Those of us who read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins' President Snow-centric prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy, are in for a treat. Even more people are going to learn the story of Coriolanus and Lucy Gray Baird...and we get to see it played out on the big screen! For the nervous and/or excited book fans out there, here's how The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes film compares to the book. Be warned: there are spoilers ahead!
I am thrilled (?) to report that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is almost too faithful to the source material. It's wild how much watching it feels like cracking open the book. The film is even split up into three parts, just like the books, labeled "The Mentor," "The Prize," and "The Peacekeeper." I'm not that surprised. The Hunger Games is written in first person point of view, so it makes sense that the movie adaptations made changes to expand its perspective outside of Katniss' head. (I love her, but she's not the most reliable narrator. The movies made the right choice.) The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, on the other hand, is written in third person point of view. That's already more like watching a film, where you the reader/audience are an outside observer. So it was probably easier, IMHO, to adapt without making drastic changes.
That said, I know you're all itching to know what changes they did make. It's part of the fun! The book does have, like, more of everything–more time in the arena, more time spent with Coriolanus' class brainstorming how to get people to watch The Hunger Games, and more time chillaxing in District 12 once all is said and done. And here are a few of the more specific differences that stood out to me.
We see the "Dark Days" instead of just hearing about them
In the movie: The movie begins with a flashback to a very young Coriolanus and Tigris during the war between the Capitol and the districts. It shows us what it was like instead of tells us. We also see him learn that his father died in District 12. That is not specified in the book. This man truly has a laundry list of reasons to resent Katniss' hometown.
In the book: The book also makes it a little clearer that Snow's family lost their money because they owned a munitions factory in District 13. I doubt that was a necessary detail for the movie, but I geeked out when I read it in the book.
In the book: One of the most haunting parts of the book is when Dr. Gaul punishes Coriolanus' classmate for cheating on her homework by hospitalizing her. In the book, Coryo gets a glimpse of her condition. Later, a shaken Clemensia rejoins the group.
In the movie: She just kind of vanishes after the snake incident. Terrifying... especially given how Coriolanus ends up working with Gaul in the future! He really has no fear!
The drones cause some shenanigans in the arena
In the book: the mentors of the tenth Hunger Games try, for the first time, sending food and water to their tributes via drone.
In the movie: Call me crazy, but I think this is the biggest difference. The brand new drones are faulty and prone to crash. It's disappointing at first, because they can't really help out their mentees. Then, Coriolanus weaponizes the chaotic drones to his advantage in a last ditch effort to save Lucy Gray.
Lucy Gray is not present at the "The Hanging Tree"
In the book: Lucy Gray and Coriolanus are both present when the man who they say murdered three, infamously, is hanged. She then writes the iconic song, including his story.
In the movie: While we see the execution that the song is about, and later see Lucy Gray singing the song that will come back to haunt President Snow in 60 odd years, she's not present at said hanging. While it's definitely clear that the song is significant to Coriolanus, I wish it were like 5 percent more clear in the movie that Lucy Gray actually wrote it too.
We don't really get to know Maude Ivory
In the book: Coriolanus and Sejanus go to Lucy Gray's home and hang out with her "siblings" quite a bit.
In the movie: We spend less time with Lucy Gray's found family, the Covey. I'm assuming we'll see more of this, at least, in the deleted scenes. It's a shame, because Maude Ivory and her goat hinted at a connection to Katniss and Primrose Everdeen.
But we do see a little more Tigris, especially at the end
In the book: the epilogue is pretty much just Coriolanus' conversation with Dean Highbottom.
In the movie: We see him return to the Capitol and move his family to a better apartment, where Tigris and their grandmother have different takes on how Coryo has changed. Thank goodness for that! I'm always happy to see more from Hunter Schafer.
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