Like any truly loyal (and insane) fan, I watched The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie with a critical eye, ready to pounce on any chance to say “That’s not what happened in the book!” like the most annoying kid at the sleepover.
I was pleasantly surprised that the film (I’m a fancy critic now) stayed pretty accurate to the 2020 novel written by Suzanne Collins. However, there’s only so many details you can capture from 528 pages in less than three hours. (Though, I’m still holding out for the director’s cut.) So, I volunteered as tribute (sorry, I had to!!!) to pour over these historical artifices and highlight where the movie strayed from the original. You’re welcome.
Warning: major spoilers for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes ahead.
The Book: Erases The 10th Hunger Games
If you were a citizen of Panem and wanted to sit down and binge all 75 seasons of the Hunger Games, you might be upset to find that the 10th season was erased. However, this isn’t confirmed in the movie, only in the book.
The Movie: Being A Mentor Was A Shock To Snow And His Classmates
Snow is devastated when he’s told that despite being in the top of his class, he has to mentor a tribute in order to win the coveted Plinth Prize, which will allow him to afford university. But in the book, the students knew they were selected to become mentors for that year’s tribute. In fact, it was considered an honor.
The Book: Clemensia Dovecote Got Real Fucked Up By Those Snakes
Snow’s classmate (and sorta frenemies), Clemensia Dovecote, is way more annoying in the movie. Perhaps it’s supposed to make the audience feel like she deserved her fate when Dr. Gaul encourages her to stick her hand into a pit of snakes. In the book it’s clear that the venom impacts her neurologically and physically (the girl grows scales!). Also, Snow put his hand into the tank as well to prove he did indeed write the paper.
Easter Egg: Speaking of snakes, if it wasn’t made obvious by the title, Snow represents the snake and Lucy Gray the songbird. Lucy Gray says early on that snakes love her, which is a direct reference to Snow’s love for her despite his slippery character.
The Movie: The Sequence Of Events In The Arena Is All Wrong
In the movie, Lucy Gray wins simply by outlasting Dr. Gaul’s rainbow snakes (we love a gay icon). This is a gross injustice! Yes, Lucy Gray does sing her little song to the bioengineered creatures BUT it doesn’t end the games. Instead, her and Reaper are the last two standing — until he happens to drink from a puddle she contaminated with rat poison. In the movie, Dr. Gaul is urged by students to call Lucy Gray the winner but in the book it’s less dramatic with Lucky Flickerman announcing her as victor once she checks Reaper’s pulse for life.
The Book: Snow’s POV Is Actually Insanely Creepy
Tom Blyth tried his damndest to portray Snow’s slow decline to pure villain, but with Snow as the first-person narrator of the book the narcissism and sociopathic tendencies were clear from the beginning. For example, in the book Snow is irritated with Sejanus distributing sandwiches to the tributes at the zoo because he doesn’t want to miss out on the spotlight from the reporters set up there.
However, the book also had way more supporting characters that humanized Snow. Like the relationship he had with his neighbor Pluribus Bell who provided crates of lima beans during “The Dark Days” that keeps the Snow family from starving. He also secures a guitar for Lucy Gray to perform for the Capitol — basically, securing donors that would save her life — but that’s not shown in the movie.
The Movie: The Drones Are Clearly First Generation Because Damn They Sucked
It wasn’t like the drones in the book were super helpful, but damn the movie turned them into a weapon. Yes, it’s a bummer that their food delivery app wasn’t working (ugh, the worst), but Snow uses it as a chance to save Lucy Gray by crashing the chaotic machines into her enemies.
The Book: Snow Is Stuck As A Peacekeeper For Way Longer
I get it, the movie can only be so long, but damn did they condense Snow’s time in District 12. In the book, he has weeks to try to come to terms with his new life and actually makes friends with his bunkmates. And it isn’t until he has already agreed to run away with Lucy Gray that he finds out he passed the officers test and could start a new life in District 2 with a better chance to return to the Capital.
The Movie: We Don’t Get A Lot Of Covey Time
In the book, Maude Ivory and the rest of her makeshift family are introduced to Snow and Sejanus, which makes it all the more emotional when Lucy Gray has to leave them behind. Release the deleted scenes, you cowards!
The Book: Sejanus Doesn’t Know Of Snow’s Betrayal
No matter how hot young Coriolanus Snow is in the movie, it’s a major red flag when he records his “friend” Sejanus sharing his plans to literally just be a good guy and help out the innocent people of District 12. This recording of course led to Sejanus being hung for treason. In the book it isn’t clear if he knows of Snow’s betrayal but in the movie the recording is blaring as he walks up to the hanging tree.
Easter Egg: “The Hanging Tree” song becomes the rallying cry for the rebellion in the original trilogy. But we find out in the prequel, the song was originally written by Lucy Gray about the rebel members of District 12 that we see executed on Snow’s first day as a peacekeeper.
The Movie: Cabin Talk Wasn’t So Cozy
rachel ponting out how the katniss wasn’t ready because it wasn’t “Katniss” time yet… she’s one of us, she would make a thread of the connections between the trilogy and tbosas pic.twitter.com/tYSOXnYhcB
— vic 🕊️ (@lucygraibaird) November 19, 2023
When Lucy Gray and Snow find the guns that would incriminate Snow for murder, Lucy Gray remarks that now he has no loose ends if he wanted to return to his old life. It’s a tense moment followed by Lucy Gray walking into the rain to find some katniss for them to eat. The last words Snow says is, “Didn’t you say it’s a little early for katniss?” before he slowly realizes she no longer trusts him and wants an excuse to escape. In the book it’s less of a confrontation and more of a paranoid internal monologue. (I mean, who doesn’t love to replay social interactions to look for mistakes? Relatable king.)
Easter Egg: The katniss wasn’t ready to harvest yet because it wasn’t “Katniss’” time yet. Get it? You can thank Rachel Zegler for pointing out this detail because she’s a super fan as well.
The Book: It’s Never Clear If Snow Goes Fully Delulu
When Snow spirals into a full meltdown and starts to shoot into the woods, the book makes it purposely unclear if he actually hears and sees Lucy Gray or if she really is just out of reach. In the movie he discovers a “trap” set by Lucy Gray and you see wisps of her through the trees. He shoots at her but all he finds is the pendant from her necklace. Mystery is sexy!
The Movie: Where The Hell Are Sejanus’ Parents?
In the movie, you get a quick glimpse of Maw and Strabo Plinth when their son, Sejanus, is rescued from the arena by Snow. But, in the book, they are crucial to Snow’s success and rise to power because they got mad money. After Sejanus is hanged (because of Snow!!!) and Snow returns to The Capitol, he becomes their replacement son. And Snow is more than happy to take the free apartment and become heir to the Plinth’s fortune. Snow lands on top, baby!