What happens when you take a re-imagined fairy tale, fill it with decent writing (written by talented Christopher McQuarrie), decent direction (directed by Bryan Singer), talented actors, and topoped off with (what looks like) 20th century CGI Giants? You get Jack the Giant Slayer. Let me begin by saying that Jack the Giant Slayer had a decent script. This easily could have been turned into a Disney or Dreamworks animated feature and could have spawned all sorts of action figures, dolls, coloring books, etc. It definitely had the feel of an animated feature tale. The dialogue was clever at times, which I think is Christopher McQuarrie’s strong suite. It gave just enough to keep the plot moving, even though there were plenty of times that the actors were literally saying what is happening on screen, it still managed to work. Perhaps writers and filmmakers don’t understand at the time they’re producing these things that the post production will fill in the visuals, so they think it’s necessary to tell us on screen (during the unseen green screen) the things that are happening. Heck, this was directed by the great Bryan Singer, who should know better than to let the dialogue mirror the action. But I digress, overall the story moves along at a decent pace.
Jack the Giant Slayer pulled in some talented actors. In my opinion, you put Stanley Tucci in anything and you are going to get something great. I think he’s a good luck charm to any film. We have some talented actors in the cast. Ewan McGregor, Nicholas Hoult, Ian McShane, and even the talented voice acting of Bill Nighy. Not a bad mix for, what could have been, just an average fairy tale film. Even new comer Eleanor Tomlinson brings some energy to the role of Princess Isabelle. With these actors in the film, what could possibly go wrong?
Giants! The Giants ruined this film for me. This could have been a better film if the CGI Giants didn’t end up looking like Voldemort on the back of Professor Quirrell’s head. Listen, I know that creating computer graphics and humans, even over-grown humans, is a difficult task. I know the amount of time someone sits at a computer making every detail that will go on screen is an arduous and almost thankless task. It’s tough work. But, that being said, if the end result is terrible and takes you instantly out of the movie then the effort is all for not and that part of the movie fails. These Giants were rough to watch. Facial expressions were rigid, and similar to the CGI of the 20th century, we end up seeing mouths that barley open like their jaw is wired shut. Computer graphics can make the most realistic waterfalls, landscapes, castles, beanstalks, and fire. But, it can’t make realistic humanoids.
So what’s the movie about? Jack the Giant Slayer tells the story of Jack (Nicholas Hoult), a farm hand who makes his way to the heart of the kingdom to sell his Uncle’s horse and carriage for a little bit of thatch to repair the roof of their modest home. While in the market place, a monk appears in need of a horse to escape the area and gives Jack the only thing he has in his possession…a bag of beans. Jack takes the beans with a promise to receive money at a later time, which some how makes sense to him at the time. Upon returning home to his Uncle and explaining the bean scenario, a small argument takes place and a bean makes it’s way to the ground. Guess what happens next? If you guess that the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) just so happens to arrive at Jack’s door step, then you were correct. Oh, and the bean sprouts a huge beanstalk that takes Jack’s house high above the clouds with the princess inside. Naturally the royal guards, Elmont (Ewan McGregor), and the King (Ian McShane) arrive looking for the princess, question Jack about here disappearance, and somehow don’t see the huge beanstalk rising to the heavens behind Jack. Surprise! Now it’s time to climb the beanstalk and bring the princess back to the ground. Jack volunteers to join the rescue, and out of the kindness of the King’s heart it is allowed.
I failed to mention here that most of the first act is a back and forth tale with young Jack and his father and young Eleanor with her mother about the Giants and a battle that took place a long long time ago. No one in the kingdom actually believes the tale is true, even though the King from that time was pronounced “Erik the Great” because of his heroics in defeating the Giants and forcing them back to their cloud kingdom. Instead of pronouncing him King of the crazies, because no one really believes the story to be true. Well, it is true and the Giants do live among the clouds. Without giving too much away, the Giants and Humans meet, a battle begins, and a fight for the kingdom is afoot. During all of this, which is short lived on screen, the kings counselor Roderick (Stanley Tucci) manages to rule the Giants for a short time, in the hopes of ruling the entire kingdom. Tucci’s character isn’t around very long in the film, but as usual he steals the show. McGregor, McShane, and Hoult are no slouches either. They bring a lot of good performances to film that could have gone down hill real fast with the wrong actors in these roles. That’s what keeps you interested in these people on screen and that’s what makes this film worth watching.
All in all the film wasn’t a bad popcorn flick. Fun for the whole family. Good performances. A good story and good pacing. The Giants look bad, and can be distracting. I would recommend a matinee, and I can never recommend 3D with films like this. The film is dark, literally visually lighting dark on screen, and the 3D always brings more darkness to the screen. I suggest a regular 2D sitting. Worth the rental when it arrives on DVD/Blu-ray. Plastic Giants aside, it’s a slight above average tale that parents and kids can enjoy.