Jack the Giant Slayer
Posted March 4, 2013 by Daniel Hodgson in
It’s easy to think that after X-Men, X2, and Superman Returns, Bryan Singer would be the right choice for something like Jack the Giant Slayer. However, there is a difference between super-hero fantasy, and fairy-tale magic. Similarly, his previous special effects heavy films haven’t necessarily prepared him for directing a 3D film.
The Story: Jack (Nicholas Hoult) goes to the castle to sell off his horse. A monk needing to make a quick escape trades Jack a sack full of magic beans, telling him they’re worth a fortune to the members of his order. Back at home, Jack shows his uncle the beans, who tells him they’re worthless, and he’s been had. A single bean falls through a crack in the floorboards, unbeknownst to Jack.
That night, Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), off on a secret adventure away from the castle, knocks on Jack’s door. As they chat, the fallen magic bean begins to grow, and takes Jack’s house up into the sky, along with the princess. Jack falls to the ground, unconscious.
Jack awakens to find himself surrounded by the king (Ian McShane) and his men. Jack explains what happened, and volunteers to go with Sir Elmont (Ewan McGregor), the captain of the King’s Guard, to climb the towering beanstalk and rescue the princess. However, the clouds above are said to be the kingdom of giants, whose favorite food is men. Accompanying the king’s men is Roderick (Stanley Tucci)—the princess’s fiancee, who secretly has in his possession a magic crown capable of controlling the giants. Roderick, however, has no interest in rescuing the princess.
Jack the Giant Slayer sees a 3D release, but rarely plays to the format, which is a disappointment given the command of the medium director Bryan Singer has shown in previous films. Singer is partial to close-ups on faces, which eliminate depth. Another flat composition, namely an overhead shot of Jack lying on the ground, also speaks to Singer’s disinterest in the format.
Jack opens with Jack’s father reading to him the fairy tale of his namesake, while a CGI cartoon depicts the action. That’s what Jack the Giant Slayer could have been; a 90 minute, PG animated film. Or, it could have gone the Pan’s Labyrinth, R-rated adult fairy tale route. Instead, Jack pushes the 2 hour mark, which should have children squirming in their seats, and compromises on a PG-13 rating. Jack comes off as a would-be Jurassic Park for teens and adults, with man-eating giants filling in for man-eating dinosaurs, but the movie monsters in Jack are cartoonish and fake-looking, and unlikely to scare a grown-up crowd. Jack casts its net too wide, audience-wise.
Much of the film’s problem is its middling ambition. Rather than the tale of a young man against a giant, Jack turns the simple fairy tale into a big Hollywood spectacle, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance—as an army of giants descend from the heavens, bent on conquering the world of men. Snow White and the Huntsman had a similar scope, but had greater success; it created an entire Star Wars-eqsue world, filled with fairies and forest creatures. Snow White was enchanting, magical. Jack puts the world in peril, but it’s a world lacking imagination and wonder. The world of the giants is mundane; other than giants themselves, the only creatures to be found are a handful of sheep, and that’s about it.
Jack the Giant Slayer is a mediocre misfire, typical of off-season fare. With any luck, the film itself will be slain at the box office.