The prequel to the Hunger Games franchise, Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Songbirds), had a semi-successful theatrical run over the holidays and has now found its way to home streaming. The film stars Rachel Zegler as ‘covy’ (traveling folk singer) and Hunger Games tribute, Lucy Gray Baird. Zegler has made a lot of waves recently with both conservative and liberal film lovers for making rude comments about the source material for her upcoming role in the Disney produced live-action Snow White. Zegler suggested that the original Snow White was dated and that the prince was a “stalker” of Snow and that the new movie would be better because it’s not a love story. Conservatives were angered at the rejection of tradition and lore and liberals and feminists pointed out that her talking points were pretty shallow and dusty. Plenty of Princess movies in modern times have nothing to do with a love story and also its okay for strong women to receive help from strong men. Zegler has done herself no favors since the incident by posting self-pitying videos refusing to accept responsibility for her gaffes and blaming the world for her less-than-popular status.
Zegler’s personality as a 22 year-old hollywood starlet does not per se transfer onto the screen. Plenty of artists have bad opinions and bad attitudes but still create wonderful work. How does this play out in Songbirds?
The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Overall Rating: Good
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Songbirds) had a lot to live up to considering its widely beloved predecessor the Hunger Games franchise. Songbirds source material was not as straightforward as the original franchise novels but the film manages to adapt the story into an action-adventure/villain origins story which captures audience attention easily and keeps them wanting more of the story of Panem.
While Lucy Gray Baird is no Katniss Everdeen, there is plenty for audiences to root for against the tyranny of Capitol rule and watching Coriolanus Snow find his ambitious and cutthroat roots is intriguing for the sake of the story and for the sake of human study.
About a firm fisted government attempting to rule its people through control, oppression and violence, Songbirds, like the Hunger Games presents a distrust of centralized government including concepts like gun control and food regulation. It heavily favors rural life and working class citizens over academic elites and cities. It is all very right wing.
Overall, Songbirds is a good movie worth watching for fans of the originals or for those new to the Panem storyline.
Is it entertaining?
The movie features political intrigue as well as heavy physical action. There are murders and fights both inside and outside the actual arena for the Hunger Games itself. Though it is not a musical, the character Lucy Gray is by trade a folk singer and frequently sings as part of the plot of the movie which also serves as increased entertainment value. There are no notable slow downs, though, some sequencing could have been altered to keep the story a little more mysterious.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Very well done
Songbirds is well made. It is not as good as the original franchise and it would have been very difficult to live up to the standard. The costumes are above par in the current movie marketplace but they are not as innovative as the original films (largely because they had to base their aesthetic choices off the already established world the original films created). The music in the film is objectively good and all originally done but once again it does not live up to the innovation of the first franchise which featured bands like the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Civil Wars and truly bone chilling work by Kid Cudi.
The performances are steller (not to beat a dead horse, still not as good as the originals where Jennifer Lawrence gave career best performances). Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) as Lucy Gray is believable and charming and she has the voice of an angel. Her unspecifically folksy accent isn’t great in spoken word but in song it is both believable and beautiful. Tom Blyth made a triumphant entrance into the mainstream film world as future President Snow. His performance is phenomenal and he manages to capture the core evil of the character while somehow making audiences root for him through most of the story. Josh Andres Rivera (West Side Story) as Sejanus Plinth is the moral center and he does it really well making the character righteous but not self-righteous. Veterans Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Viola Davis (The Help) give credibility to the young cast. And lastly, though she does not have much screen time, Sofia Sanchez as Hunger Game tribute, Wovey, provides the film with an emotional core it might not have without her. She delivers a short set of powerful lines at a climactic moment which gives true emotion to an otherwise fantastical situation.
Overall, the movie is a well filmed and artistically envisioned dystopia which is brought to life by a very talented group of performers.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Right wing
The best thing about Songbirds is how conservative it really is. The Hunger Games story is also this way. The story of the Capital and Panem is that a bunch of rich elitists oppressed the people producing most of the food and energy until they rose up in a violent rebellion which they ultimately lost because while they produced all the food and energy they were outnumbered and outgunned by the big city elite.
After they lose the rebellion, the Capital (the rich city people) punish the rebels by creating the Hunger Games which chooses two children from each district (like bigger states) to fight to the death against each other.
So now the dystopian world created features heroes in rural settings. Individuals who reject the power of the central government. Who operate in the gray and black markets keeping guns they’re not supposed to have and trading goods they aren’t supposed to trade. Resistance to the central government and hatred of academic elitism as well as the media is celebrated throughout the film.
It is a very right wing message and definitely conservative propaganda.