Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Jack the Giant Slayer

If you follow me on Twitter than you know that I tend to talk (i.e. “snark”) a lot about the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, the next film in the disjointed X-Men film series. There’s a lot of opinions on the various news that flow around on the internet but the one that everyone seems to agree is very good news in that Bryan Singer is returning to direct…except me. I’m not saying I don’t want him back but I feel that a lot of fans are assuming he’s still the man for the job fourteen years after he first took the spot. I don’t know that he isn’t but I do know I’m pretty bitter about Superman Returns, the film Singer originally passed up X-Men 3 for…and also the movie wasn’t great….or even all that good. If only I had some reassurance that Singer is still a great director?

Which brings us to Jack the Giant Slayer. If I recall correctly Singer was tapped to direct X-Men: First Class but handed the reins to Mathew Vaughn so he could concentrate on this film. This is probably obvious but this flick is based on the classic story Jack and the Beanstalk. Much like Snow White and the Huntsman (and to a lesser extent Alice in Wonderland) it’s another movie in this trend of reimagining classic storybook tales as films with modern sensibilities (i.e. as Lord of the Rings). A lot of people think this trend is really stupid but I’m willing to give the films a shot. Really, who cares where the idea came from if the film is good. But is Jack the Giant Slayer actually “good”?

Find out after the jump.

It's hard to have chemistry when one or both of you are bland as hell
It has been untold years since the war between the humans and the giants and now much of the details had fallen into legend and most people seem to think of it as just stories. Jack (Nicholas Hoult), a poor farm kid, grew up on those tales and dreams of a more interesting life. One day he heads to town to sell his uncle’s horse but finds himself trading a monk for beans that supposedly are priceless. Later at his home he is visited by the kingdom’s princess, Isabella (Eleanor Tomlinson), who is running away from home and seeking shelter from the storm. As they converse one of the beans ended up getting wet and a huge beanstalk sprouts from the ground it taking Jack’s house, and the princess, high into the sky. Jack is left behind and is soon confronted by the King (Ian McShane) and his entourage who have come to investigate the matter. Jack volunteers to accompany the King’s best men on a trek up to the beanstalk…to what may be the fabled land of giants.

Things will get pretty bad as I talk about this movie but if nothing else this flick features a solid cast of great actors and, despite everything, they do their jobs well. It’s really hard to screw up when you have the likes of Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci, and Ewan McGregor on the cast. Special mention for Nicholas Hoult, a young actor who I think we’ll be hearing more and more of for his ability to play a wide variety of roles (Hoult played Beast in X-Men: First Class). He’s not great here, through no fault of his own, but he’s solid and demonstrates his range as an actor. I only wish that he had a middle initial in his professional name so could use a three letter acronym as his nickname.

And we decided not to call it "Jack and the Beanstalk" why?
Also I should mention that the last act of this film kind of saved it. Not that it was all that wonderful or exciting but up until that point I was really bored. Like extremely bored. But that last act took things from “Standard Hero’s Journey” to “Full-On Apocalypse” and I appreciated it.

The biggest issue I had with this flick was with its script. Now it ain’t the worst script I’ve ever seen make it to the big screen but it’s still pretty bad. The plot is full of faulty logic and the characters tend to act pretty goddamn stupid much of the time. Much of the plot would have been solved if people actually thought when they acted. For example the magic beans, the only thing that could ever lead to another conflict with the giants were not only saved (not destroyed) but left in a coffin of a famous king where EVERYONE IN THE KINGDOM knew it was and yet it never occurred to anyone that someone might try to retrieve and use them (ditto of the magic crown that controls the giants). I kept scratching my head all throughout the film. Also the plot is, as I mentioned, your basic “Hero’ s Journey.” Very basic. Hell, Jack is an actual farm boy. Everything just felt so predictable as a result and I was sooooo bored watching it. Like I said the last act throws a curveball when the movie keeps going after its “logical” stopping point and made it more interesting as result. Still before that I was having trouble staying awake.

The characters were equally dull as everyone was pretty much two-dimensional, and in some cases one dimensional, archetypes. The princess Isabella seems to be an unapologetic damsel in distress and is not so much the female lead in the story as she is a plot device. Her purpose to be rescued and to fall in love with Jack, end of story. Lord Roderick, Stanley Tucci’s character, is after the throne and kills a lot of people to try to seize it. His motivation for all of his actions? He’s, um, really into power? No, he’s evil because the script says he is and [SPOILER ALERT] when he’s served his purpose to move the plot along he’s killed off. Great writing. The giants could have been mountain lions and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the plot. They are completely devoid of any personality or charcter other than “I wanna eat humans” save for maybe two of them. Also some of them are named “Fee”, “Fye”, “Fo” and “Fumm” because subtlety is not a priority here. Clearly.

Who could forget such memorable characters #2 or giant #5?
My biggest pet peeve about this flick was the epilogue, which pretty much was a scene in modern day London making it very clear that the movie takes place on Earth rather than a fantasy world reminiscent of Earth. So what, this whole time there’s been a continent floating over Great Britain that we happened to miss with our technology because…magic? (Actually they don’t even say that much) I walked out of the theater pretty angry, which is rare for me these days.

Jack the Giant Slayer isn’t a horrendous movie. I’ve seen far worse films out there and I’m sure I’ve even reviewed some three-panda movies that were worse. However this flick makes a hell of a lot of missteps. In almost every way that matters for me it zigs when it should have zagged and offers almost no positives to balance things out. As it is it’s boring, it’s predictable and it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. Let’s compare it to Snow White and the Huntsman from last year; that film wasn’t good but it had elements about it that I liked. Jack the Giant Slayer does not. This film is a major failure on the part of Bryan Singer and DOES NOT fill me with any sort of hope for the upcoming X-Men movie.

"Gee Brain, what are we gonna do tonight?"
"The same thing we do every night, Pinky: try to take over England"
I give Jack the Giant Slayer 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


-Has a good cast of actors


-The plot is dull and script isn’t great

-Flat characters

-Full of logic problems

-Seriously? Modern day London? Come on!


  1. Nice review Beta. Just don't go into it expecting something clever or full of substance, because it’s fun and that’s about it.

    1. Well I went into it with pretty low expectations but still didn't think it was fun. So for me it pretty much had nothing going for it.


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