s which has subsequently left little to no culture footprint. I think that may be true: the hype around those movies was huge at the time, but looking back on it, it seems evident that most of that hype was actually invested in rising star Jennifer Lawrence instead of the actual story being told across the four-movie saga. Time will tell if audiences are truly interested in returning to a cinematic version of Panem, especially through a story which a privileged rich version of the original story’s villain is presented as a sympathetic hero.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set to hit shelves on May 19, 2020, and we expect a movie version to arrive sometime in the next year or two.
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