Who would have guessed that the Hunger Games franchise was going to pull a Star Wars on us? As announced last week, Suzanne Collins forthcoming novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is already set to become a movie over at Lionsgate. The story will center on an 18-year-old President Coriolanus Snow, long before Katniss Everdeen entered the picture and shook up the fabric of Panem’s totalitarian dictatorship.
From what we can see so far, the Hunger Games prequel could be all about how the bad guy became who he was. Anyone else hearing loud, muffled breathing down their neck? That was George Lucas’ move too when he decided to explore Darth Vader for The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The Star Wars prequels have remained controversial entries into the franchise that fans still argue about today. Still, there are elements of how Star Wars handled going back in time to tell the story of Anakin Skywalker that this upcoming Hunger Games entry may want to take note of.
Please Just Leave The Senate Meetings Out Of It
One common complaint that has brought down the image of the Star Wars prequels is how much time is spent with the characters in meeting rooms talking over trade disputes, voting on measures and so forth. Politics wasn’t really what made Star Wars great, it was the awesome lightsaber showdowns, the X-Wings and TIE fighters exploding around one another and so many other action-packed moments. It was seeing so many relationships with great chemistry, like the romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia, or R2-D2 and C-3PO acting like an old married couple, or Obi-Wan Kenobi’s epic pep talks to Luke about the Force.
In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, President Snow will not be in the position of leadership he is by The Hunger Games, but he will be a Hunger Games mentor at the 10th annual game, presumably before past victors like Haymitch would guide the tributes. There’s room here for Suzanne Collins to try and get into the nitty gritty of Capitol politics. The franchise does well when it comments on society, but please show us what’s going on through anything but government meetings. If that kind of thing was interesting to people, C-SPAN would be a lot more popular.
Enough With The Star-Crossed Love Story Already
A key element of the Star Wars prequels is the romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala, which would ultimatel result in bringing Luke and Leia into the galaxy. I get it, in the instance of Anakin’s origin story, there had to be some kind of love story to justify how the Skywalker twins were separated. But no one’s ever going to walk away from a romance about a villain as big as Darth Vader and think “Aw, they are so cute!” Placing a focus on the love story between Anakin and Padmé invited a kind a Romeo and Juliet situation into the franchise that everyone knew wasn’t going to end happily.
Moving into The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I see an opportunity for Suzanne Collins to pen a romance between a young Snow and the District 12 tribute he must mentor through the 10th Hunger Games. There’s some interesting tension there with a setup like that, and showing that a villain can love is a popular way for storytellers to get audiences on their side. But now that Star Wars has done it, the Hunger Games prequel can just skip out on that plot point, okay? Another villain's backstory being all about star-crossed love has been overdone.
There Are Opportunities For World Building Greatness
One of the great strengths of the Star Wars prequels is how it was able to build the world established in the original films in some really interesting ways that expanded into later films and television shows. The prequels gave fans an insight into the upbringing of Darth Vader and his partnership with Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as younger versions of Yoda, R2-D2, C-3PO and Emperor Palpatine. The trilogy also created some iconic moments for the franchise, such as The Phantom Menace’s Duel of the Fates sequence with Darth Maul and Anakin and Obi-Wan’s fiery showdown in Revenge of the Sith.
The point here is because The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a Hunger Games prequel, it can absolutely carve its own place in the franchise that strikes a balance between answering the many question fans have had since Mockingjay concluded the series and offering something completely new to the world that has been established. The Hunger Games prequel is already set in a completely different time in Panem, as it will take place not long after the First Rebellion and at a time when the Hunger Games were still relatively new.
Let’s Not Drag It Out Into A Trilogy
In recent years, there’s this idea in Hollywood that if a franchise with a big name is going to happen, it needs to be at least three movies and dragged out over years of anticipation. Hunger Games did it with its trilogy of books, but split up its final tale into two parts to squeeze as much out of the franchise as possible (a move the Twilight series had done prior). As we move into the making of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the three movie adaptation of J.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit into three massive movies by Peter Jackson also comes to mind.
It’s a model that has obviously made studios money over the years, and there could be a temptation to go that route with this Hunger Games prequel. But could Anakin Skywalker’s story have benefitted from a tightened storyline? Granted, that was Star Wars, and fans had the stomach to go on the journey back in the day. But for President Snow, a standalone story about his origins as an 18-year-old might be the perfect way to go about a Hunger Games prequel… and just stop there. If it's successful enough, the franchise could explore another storyline in the universe. But I really don’t think three movies on the formation of a dictator is necessary after seeing Star Wars.
We'll have a lot more to talk about on the future of Hunger Games on the big screen once The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes hits bookshelves on May 19. Stay tuned for updates here on CinemaBlend.