Directed by Bryan Singer
Written by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie & Dan Studney
There aren’t always a lot of obvious films that sneak up on you, but Jack the Giant Slayer definitely snuck up on me. Let me try to define what I am talking about here before I confuse anyone though. I called this an “obvious” film, perhaps not the best wording to use, but it has a lot of noticeable names attached to it. Bryan Singer, the director, has seen success before with the X-Men trilogy, as well as the cult classic The Usual Suspects. But the cast here is surprisingly huge as well, featuring bit roles by the likes of Ewan McGregor, Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci, and even Eddie Marsan. The leads are less known, though even Nicholas Hoult’s name is growing. Somehow I didn’t really know about it until very recently. I sorta wish I hadn’t heard about it.
A rehash of the classic fairy tale Jack & the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Slayer combines the adventurous ambitions of the lowly farm boy Jack (Hoult), and the majestic princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). Each is stuck in their world with little to break from it. But a mad adventure is about to befall both. When Jack acquires a set of magic beans just by chance, and Princess Isabelle flees the castle, upset that her father (McShane) is forcing her hand to the marriage of Roderick (Tucci), their paths cross, a giant beanstalk arises from the ground, and soon everybody in the kingdom is searching for the princess, although she is now being held in the cloud kingdom of the giants, who want nothing more than to come down to earth to avenge their imprisonment by the ancient King Erik the Great.
The stage has been set for hundreds of years (or however old the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk is) for a great adventure film like this, so finally the producers of the world have brought us this…..crap. What an amazing disappointment, which is, I think, only compounded by the amount of talent seemingly assembled to fill this film out. It is a grand idea of a film with a wonderful existing framework with which to work, to build a world of wonderful characters and great adventures, but the writing team doesn’t. They seem to be content with just leaning on the strength of the classic story and not really adding any meat inside the bones to make it unique, interesting, or overly entertaining. There is an overabundance of special effects in the film, which shouldn’t be very surprising really, especially when we are dealing with giants. It was surprising, however, just how the effects were used.
Bryan Singer seemed to also be doing the Jack the Giant Slayer lean, using the effects as a replacement for actual storytelling, which is a frightening trend in Hollywood in recent years with special effects becoming as good as they have. Many filmmakers are making the mistake of creating a spectacle as opposed to telling a story and it appears Singer has fallen victim as well. But this particular instance is odd to me because I never actually found the effects to be all that great, especially for the giants themselves. Very disappointed to see that with this film that had a bit of potential to create some nice spectacle to compliment the potential of the story. Fail in both cases. And while we are on the subject of surprises, I suppose I will just keep on rolling. I was a bit taken aback by the buzz that this would make a nice family film, good for the kids. Did it have the potential to be that? Certainly, but what is delivered is actually a fair bit more violent than I would think of a family film, and it did earn a PG-13 rating. I usually think of a family/kids film being no more than a PG, but whatever.
At least they changed the name from Jack the Giant Killer, which was the original title, but by the end of the film I was feeling very cheated. There is even a false ending which made me at first say, “is that it?” and then when it kept going it just became a bloated mess of basking in the CGI technology. I almost wish it would have ended, it would have been shorter at least. Man, I feel like I’m really ripping on this movie, and it’s true, I didn’t much care for it, but there are some nice things going. Between this and Warm Bodies, a far superior film by the way, I can see Hoult growing into a fairly charismatic lead. Ewan McGregor was kind of fun here too, though I’m curious why he took such a crummy role. Tucci on the other hand was hamming it up big time. I think what made matters worse for this film, which was not very entertaining or well constructed at all, was the fact that it seemed to blow a lot of potential. It hurts when that happens. If the story sucks to begin with that’s one thing, but I like Jack & the Beanstalk. I could care less for Jack the Giant Slayer.