Lionsgate is officially inviting audiences back to Panem for “The Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents,” a prequel set in the “Hunger Games” universe.
Finally, the odds were still in favor of CinemaCon viewers on Thursday, as attendees of the annual Theater Owners Show were treated to the first spinoff story teaser. At last year’s convention, the studio only brought a short clip (without footage or even a cast list) of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents,” which left a lot to be desired. .
The trailer begins with Viola Davis, who plays game boss Volumnia Gaul, introducing “the creators of the Hunger Games themselves.” But there’s a change to this year’s dystopian event, warns Academy Dean Casca Highbottom.
“As a mentor,” says Highbottom, “Your job is to turn these people into shows, not survivors.”
Based on the most recent novel by ‘Hunger Games’ author Suzanne Collins, ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents’ is set decades – 64 years, to be precise – before the adventures of Katniss Everdeen, which were immortalized on screen by Jennifer Lawrence.
In the new film, a young Coriolanus Snow (who would eventually become the tyrannical President of Panem) takes center stage as he is chosen to mentor an impoverished tribute named Lucy Gray Baird during the 10th Hunger Games. For anyone who needs a refresher, the Hunger Games is a televised event in which teenagers are chosen by lottery to fight to the death.
In the novel, modest Lucy Gray attracts everyone’s attention by singing at the harvest ceremony. With his skill and charm, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the tide in their favor to win the matches.
“Do you really want to take care of me in this area?” Start believing that I can actually win,” Lucy tells her mentor.
The trailer doesn’t include any footage of Lucy’s singing talent, but offers a dark look at familiar canon as the homages find themselves in perhaps the worst version of hunt or be hunted.
“What’s going on in there…” said Volumnia Gaul of Davis, “see how fast civilization is disappearing?”
The film stars “The Gilded Age” actor Tom Blyth, who plays Snow, and “West Side Story” star Rachel Zegler, who plays Baird. Other cast members include Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage, and Davis.
Francis Lawrence returned to direct ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’, having directed three of the franchise’s previous installments, ‘Catching Fire’, ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ and ‘Mockingjay – Part 2’. Michael Lesslie wrote the screenplay. The prequel story debuts in theaters on November 17.
Lionsgate director Adam Fogelson introduced the clip and spoke of the film’s “massive fan base”, who he said “couldn’t be more engaged or excited for this next chapter”.
“We talk about it a bit like how ‘Wicked’ is set in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ universe or ‘Episode One’ in the ‘Star Wars’ universe,” he said. “Fans want to know the origin of this beloved story.”
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