Based on the fairytale of Jack and his beanstalk, Jack the Giant Slayer re-tells the tale, weaving in elements of heaven and earth, royalty and power struggles, with the giants as bloodthirsty aggressors.
Director Bryan Singer started his career off with a bang; The Usual Suspects is beloved, clever and dark, but as time has gone on, it seems that Singer has lost some of his magic touch.
Reimagining a fairytale is fine. There have been countless animations and live action attempts of this over the years, with varying degrees of success. What made the popular ones work though was that they had something new or different to say. Jack the Giant Slayer tries its best to be smart and clever, but it simply falls flat.
At what should be the centre of the film is a great cast; Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci and Ian McShane, but while each get their moment of greatness – Tucci’s ‘evil face’ is a delight – this is all they get. For most of the film, the characters are shoved aside to make room for the annoying, un-fun CGI giants. None of the actors are allowed to develop their characters much further than the initial impression, leaving each of them feeling bland and uninteresting. When you consider that Bryan Singer brought us some of the best character driven films of recent years – and Dr. House – this is more than confusing, it is baffling.
As for the giants, it has been many a year since computer generated imagery has been quite so bad; surely there was room in the budget for some clever cinematography that allowed these characters to be played by real people? Instead, we are left with motion capture monstrosities that have the cold, dead eyes of a shark. As well as this, it is never clear whether these giants are supposed to be scary, funny or a combination of the two. Instead, they just end up irritating and vaguely embarrassing.
Some time ago, Weird Al Yankovich made a joke about Hollywood making a big, dumb version of Jack and the Beanstalk (his words, not mine), and with this film, his joke has been made a reality. The film is certainly big in terms of set pieces and the final battle – which kind of makes no sense – and it certainly is dumb. Nothing surprising happens, and the initial feeling that this could be a new version of Stardust (which in itself was the new Princess Bride) quickly fades away. Tongue should have been firmly in cheek here, acting should have been deliciously over the top and the characters should have had at least some motivation, but sadly, all of these things are lacking.
Jack the Giant Slayer is a big, dumb, Hollywood version (thanks Weird Al!) of a classic fairy tale. The film feels as though it is aimed at the under-10s, but is, at the same time, far too frightening for such a young audience. Characters are underdeveloped and the film never delivers on the promise of adventure. Thank god Ewan McGregor’s hair is good and he can rock the guy-liner, or all would be lost.