I love going to the movies. But, in recent times, the entertainment value has been as sparse as a pensioner's hair. When "The Hunger Games" - the books, that is, came out, I had high hopes for the future of young readers' literature. Then, the films. A female Robin Hood, a crack bowshot and a lifter of innocents' heads. What could be more inspiring than the overthrow of the evils of a post-apocalyptic world, neatly divided into task-driven work camps and overseen by a rich and privileged elite to which even in their insular luxury, nobody really wanted to belong. The third in the series is a waiting room for the fourth film, and little else. We are supposed to see character development and political intrigue, one supposes, but the holes in the net are too big, the entertainment value is flimsy and one is left with the impression that you have to get through the boring bits to get to the battle scenes in Part Four. As a commentary on personal sacrifice in the face of fascism, it makes a degree of sense, but I resent being made to pay twice presumably because the momentum gained in this one will be unleashed in a coruscating display of special effects as the Capitol falls, as undoubtedly it must. Flat and tedious, sadly.
Elvishly winsome, which is meant to be mystical but actually looks like constipation caused by acute macrobiotic consumption, Cate Blanchett, now 45, reappears with Orlando Bloom and all the rest of them in in the latest 3D fantasy stretch containing one hobbit, several dwarves of variable height and ugliness, two Orc armies whose battle tactics involve head-butting walls down and a few humans who just seem to get in the way. Perhaps I am just too old for this kind of fantastic nonsense where one sacrifices all imaginative talent in the face of an admittedly spectacular but utterly non-Tolkienesque rendition of the final battle. Even his title 'there and back again' has been spiffed up to 'the battle of the five armies'. The seating was mercifully comfortable, however, so much so that the Gipsy fell asleep. Poor Stephen Fry looked lumpily apologetic as if he could barely escape fast enough with his stolen gold before the dragon Smaug - voiced by a Satanically resonant Benedict Cumberbatch, blazed through his town with incendiary, flame throwing efficiency. Billy Connolly's character, ancient Dain Ironfoot, had a remarkable turn of speed on the battlefield for one of pensionable age, armed with what looked like a large red plastic cudgel. The awfulness beggared description.
A spectacle? Oh, yes. Clever? Undoubtedly. Violent? Only in some childish, 3D video-game sort of way, which might appeal to ten-year-olds. Stretching out the fantasies, again, after 'the Desolation of Smaug' - more of a pit-stop than real film - it's cheap and really quite stinky of Hollywood to make the must-see finale with elements from The Lord of the Rings as well. It's just making people pay twice and once you've seen one Orc with bad teeth, you've seen 'em all.