The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes Cast, Ranked By Campiness

This post contains spoilers for "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes."

At the risk of sounding as insensitive as Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman canceling dinner plans while kids get slaughtered, I really missed The Hunger Games. "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" marks an on-screen return to the world of Panem for the first time since 2015, and the creativity and tension of author Suzanne Collins' dystopic world remains undeniable. This time around, though, the drama takes place roughly six decades before Katniss Everdeen's name got called for the fateful 74th games.

As such, the extravagant, over-the-top culture of the Capitol is still developing, but the city from which future President Snow (Tom Blyth) hails is already clearly a breeding ground for all things over-the-top and bourgeoisie. In the prequel story, The Hunger Games themselves are still in early stages, and haven't yet developed into the combination fashion show and Super Bowl-sized event they would one day become. That contrast makes the characters who do already walk around acting like the most eccentric influencers you've ever seen stand out even more — and luckily, "Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" has some great ones.

In ranking the campiest performances in the film, it's worth noting that this is by no means a criticism: The Hunger Games (the fictional tradition, not the franchise) are camp by design, and as Coriaolanus Snow knows all too well, a winking self-awareness is sometimes necessary to survive. Here are five actors who made Panem proud by doing the absolute most with their supporting roles in the new movie:

5. Burn Gorman

Burn Gorman (not pictured, sadly) loves to play an evil little dude. The MVP character actor has solidified himself as the go-to guy to portray a variety of sinister bad eggs in everything from "Game of Thrones" to "Enola Holmes" to "Halo." Sure, he's played his share of not-quite-villains too (see: "Pacific Rim"), but you pretty much know anytime that he appears on screen scowling in some type of uniform that things are about to get dark.

That's exactly the case with the long, painful third act of "Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes," in which the previously beautiful and only slightly sociopathic Coryo Snow gets a sketchy haircut, a drab gray uniform, and a gross new job as a Peacekeeper. Gorman plays his new commanding officer, Commander Hoff, who is by all accounts a pretty scary dude. Gorman doesn't get much screen time here, but anyone who's aching for some melodrama after this story leaves the Capitol will get a brief moment of respite when the camera lingers on him in full "stock evil character" mode. You just know Hoff has a whole juicy backstory that Gorman is trying to communicate via frown, and I for one would like to see it.

4. Peter Dinklage

To call the co-creator of The Hunger Games camp when he's an out-and-out tragic character whose poisoning marks the movie's dark end might feel a bit wrong, but it's important to note that goth can be camp, too, and Dean Casca Highbottom is very goth. Peter Dinklage's flavor of camp here comes in part from this performance's surface similarity to his turn on "Game of Thrones"; although Dean Highbottom and Tyrion Lannister aren't actually much alike, they certainly share a penchant for drinking their woes away and making it everyone else's problem. We see Dinklage's skyward-tilted head more often than any other angle in this movie, as the morphling addict dean of the Capitol's Academy is pretty transparent about both his cynicism and his guilt over the games' existence.

Highbottom refuses to engage in the more visually extravagant excesses of some of the people higher on this list, but his funereal black gowns and flair for dramatic, attention-grabbing classroom moments (that talking-without-a-mic power move introduction!) make him so serious that he almost feels silly. He's the kind of teacher students would be scared of at first, make fun of mid-way through the course, and then decide they actually feel bad for by the time graduation rolls around. Dinklage takes the whole thing exactly as seriously as he should, which is to say that Highbottom comes across as both sympathetic and kind of insufferable.

3. Mackenzie Lansing

In the world of The Hunger Games, it's the Capitol's citizens who are most known for — to borrow a phrase from Kylie Kloss – looking camp right in the eye. Yet when the starting buzzer sounds and the bloody battle kicks in, it's worth remembering that the Career Tributes are often just as theatrical. Districts 1, 2, and 4 are wealthier than other parts of the nation, and these districts' cultures encourage a gloating sense of honor when it comes to being chosen for the games. That brings us to Coral (Mackenzie Lansing).

Coral is a total bully, and Lansing plays her as such. Her taunting, trident-wielding game persona feels like something straight out of "Lord of the Flies," and she's single-handedly responsible for a lot of the drama that no doubt drove up viewership of the games. Lansing injects all of Coral's lines with extra oomph, making it clear that the character's bloodthirstiness is in large part a performance — both for audiences at home, but also for her underlings who fall in line out of fear. She gets some great insults in whenever she talks to Snow, and some of the most darkly funny moments of the game come when she berates her underlings for not murdering all her enemies, or for — god forbid — thinking they deserve to drink water.

The district 4 tribute's shrill, inflated ego slides off in her final moments, when she says she's afraid to have killed everyone for nothing. It's a moment of innocence that makes it clear that even if Capitol cronies are evil through and through (see: that witch Arachne Crane, who died taunting a tribute at the zoo), Coral was still just a kid surviving the way so many animals do — by trying to make herself appear larger than life.

2. Jason Schwartzman

Jason Schwartzman's wildly un-self aware weatherman slash amateur magician turned Hunger Games host is one of the highlights of "Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes." Every single time the actor appeared on screen, the movie turned from a grim dystopic saga into a darkly hilarious satire. Schwartzman gamely takes over the wildly campy announcer bit from Stanley Tucci, whose Caesar Flickerman was the perfectly garish host of the games by the time Katniss rolled around. With the name Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman, the anchorman is likely related to Caesar (he mentioned a high chair in his mid-massacre dinner plans, so maybe Tucci's character is his son), and he certainly carries the same knack for tonal dissonance.

The funniest moments of the movie come when Lucky starts reading the weather during a particularly bloodless moment of the games, transitions to a magic trick while announcing a tribute has fallen, or glibly commends contestants for "doing stuff." If Ted Baxter from "Mary Tyler Moore" had a baby with a slimy used car salesman or a rich failson, that offspring might begin to reach the level of abysmal lack of talent, slimy quasi-charm, and overconfidence that Lucky exudes. Schwartzman also makes the smart move to play him bitchy, and every time he criticizes something inappropriately — from the game's faulty drones to a girl's vomiting — it gets funnier. In any other movie, he'd be the camp MVP, but this isn't any other movie. This is a movie with chaotic scientist Viola Davis.

1. Viola Davis

This movie spotlights several classic camp subcategories, including goth camp, stock villain camp, and "camp but it was all a show." That's all well and good, but if I were to teach a class on camp (something my college actually had, and that a few students infamously took thinking it was about camping), Dr. Volumnia Gaul's picture would be at the top of the syllabus. This woman made a vat of iridescent rainbow venomous snakes for fun, then made sure to match her stylish gloves to the snakes when she debuted them to the world. This woman rebrands the idea of killing teenagers as a delightful experiment, and (admittedly this one's less of a big deal) has zero sense of personal space.

Given every creatively sadistic element at play in The Hunger Games, it makes sense that the person responsible for gameplay would be the most chaotic, twisted scientist we could imagine. Yet no amount of imagining can prepare us for Davis' performance here, a wildly off-kilter embodiment of a woman who is a walking series of red flags. As Dr. Gaul, she has one deep blue eye (a bio-hacking experiment gone wrong?), an impressive frizz of hair, bloody-wet looking gloves, and makeup that accentuates the lines of her face like a pop art comic.

Davis could've just showed up in this outfit and won top spot on this list by virtue of her character's aesthetics, but she also went above and beyond in her zany portrayal. Dr. Gaul may not be this movie's only villain, but she's certainly the character I'd least like to get trapped in a room with — unless it was for an avant-garde fashion show, in which case she'd deserve an Anna Wintour-level place of honor. That's camp!

"The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" is now playing in theaters.