Right now, the Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is out, and this film adaptation of the Suzanne Collins novel has been doing surprisingly well at the box office (certainly better than The Marvels).
However, one of the reasons we just couldn’t get into the idea of this new Lionsgate film is that, like the book it is based on, it seemed completely unnecessary.
While the odds might not be in our favor after we make hardcore Hunger Games fans mad, we’ve volunteered as tribute in order to explain why this franchise never needed a prequel to begin with.
Focusing On the Wrong Character
It’s no secret that the biggest strength of The Hunger Games franchise has always been its characters. Audiences for previous films didn’t necessarily need to know every little detail about this bizarre, dystopian world.
Instead, those films were perfectly accessible and enjoyable to audiences that simply wanted to watch Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen kick ass and take names.
In order to give us a familiar face, the Hunger Games prequel focuses on the future President Snow when he was a young man in charge of restoring the titular games to their former glory.
This is a bizarre decision because we know that Snow ends up becoming a complete monster, so it’s understandably difficult to root for him no matter how charming the character appears to be.
Plus, Snow doesn’t get any real redemption later on like Darth Vader, so there’s no more joy in watching his humble beginnings than there would be in watching a film about Hitler’s struggles as an art student.
It’s Difficult to Add Lore to a Paper-Thin Premise
The success of The Hunger Games films led to renewed public interest in the books they were based on, and the franchise is credited as making Young Adult books as hot as Girl On Fire Katniss Everdeen.
However, one of the reasons a prequel is unnecessary for that this franchise shares one of the most common YA literature sins. Specifically, the premise behind it is paper-thin, so there is no way for a prequel to add significant lore.
Can’t Explain More About The Games
The failure of prequel franchises like Fantastic Beasts is proof of that: Harry Potter already has such a simple concept (some people are secretly wizards and they have a special school) that the prequel films couldn’t do much but eventually return to familiar characters and locations.
The Hunger Games has a similarly paper-thin concept–it’s Battle Royale with districts sorted, Potter-style, into different categories. And the prequel can’t do much but explain more about the games.
But getting background for an idea that simple is like getting an origin story for that big hunk of meat Rocky Balboa ends up punching.
Setting Was Always Going To Be Disappointing
It may sound more cynical than usual, but another reason that we have always been confident that The Hunger Games doesn’t need a prequel is that the setting was always going to be disappointing.
How could we know that, though? Simple: the coolest possible idea for a Hunger Games prequel is also the one that would never, ever get filmed.
Despite taking place where The United States used to be, The Hunger Games bears little resemblance to our world because of some apocalyptic events in the distant past.
Author Suzanne Collins is deliberately vague about these events, but it looks like America became Panem after a series of natural disasters and a rising ocean led to a brutal war before “civilization” reasserted itself.
It would be sick as hell to see that story, but the fact that it would have no Hunger Games or any familiar characters meant this prequel concept could never be filmed.
Losing Sight of What Made the Franchise Special
It’s a common complaint among bitter fans, but the secret to any good prequel is retaining what made the original franchise so special. Star Wars is quite different from The Hunger Games, for example, but even controversial prequels like The Phantom Menace retained core elements (including lightsaber battles and epic space combat) that fans know and love.
Unfortunately, the Hunger Games prequel was always destined to lose sight of what made this franchise so good.
Watching The Wrong Things
In short, most fans were all about rooting for Katniss as she fought for both survival and romance.
She was a charismatic character with a righteous cause, but in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, all we can do is follow future President Snow’s rise to power.
We’re not watching a strong girl reach her full potential; instead, this prequel asks us to cheer for the man who will build a brutal empire off killing countless others just like Katniss.
Pales In Comparison
Everything in this Hunger Games prequel pales in comparison to the characters and conflicts from before, right down to its forced romance.
Furthermore, the fact that we’re meant to root for this world’s most evil guy as he attains supreme power is completely crazy.
The original Hunger Games movies were about rising up against your oppressor, and the prequel asking us to sympathize with him is the grossest possible subversion of the franchise’s most powerful themes.