The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes trailer breakdown

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Discover the origins of the dreaded President Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Tom Blyth plays the younger iteration of Donald Sutherland's ruthless Capitol dictator in this adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel, which explores the pre-Katniss Everdeen era of Panem.

The new trailer has just been released and this is what we've discovered from it.


1. We discover Coriolanus' family history

At the trailer's outset, we learn that the young Snow comes from a moneyed, high-ranking Panem family, and these connections have allowed him to enter the prestigious Capitol Academy.

However, Coriolanus' family has fallen on hard times following the death of his father. The latter was killed in the ongoing war between the districts and the Capitol, and Snow, at this stage more conniving and self-serving rather than outright evil, wants to restore his family name.

With the 10th annual Hunger Games contest set to begin, Coriolanus is set to become a mentor to one of the tributes, and this is the first time mentorship has been deployed in the history of the games. Coriolanus' mentorship is, in his mind, his meal ticket toward restoring his family's honour. However, feelings of a different sort soon get in the way.

Given this takes place 65 years before the events of the initial Hunger Games series, it's interesting to note the stylistics of the Capitol. Everything, from the costumes to the decor and the hairstyles, appears slightly more pragmatic and ordered, perhaps indicating that it was Snow's eventual decadence that informed the OTT look of the citizens in the later movies.

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


2. We meet the Hunger Games' chief strategist

Casca Highbottom is played by Game of Thrones' finest Peter Dinklage, and he is the mastermind behind the incarnation of the games that we know from the Katniss Everdeen era.

Highbottom grooms Coriolanus' mentorship skills although those who've read Suzanne Collins' book will know that there's a lot more at stake between the two characters. Without spoiling it, Highbottom bears an important link to Coriolanus' deceased father.

As Highbottom says: "Your role is to turn these children into spectacles... Not survivors." Simple in practice, one assumes, but when Coriolanus agrees to mentor District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), he's hit with the pangs of romance and a genuine crisis of conscience.

Lucy is a member of a traveling musician group/family known as the Covey, who were forced into settling in District 12 once the war began. She arrests Capitol's attention after singing during the reaping (we see a quick shot of this in the trailer).

As per the book, she also slipped a hidden snake into the clothing of the mayor's cruel daughter Mayfair, who had arranged for her to be reaped over jealousy about a boy named Billy Taupe. The snake symbolism present in the movie's title becomes more explicit as the trailer continues.

The symbolism of the impoverished District 12 holds strong associations of rebellion and anguish. Let's not forget it was the home of Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, in the original (although chronologically later) Hunger Games films. (Katniss' eventual actions are anticipated by this trailer's ghostly use of the Hanging Tree song.)

Peter Dinklage as Casca Highbottom in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


3. Coriolanus' inner conflict is laid bare

Having greeted Lucy with a white rose (later to become his signature of dystopian perfection), Coriolanus realises that they are both kindred spirits and rebelling in their own fashion. She is being set up as a martyr from the districts and is ideologically fighting the system; he is attempting to engineer events for his own ends.

The trailer scrambles the timeline of events by also depicting Coriolanus' time as a Peacekeeper in the service of the Capitol. One can sense the genesis of his eventual despotic character: at a young age, he was forced to reconcile the need for strategy with the need for sudden violence to quell any sense of rebellion.

Coriolanus is less guided and more manipulated by the ruthless head game-maker Volumnia Gaul, played by Oscar winner Viola Davis. She is the one who injects the insidious notes of violence and repression into his mind ("I want my enemies to see a rainbow of destruction, engulfing the entire world"), in her own way acting as a mentor just as Coriolanus does with Lucy.

Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


4. Volumnia Gaul's snakes are a key part of the story

No spoilers for those who haven't read the book, but Volumnia's genetically engineered snakes are used to nefarious ends to determine Snow's loyalty. The notion of snakes therefore has both a literal and figurative meaning within the storyline, ranging from the animals themselves to the hissing menace of Gaul's character.

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


5. We meet Caesar Flickerman's predecessor

Wes Anderson favourite Jason Schwartzman portrays Lucretius 'Lucky' Flickerman, the human face of the Hunger Games contest. As with Caesar Flickerman, who appears later in the Hunger Games chronology (played in the movies by Stanley Tucci), Lucretius recognises that presentation is everything.

How else to get the greedy and ruthless Capitol audience on board? In a sly foreshadowing of his grinning successor, Lucretius encourages the tributes to keep smiling ("It's why we have teeth"), making puppets and spectacles out of imperilled, endangered children.

Again, the period detail is of note – because this is 65 years in the past, the TV monitors have a distinctly lo-fi, retro quality to them. We can't wait for these physical details to be articulated even further in the movie itself.

Jason Schwartzman as Lucretius Flickerman in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


6. We discover Sejanus Plinth's friendship with Snow

Josh Andrés Rivera plays Sejanus Plinth whose family connections gain him admittance to the Capitol and Snow's counsel, despite Plinth's hatred of the games.

Their dynamic is set to be especially compelling as Snow advances his way even further into the affections of both the Capitol and Lucy Gray Baird. Sejanus, however, is unable to stop himself from railing against the ruthless and murderous nature of the Hunger Games contest, leading to a dramatic showdown.

Josh Andres Rivera as Sejanus Plinth in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


7. We're greeted by the younger Tigris Snow

Hunter Schafer portrays Tigris Snow as a younger woman. She's the Hunger Games stylist, not to mention Snow's cousin, who was ultimately cast out from the Capitol.

You may remember the older incarnation of the character turned up in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, played by Eugenie Bondurant. Will the new movie fill in the blanks on her backstory?

Hunter Schafer as Tigris Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


8. Snow interrogates his own motivations

It's a known cliché that villains aren't born but created. The trailer for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes makes it evident that Snow was once a relatively innocent young man who attempted to play both sides for the greater good, aiming to save both his family and the woman that he loved.

The trailer is bookended by Volumnia Gaul's probing question, aimed at Snow: "What are the Hunger Games for?" The tragic arc of Snow's character reminds us that, although he's incapable of articulating it within the context of this movie, he eventually found the appalling answer as an older, distinctly more tyrannical individual. 

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


What did you spot in the trailer that we missed? Check it out again and prepare for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes on November 17th.