Wow, looking at Jack the Giant Slayer, it’s easy to tell where that near $200 million went. Note that this review maybe just a little spoilerish, but not too much if you’ve already watched the trailers for the film.
I walked into Jack the Giant Slayer with a smile on my face. It started off doing something I really love in movies, playing the score for the film as the production companies were announced and going so far as to play with the Bad Hat Harry logo, replacing the Usual Suspects with a set of giants. That had me feeling good, and reminded me of Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted. Overall, it’s a Brain in your Lap kind of film. As long as you give it too much thought, you’ll be okay. I don’t see myself running back to see it, but I’d probably watch it again if it were on tv.
Everyone knows the story of Jack, who traded in his horse for a bunch of beans. They grew into a giant stalk and he climbed up it to find giants. Director Bryan Singer (X-Men 1 & 2, Superman Returns) reunites with his The Usual Suspects writer Chris McQuarrie, writer/director David Dobkin (Fred Claus & The Change Up), and Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After) to expand the tale. This version of the story tells of a time where after the beanstalk grew, giants came down from a land far above and waged war with mankind. The great king of the realm was able to stop the war by way of black magic, having a crown forged from the heart of a giant that grants the wearer control over the entire giant army. After banishing the army, he had the stalk cut down and there was peace in the land.
That strange tickle in the back of your mind, if you’re experiencing it, is you recalling the backstory to Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. It’s almost the same thing. Jack even gives a similar set of visuals to tell the tale, which was kind of nice.
So, jump to many years later, and you have Jack (Nicholas Hoult), a poor farmers boy who in trying to sell his horse is given a set of magic beans. The stalk grows, kidnapping the land’s princess in the process (Eleanor Tomlinson) and the King (Ian McShane) sends his guard up it to retrieve his daughter.
What Jack the Giant Slayer does well is that it tries to shift the story around as it moves. For me, I found that when I expected one thing to occur, the movie would twist and give an angle that I hadn’t expected. I like that it at least tried to do that. Mind you, I went to into the film completely blind, having never seen any of the trailers or commercials. If you haven’t seen anything about this film, don’t look at any of the trailers, you’ll only hurt yourself.
Casting wise, this movie is like watching a set of friends get together. Although Hoult is the hero in this story and plays him well, his screen time feels like it’s stolen from him by Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest), who in particular seems to be the go to bad guy these days as the main general of the giants. Ian McShane, who plays the King, is always worth watching, but he suffers from the same issues as Eleanor Tomlinson’s in her role as Isabel. They aren’t given a while lot to do overall. McGregor, on the other hand seems like he’s in his element here as the Captain of the Guard.
Visually, Jack the Giant Slayer is a treat. The differences in size between the giants and mortals are similar to the Ents in the Lord of the Rings films, and some of their appearances (and habits) are down right nasty. The action sequences in the film, and there aren’t many, are good but not exactly extravagant. The movie goes out of its way to try to build a world for the story, and I felt it worked out okay, especially during the 2nd half of the movie. The effects are nice. From a 3D point of view, the sense of distance is there particularly during the climbing sequences, but it’s not required that you see this in 3D, despite that there are objects moved close to the camera.
So, with all this praise, is there anything that’s wrong with Jack the Giant Slayer? Yeah, actually and what’s wrong only has just come to mind while writing this part of the review. Two problems:
1.) The trailer gives you absolutely everything you need to know. I was going to avoid mentioning what problem #2 was, but the trailers already show that at some point there’s a big battle between the giants and mortals. That being said, the rest of the trailer gives away so much to what the film was about that you really don’t need to see it. The action sequences you’re viewing there, that’s the story.
2.) This second one is just a tactical error. The 2nd Half of the movie, while pretty on the visuals, throws logic completely out of the window, with a scenario that’s pretty one dimensional in design. The actual battle tries to be like the Battle of Helm’s Deep in the Lord of the Rings movies. Humans defending the land, giants attacking it. It worked for the Battle of Helm’s Deep because that a city in a wall. The battle could only come from one direction. However, the city in Jack the Giant Slayer isn’t like that. I was expecting giants to swim around it, or climb over the walls (especially after the damage that was made), but nope. Heck, if undead hordes can pull it off in World War Z, clambering over each other to get over a wall, I can’t imagine creatures more than 5 times the size of humans not being able to do the same. I felt it lacked a lot of imagination there and they could have come up with something just a little more dangerous in that battle sequence.
So, Jack the Giant Slayer was okay. It won’t break any kind of records or make too many waves, but cast saves it from becoming worse than what it could be.