The Hunger Games: 10 Things the Original Movies Do Better Than the Prequel

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes tells the story of a young President Snow before he was ever placed in office. As a villain’s original story, the movie unfolds as young adult Coriolanus Snow embarks on a mission to win the Plinth Prize and bring some semblance of pride back to his family years after his father’s death. Before previous Victors mentored the incoming Tributes, the responsibility fell to students, such as Coriolanus and his peers, to prepare the Tributes for the upcoming death match. But, was Coriolanus Snow always the evil tyrant he is as an adult? His younger self initially starts, while still selfish, with the capability to feel concern for others, Lucy Gray Baird, District 12’s Tribute, included.

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But, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes does not have the same excitement that comes from the four original films in The Hunger Games franchise. The story of Katniss Everdeen, the face of a revolution finally coming to fruition, is a far more developed, fleshed-out, and thrilling tale. Katniss’ relationships with characters such as Peeta, Haymitch, and Gale offer her the chance to face different perspectives on war, peace, and what a hopeful future looks like. The story itself of fighting against the corrupt and oppressive government is also a far easier one to get behind in comparison to The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

Read Our Review of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

10 An Empathetic Main Character

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Coriolanus Snow is the main character. The downfall of this is already knowing precisely who Coriolanus Snow grows up to become, and the satisfaction that comes from his death as an older adult. He is difficult to root for because the audience already knows who he is, and what he stands for.

Katniss Is an Easier Character to Root For

Katniss comes from one of the poorest areas in all the Districts. From the moment Katniss volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the Arena, the audience is behind her. A selfless decision from the beginning, all about protecting those around her, allows her to become someone significant in the eyes of the viewers. Katniss’ motivations to protect her loved ones are clear. Katniss is the more exciting protagonist in comparison to Lucy Gray Baird as well. While Lucy has no specific survival skills and instead helps turn the Hunger Games into a show, Katniss is a survivor, desperate to help her family. She is more developed, has more fascinating relationships, and is someone whose frustration at the messy world she lives in is something the audience empathizes with.

9 Developing the Tributes

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the Tributes are nothing but set dressing. In a movie that features the Hunger Games, the Games need to be shown. However, other than Lucy Gray, everyone else is there just for the sake of showing a death match. For the most part, their lives are short, and the movie does not spend enough time on most of them to have a legitimate emotional response to their deaths other than being horrified by how they died, or sad they were killed, which was expected anyway.

Tributes Get More Time to be Recognized Individually

In The Hunger Games, the rest of the Tributes are mostly there to highlight the horrors of the children’s bloodbath. However, in this case, due to training sessions, interviews, and showing the Tributes interacting with each other in the Arena, there is a better chance of understanding more of them. Katniss and Rue’s short-lived alliance gives better insight not only into who Rue is as a person but how District 11 responds to her untimely death. Explaining the Careers and their repeated partnership helps to understand why a Tribute from one of those Districts usually wins, and why the Capitol tends to root for them the most. Even following the same route in Catching Fire gives the audience a better chance to learn more about the previous Victors and how they fit into the growing rebellion against the Capitol.

8 Financial Differences Between the Capitol and Districts

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, even though Coriolanus and Tigris live in the Capitol, they are still poor. Snow’s entire motivation surrounds wanting to place himself and his family in better financial circumstances. They have no real money or power, and the Capitol as a whole, while still richer than the Districts, has not grown into what it will become in the future.

There Is a Glaring Financial Gap

But, by the time Katniss and Peeta are brought to the Capitol, everything from the train to the rooms they are given and the headquarters to watch over the Hunger Games feels like a massive technological advance, and it would, given the 60-year time jump. Still, in the original movies, there is never a hint that anyone in the Capitol understands what it means to be poor. Instead, from the way it is shown, everyone in the Capitol has more than enough food and clothes to go around, while the Districts are begging for scraps at any possible time. Gale’s hatred toward the Capitol, or anyone shown to be richer in any circumstance, is given a stronger foothold in the original series, where everyone in the Capitol appears to be grossly rich and without fear of starvation.

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7 The Games Themselves

The 10th annual Hunger Games is nothing to get excited about. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes basically throws the Tributes into a room, shuts the door, and tells them to fight it out. There is no real chance to survive, and it is basically as if the event never gets the chance to expand beyond the Cornucopia’s initial bloodbath.

The Games Become Far More Involved

To be fair, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes does introduce the beginnings of what The Hunger Games would grow to become, such as interviewing the Tributes and the introduction of Jabber Jays. However, in The Hunger Games, the games themselves are the main event rather than the subplot. Katniss’ strive to survive, and everything that comes with it, is at the forefront of the plot. Everything from the opening ceremony to putting on a show for the Capitol to the actual fighting among the trees all captures the horrors and devastation that come with what this world is all about. There is far more emotion devoted to the Tributes, the highs, and the lows of the Hunger Games, and being engaged by how the Tributes go about trying to survive or killing each other.

6 Showing More of the Districts

Most of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place either in the Capitol or District 12. There is not much of any other District that gets shown, and they are basically considered irrelevant to the plot. While Lucy Gray does show a lot of District 12, including the meadows, the movies still mostly ignore the appearance of the other eleven Districts.

The Original Films Show More of Them

Due to Katniss and Peeta’s Victory Tour, they get to visit each District. Although the films do not show much of every District, they are still getting an opportunity to show the audience more of the world. When the film cuts away from the Arena to focus on the District’s responses to the events unfolding, it gives a better chance to understand the growing rebellion among the people growing tired of watching innocent children die every year. District 11’s riot following Rue’s death is an insight that shows the devastation of the Hunger Games themselves, and the emotional reactions that the Panem citizens have towards it.

