Jack the Giant Slayer ReviewMarch 10, 2013
Jack the Giant Slayer is as generic as fantasy films get.
Hollywood is seemingly obsessed with “darker” fairy tale films these days. Ever since this craze began with Tim Burton’s live-action sequel to Alice in Wonderland, there have been many different artistic visions and twists on beloved fairy tales – Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Huntsman, Oz the Great and Powerful, and the recent hit Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters are all examples. Now we have Jack the Giant Slayer: a film that takes elements from the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk and its sister story Jack the Giant Killer. The main thing that excited me about this film is the fact that Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) directed this project. He even re-teamed with longtime collaborator Christopher McQuarrie (who won an Academy Award for the script of The Usual Suspects). Despite featuring big name talent such as Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane and Warm Bodies star Nicholas Hoult, Jack the Giant Slayer proves to be just another disappointment.
Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a humble farm boy who lives with his uncle. He grew up with a love for the folklore surrounding the ancient times of the kingdom he resides in, which involved great wars between men and horrendous giants. According to these tales, the war ended when a king used a mystical crown to control the giants and send them back to their home above the clouds. A gigantic beanstalk that was used to connect both worlds was then chopped down. All that remained of these legends were magic beans that could be utilized to re-link the worlds of giants and men. One day, Jack’s uncle asks him to go to the nearby castle and sell their horse to save them from starvation, but instead of gold he exchanges their prized horse for the supposed magic beans of myth. Later that night, rain falls upon the land, causing a beanstalk to grow from one of the beans Jack acquired. This turn of events leads to the princess, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), being trapped in the land of the giants at the top of the beanstalk. The king (Ian McShane) then organizes a team to rescue his daughter, consisting of military leader Elmont (Ewan McGregor), his chief adviser Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci), and Jack, who volunteers to be a part of the quest. Together, they venture up the beanstalk to rescue the princess, and to prevent the ancient war from being rekindled.
I had high hopes for Jack the Giant Slayer due to the talent involved, and from the trailers it looked to be one of the better films of its ilk. Unfortunately for everyone involved, though, this film let me down. The film does have some entertainment value- there are a number of memorable action scenes and characters. That said, the script is rife with clichés. The farm boy protagonist, a freedom-seeking princess who then gets captured, power-hungry bureaucrats, and a disapproving king – they’re all in Jack the Giant Slayer. I can forgive clichés if they are twisted around in clever ways, but here they just make the story horrendously predictable. Also, I was just disappointed in how many elements of the plot and script were stripped straight from Star Wars.The script is underwhelming in that it doesn’t show any signs of true creativity.
At least the acting isn’t one of this film’s problems, for the cast truly is the best part of Jack the Giant Slayer. By now, Nicholas Hoult is pretty much a star after appearing in About a Boy, X-Men: First Class and Warm Bodies last month. His capability as a potential action star is certainly solidified here. Sure, he might not have the charisma and physique of other Hollywood heroes, but he is definitely entertaining to watch in Jack the Giant Slayer. My favorite performer in this film has to be Ewan McGregor, for his character is the most distinctive persona in the story. McGregor portrays him with the right amount of charisma, energy and wit. There is one actor that I do dislike in this film- Stanley Tucci’s right-hand-man of sorts. He overacts to the point of being absurdly annoying. In short, the cast of Jack the Giant Slayer is mostly solid, but the problem is that they are all playing thin characters in an even weaker storyline.
For those of you who do not know, Jack the Giant Slayer was originally scheduled for release last summer. However, it was delayed for a total of nine months due to many issues, with the main one cited as extra time needed for post-production. After seeing Jack the Giant Slayer, though, I feel that that extra time was wasted, as the effects aren’t the greatest. The cinematography and editing is solid enough; the film has a nice look to it, and the 3D effect was not harmful to my eyes either. In fact, the glossiness of the imagery was pleasing enough that the 3D was not distracting at all. The problem is that the computer-generated imagery just feels… stale. Many times I found the film’s CGI backdrops to be off-puttingly fake looking. Perhaps the biggest grievance of the special effects is that the giants don’t look that impressive at all. To be completely honest, I have seen better-looking CGI creatures in the Star Wars prequels and The Lord of the Rings, despite the huge advancements in technology since those films. The best shots of this film are the ones that were all done in-camera.
2013 just keeps on disappointing. Jack the Giant Slayer is as generic as fantasy films get, even if the screenplay tries to properly connect plot threads of the original stories. If you have seen Star Wars, Willow, The Lord of the Rings, etc., you have seen this film already – and a better version, at that.