‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ review

Posted: March 4, 2013 in Movies, Reviews

Bryan Singer is a very talented director, very talented indeed.  However, the consensus on his films are that they are good, not great.  His one universally loved film, The Usual Suspects, is still his best and that was nearly 20 years ago.  He’s done spectacle after spectacle since then (X-Men, Superman Returns, Valkyrie) but his impact is usually “that was pretty good, but…”.   Jack the Giant Slayer is much like the rest of his films, not great just good.  And that’s the biggest problem with this fable film, there was a TON of potential to be great, Singer never seized it.

Jack the Giant Slayer stars Nicolas Hoult as the titular Jack who grows up dreaming of Giants from above but is always told they are just a myth.  The story starts up with Jack as an 18 year old man who’s father perished in the plague and is constantly told he’s not worth anything by his rather useless uncle.  We’ve all heard the tale before, Jack is sent off to sell his Uncle’s horse at the market only to receive magical beans in return.  Things go wrong, the beans get saturated in water, and our movie officially begins – 30 minutes later.   Singer’s story centers around Jack’s love for the Kingdom’s princess, played by Eleanor Tomlinson, and the King’s right hand man – Roderick’s (Stanley Tucci) – quest for the crown.

Singer’s story also revolves around the Giants having been cast to the clouds by a former king using the magic of melted Giant hearts fitted into a crown to do so.  That was hundreds of years ago, but the Giants haven’t forgotten.  Jack accidentally plants one of the magic beans while it’s raining and his house is quickly turned into a giant stalk.  Oh yea, that princess was also in Jack’s house when the stalk sprouted and she’s subsequently been kidnapped by the Giants.  So Jack, after desperately trying to save the princess, enlists the help of the King (Ian McShane) and his guards to rescue the princess and save the kingdom.

My main gripe with Singer’s film is that the pacing to start the film is incredibly slow and he even takes his time fleshing out just about all the major characters before establishing what the film is actually about.   Except the only character we could care less about is Jack.  From the start we’re told that there’s a link between Jack and Princess Isabel, and it’s the Giants, but that’s about it.  There’s very little chemistry between the two actors when they finally meet and their union almost feels forced.  When we finally get the meat of the film – fighting Giants – character development goes out the window, and it’s for the best.   The film’s second and final act are the best and it really makes you wish that Singer had made a movie JUST about fighting Giants, and not a love interest at the center of it all.  That’s also been Singer’s biggest detractor to date, he does awesome action sequences and they are big and detailed – the Giants trying to storm the castle towards the end of the film is just one of many examples – but he also doesn’t know when to go heavy and when to take time to develop characters.

There are also other gripes; such as Stanley Tucci’s half assed attempt at playing a villain, the decision to make the head of the Giants have two heads (one being mentally handicapped at that), and the decision to not make Ewan McGregor the film’s hero instead making him a jealous badass, Ian McShane not given the real opportunity to stretch his King muscles.

There will always be problems with any film relying so much on CGI, but like I said, Jack and the Giant Slayer is a good enough film to make you wish it had been better.  It’s a film you’ll enjoy while watching but quickly forget in two weeks.

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