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The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes | Films | Entertainment

Here, the director of the final three films based on Suzanne Collins’s trilogy sticks with a winning formula with a tale set six decades before Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss was forced to fight for her life in the deadly reality TV show. It’s another heady mix of teen romance, glamorous frocks, dark comedy, gruesome slayings and social commentary.

The most original element is its unusual hero. Tom Blyth is dashing teenager Coriolanus Snow, the murderous despot played by Donald Sutherland in the original films.

As we know precisely how the lad turns out, it’s like trying to get us to root for a young Darth Vader. Star Wars fans know how well that one turned out.

Still, thanks to a glowering performance and some clever writing, Coryo (thankfully his nickname is taken from the first part of his name and not the last) makes a compelling lead character.

As the fascistic nation of Panem prepares for its 10th annual bloodbath, Coryo is about to graduate from the Capitol’s plummy military academy.

The Snows are a good family who have lost their fortune but Coryo is favourite to win a cash prize for best student.

Then, the headmaster (Peter Dinklage) changes the rules. The Hunger Games, where kids from poor districts fight to the death in an annual TV series, are in trouble. Last year, viewing figures were at a record low.

So, this year, the money will go to the greatest PR wizard.

Academy graduates will be judged on how much pizzazz they can bring to the games by making the audience care about the competitors.

To his initial horror, Snow is teamed with slight gypsy girl Lucy Gray Baird (West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler).

While she’s clearly going to be rubbish at fighting, Lucy has another talent.

She can sing, play guitar and write heartfelt (if gratingly cutesy) country and western ballads.

Snow partners up with Head Gamemaker Dr Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis sporting a Bride Of Frankenstein barnet) and rewrites the rules to favour his tuneful heroine.

Unsurprisingly, sparks begin to fly between the singer and the ambitious student. But, as Snow begins his inevitable turn to the dark side, we’re never quite sure what games will ensue.

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