5 The Love Story

Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray’s love story is actually a fairly surface one. It is never shown how she grows to love him, and it is never entirely convincing that he is in love with her in a healthy way. While the movie removes the obsessive and possessive nature that Snow has in regard to Lucy Gray, it still does this love story no favors, and when Lucy Gray abandons Coriolanus, it does not feel as if she is sacrificing some grand love to escape a potentially dangerous man.

Katniss and Peeta’s Romance Is Far More Interesting

Katniss has no plans to actually fall in love with Peeta at first. She is completely unaware of his feelings for her until he broadcasts them to the entire country. Initially, Katniss is just horrified that she may have to watch the boy who saved her life die. Still, when they are forced to take on the star-crossed-lovers storyline for the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta’s lives become forever intertwined. Katniss grows to love and rely on Peeta. Their relationship goes all over the place, as they must understand the line between what is real and what is fake for the cameras. Their forced separation and deadly reunion in Mockingjay: Part 1, after Katniss spends their entire reunion desperate to see him again, is devastating. Growing back together shows the duo getting back on the same page.

4 The Mentor/Tribute Relationship

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Capitol residents are meant to mentor the Tributes in the best way to put on a show to create a Victor. It gives Snow the chance to fall in love with Lucy Gray. However, none of the Capitol members can truly prepare the Tributes because they do not fully understand the emotional stakes, having never been forced to unwillingly fight for their lives before.

Making the Mentor a Victor Gives it More Substance

Haymitch being a Victor, even if he was also horribly drunk at first, still gives him a better mental and emotional understanding of what Katniss and Peeta are feeling toward entering the Hunger Games, and the same could be said about any other Victor mentor, including Finnick or Johanna. Haymitch’s advice on how to survive is far more meaningful than the words of a Capitol member who has never stepped foot in the Arena or truly understands the horror of how it feels to be placed in that situation, or the trauma that follows being a Victor. The Hunger Games allows Haymitch to be there for Katniss and Peeta beyond the Arena and in such a way that he is there for them in the Arena and when dealing with the public and trying to protect them from President Snow.

RELATED: 10 Incredibly Underappreciated Characters in The Hunger Games Universe

3 The Stakes

There are not any real stakes in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Snow’s family’s ability to be more financially compensated is on the line, but that is not really that important in the grand scheme of sending children into the Arena. Knowing how things end for President Snow as an adult already is enough proof that there is not much this prequel can add that can create stakes that contradict what occurs in the future.

Peeta’s Desire to Not Have the Capitol Change Him Is Significant

Before Peeta and Katniss enter the Arena, Peeta states that he does not want to become a piece in the Capitol’s game. Later on, Peeta is hijacked, literally forced to become a monster to Katniss, and a completely different person from the one Katniss had last seen during the Quarter Quell. The stakes toward what the Capitol is willing to do to others, such as destroy District 12 to punish Katniss or President Coin and Gale’s willingness to deliver a bomb to kill their own people if it means winning the war, highlight how the stakes are not just surviving the Hunger Games themselves or winning the rebellion, but a sense of self and values are also at stake, showing how far people are willing to go to get the job done.

2 The Revolution

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes shows a brief opening that portrays the Dark Days three years before the first Annual Hunger Games. It was meant to show the Capitol’s perspective and an attempt to create sympathy for those who are the villains of the story. But, from the Capitol’s perspective, they are the victims. Still, they do not describe what led to the rebellion or show how the Hunger Games were created, even though there is a reference to their invention in the film.

A Rising Rebellion Is Satisfying

But, in the original The Hunger Games movies, portraying the rising revolution from the perspective of Katniss and the residents of other Districts, gives it far more heart, soul, and substance. Katniss creates hope for others, and their rising for her as a beacon of hope offers a distinct sense of important change. Finally, the Capitol’s reign of terror will end, and the remaining survivors can create a new and better world. Of course, not everyone survives the war, and sadly, that includes Prim, whom Katniss had risked it all to save in the first place. Still, it also offers a look at how even a rebellion leader can allow themselves to become corrupt and hungry for power, such as President Coin, which is where Katniss’ decision to kill her, effectively destroys her chances of hurting the country even further while allowing Snow to die at the hands of the angry citizens, portrays the importance of securing a better world.

1 Evolving the Story

To its credit, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes does a lot to tease as to how The Hunger Games was not always how the original films portrayed it and does work to hint toward the steps taken that eventually transform it into the spectacle it eventually becomes. The use of Jabber Jays and interviewing the Tributes to get the Capitol invested in these people are given first glimpses of how they eventually grow into a larger spectacle.

The Hunger Games Is a Finished Product

By the time Katniss volunteers and Peeta is reaped, the Hunger Games are what the audience knows them to be. Yet, there is still time and space to show how the story is still evolving through showing what it means to be a Victor. The differences in what being a Tribute and a Victor means in the 60-year time jump is fascinating, as it appears that it originally means practically nothing, but in the future, is deemed to be considered one of the Capitol’s highest honors. The revolution gains support immediately due to the world’s circumstances. The Hunger Games does not give the viewers a single real reason to root for the Capitol, and the novels offer even less. The world is fully established and developed, and the horrors of what it is capable of are on full display.

Stream The Hunger Games on Starz.

Stream Catching Fire on DIRECTV.

Stream Mockingjay: Part 1 on Starz.

Stream Mockinjay: Part 2 on Starz.

Rent The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes on Apple TV+.

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