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STUDIO New Line Home Video
RUNNING TIME 114 Minutes
• Eight Featurettes in the “Become a Giant Slayer” mini-game
• Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
Someone deserves a swift kick in the magic beans for this retelling of a classic fairy tale.
Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan MacGregor, Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci, Bill Nighy, Bryan Singer
Jack the Giant Slayer tells the story of an ancient war that is reignited when a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants. Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing the young man, Jack, into the battle of his life to stop them.
There are films so fantastical that they define their own logic, actually aiding in suspension of disbelief. Dark Crystal and Hellboy II: The Golden Army are prime examples. They’re fairytales, but they are imbued with a tangible sense of culture and history. Yet for Jack the Giant Slayer, the reliance on fairytale storytelling is the film’s most troubling facet. Sure, this would be a great bedtime story for a child, but as a darker, PG-13 film, it fails to have any impact. It’s a tad too gruesome to be kid-friendly, and too cartoonish to resonate with older viewers. It leans too heavily on Disney-style tropes about royalty and fails to establish a mythology in which we can invest.
JTGS is ostensibly a classic storybook tale brought to life. While’s there’s nothing inherently wrong with retelling a classic story, the trick is delivering something that freshens the formula. JTGS is narratively stale and visually sterile. Filmmakers like Singer now have significant resources (both creative and financial) to really innovate within the fantasy genre, but this film almost refuses to deliver anything new. It was an interesting idea to employ a storybook style, but there’s hardly anything in JTGS we haven’t seen before.
A king is honorable, but stern and distant. A magical crown holds the power to command an army of monstrosities (reminiscent of Hellboy II). A princess is young and beautiful, but she dreams of life outside the castle and will be forced to marry someone she doesn’t love. A knight is valiant, but foppish. One of the king’s most trusted men is secretly evil. A lowly farm boy will have his love reciprocated by the princess, and he will prove to be a hero in the end, because that’s how these stories go.
We know all of this before the second act begins. Watching to the end is just an exercise in patience. This is a film that is impossible to spoil. It has no tricks up its sleeve, no verve. Any stylistic flair is totally illogical, like the fact that the giants live on an enormous floating island called Gantua. They’re trapped there. Why? Because it’s a looooong way down to the kingdom of Cloister below. Since the giants were imprisoned on Gantua many years ago, everyone in Cloister thinks the giants are a myth.
Q: So there’s a huge fuckin’ floating landmass in the air, and nobody’s seen it for hundreds of years?
Q: So a giant’s never fallen off the edge, or tossed a boulder over the edge?
A: Not until the second act of the film.
It’s pretty damn silly. Most of the ideas and locations are ornamental, like they’re part of a theme park attraction. They don’t feel terribly logical or functional. A crucial element of fantasy filmmaking is creating a world that feels lived-in. There needs to be a tangible history to the locations, costumes, and props.
For instance, the giants all wear metal armor. Why? Have they mined veins of iron ore on their floating island? Are there giant blacksmiths that are smelting the massive amount of ore required to make giant armor? It would make more sense that the giants wear stone or wooden armor. The two-headed leader of the giants wears what looks like a mammoth or elephant skull on his shoulder, but we have no context for this animal. Might it imply that Giants co-existed with these animals? It feels like nobody thought about the implications of a culture of giants.
The film does have its merits, though they are few. Nicholas Hoult and Ewan MacGregor deliver charming performances. There’s an all-too-brief cameo from Warwick Davis. John Ottman’s score isn’t too shabby. There are a few nice moments, such as a giant chef chopping a large shrub as if it were a pinch of thyme, but moments like that are adrift in a sea of dumb. Bill Nighy was a brilliant choice to play the villainous two-headed giant, but he’s basically just using his Davy Jones voice. Ian McShane was a good choice for the King, but the character is so bland that McShane’s talents are wasted.
The film’s most baffling moments are its beginning and its end. We open on a rough note, with a CGI prologue that doesn’t work at all. The prologue looks and feels lifted from Hellboy II: The Golden Army, but with animation that looks like a cinematic from a Playstation game. It’s not like someone intended for it to look amazing, it looks decidedly like shit. It wasn’t poorly animated; it was poorly conceived. I can’t imagine why Singer thought it would work. If he had gone with a series of hand-drawn illustrations instead, the storybook vibe of the film would have been established in a nice way. Unfortunately, the prologue establishes that the rest of the film will be a CGI mess, and the film delivers on that.
The cherry atop this sundae is the trite epilogue, which left me scratching my head. In true fairy lore tradition, the epilogue implies that giants are indeed real and there’s a floating island full of ‘em that hovers right over England. It’s cute, but it does nothing to help the viewer invest in the story. Connecting this fantasy to reality only makes the fantasy seem sillier. Jack the Giant Slayer is blander than unsauced, unseasoned spaghetti. I rarely see a major release that feels so devoid of passion behind the camera. Bryan Singer is a talented filmmaker, but it feels like he directed this project remotely. He was a hired gun, and directed it like a hired gun. With all this against Jack The Giant Slayer, it’s tough to tell if Singer really cared for the material. One thing’s for sure, though: I certainly didn’t care for the end product.
The palette of the film is vibrant, saturated in lush greens and warm firelight. Shot on a variety of digital cameras, the look of the film is too clean and devoid of texture. The transfer replicates this in nearly perfect detail, though, so whoop-de-do. It’s crisp, it’s nicely saturated, and there’s really no artifacts or edge enhancement to be found. The audio is great, too. In fact, it’s probably one of the best DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes I’ve heard this year. It’s thunderously fucking LOUD, though.
As far as special features go, this disc has a few nice featurettes, but this disc commits one of the biggest mistakes a disc can do: they hide the featurettes in a stupid mini-game. This is frustrating enough that I simply won’t recommend watching the featurettes at all. You have to navigate your way through a series of menus to hunt for each one. Also included are deleted scenes and a gag reel. The least they could have done for this disappointing film was make the featurettes easy to watch. It might have great video and audio, but this is obviously one to skip, dear readers.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars