JACK THE GIANT SLAYER Movie Review
So fairy tales are the new “it” thing to adapt into feature length films, huh? It seems like only yesterday we were being inundated with mock revisionist history featuring our 16th President laying waste to vampires, now we’re faced with classic fairy tales being stretched into narratives, a potential trend that’s no less disconcerting than wave after wave of found footage horror movies; you either hate them or are indifferent, with a small subset saying “Bring on the dead horse, for I must beat it!” Your opinion of these films notwithstanding, it’s always fun when one of them takes you by surprise and elicits a genuine positive reaction, so by all accounts Bryan Singer deserves a freakin’ medal for making us forget Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Jack the Giant Slayer retains only the core elements of it source material, with writer Christopher McQuarrie, who rewrote the script with Singer from an earlier draft by Darren Lemke and Dan Studney, opting for a more traditional story that seeks to turn Jack’s (Nicholas Hoult) simple tale pecuniary theft into an action adventure rescue tale with dozens of giants, lead by the two-headed Fallon (Bill Nighy and John Kassir) rather than one. The elements of convention are there – two people from different walks of life falling in love, a strict king with a tight grip on his daughter (Ian McShane), an antagonist (Stanley Tucci) with a sinister ulterior motive, a sly and debonair knight (Ewan McGregor), and a climactic battle scene – but Singer and McQuarrie manage to keep things moving along at an even pace, showcasing solid performances and injecting humor where you least expect to make even this most basic of fairytales an entertaining romp.
In this we see Jack the Giant Slayer’s biggest flaw: it’s simply not a memorable film. It’s certainly a well-made film, filled with acceptable actors, good CGI, and enough heads being eaten and bodies ripped in half to keep the adults entertained, but beyond that it’s little more than your run-of-the-mill fantasy pseudo-epic that you’ve seen in some capacity a million times before. It’s tonally consistent throughout, and Singer manages to keep you engaged with a steady blend of humor, action, violence, and romance throughout the film’s almost two-hour running time, but in the end, you’ll forget about it as soon as the radio plays that song you like on the car ride home.
Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson, the latter of which is dashing in her role as Princess Isabelle, have delightful chemistry, reminiscent of the flirting between the nerdy boy in high school with the one cheerleader who wasn’t a total bitch. Horribly underutilized is Ian McShane, whose role as King Brahmwell of Cloister is limited to a few scenes that see him expressing disappointment is his daughters rebellion. The film’s climactic battle scene, which draws inspiration from Peter Jackson’s massive Siege at Helm’s Deep, see him go all aggro on a bunch of giants, but it’s limited to a few fleeting moments before cutting back to Jack and the Princess escaping from Fallon through the halls of the castle.
Bill Nighy’s booming voice is complemented by the grunts and shrieks of the high-pitched Kassir, who plays his smaller, less intelligent head; the eloquence and refinement of Nighy’s British accent allows the character to gain a bit of respectability, thus aiding in preventing the film from falling into comedic parody. Jack the Giant Slayer never panders, and never tries to do more than it should, and in that regard it manages to escape the shadow cast by its predecessors and serve as a genuinely fun escape into a giant-filled world.
But the 3-D is absolutely worthless, though that shouldn’t come as a surprise.