Film production may be shuttered due to the spread of COVID-19, but a new addition to the Hunger Games franchise is in the works, according to Entertainment Weekly. Suzanne Collins’ upcoming Hunger Games prequel, titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, will get the big screen treatment as soon as it is able to — and the plot is worth an examination.
The Hunger Games trilogy, of which there are three books and four films, stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, a teen who volunteers to compete in a televised, gladiator-style game in order to spare her sister Prim (Willow Shields). In fighting for survival, Katniss becomes a reluctant freedom fighter, inspiring the oppressed “districts” under the tyrannical rule of President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland).
It’s President Snow whom the new novel and subsequent film, to be helmed by Catching Fire and both Mockingjay films director Francis Lawrence, will focus on. In Songbirds and Snakes, Snow, a Capitol native, is 18. Though his once-wealthy family has fallen on difficult times, he is a high-ranking student and asked to mentor one of the tributes for the upcoming Hunger Games. He’s disappointed to find his mentee is a woman from District 12, one of the poorest, and least successful districts in the Hunger Games. It also just so happens to be the district where Katniss hails from — suggesting that young women from District 12 are typically problematic for Panem’s future leader.
Plot-wise, not much else is known about Songbirds and Snakes, but Entertainment Weekly published an excerpt from the novel earlier this year that paints Snow as a resentful teen ready to claim what he believes to be entitled to. Given that Snow ultimately becomes a murderer, Songbirds and Snakes likely won’t be the inspiring tale of rebellion in the face of authoritarianism The Hunger Games was for many. For this reason, many fans of the original series were concerned that the book may paint Snow in too sympathetic a light, given that he is the protagonist of the novel.
Then again, maybe there’s more to Snow’s story — in that it’s more than just his. It can’t be a coincidence that Snow teams up with a District 12 girl, when he spends his twilight years fighting a losing battle to Katniss. Songbirds and Snakes may be a prequel to The Hunger Games, but it likely will fall right in line with its message thematically, and there must be a reason why author Collins saw this point in Snow’s life as important to explore within the context of Katniss’ tale.
This moment in Snow’s life may be where the seeds of district rebellion were planted — if Snow was able to snuff them out back then, at least we know he won’t years down the line. The upcoming movie may not be Snow’s film after all.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will hit bookstores on May 19, 2020.