Friday, February 22, 2013

March Rushes In Like A Lion With Jack The Giant Slayer And An Army Of Giants!

The Good: Special effects, Acting, Moments of character
The Bad: Very predictable plot, Obvious romantic subplot, Generally light on interesting character development.
The Basics: Bryan Singer taps into the current fairy tale fad with Jack The Giant Slayer, which is bigger on effect than originality.

Nicholas Hoult is having a good year so far and it is bound to get better for the young man. It seems like his career had a slow burn following X-Men: First Class (reviewed here!), but he seems to have found his audience with Warm Bodies. That audience is likely to grow with Jack The Giant Slayer. The draw for me in Jack The Giant Slayer was the combination of Christopher McQuarrie and Bryan Singer, who wowed me so many years ago with The Usual Suspects (reviewed here!). Singer has had a pretty impressive career since, arguably kicking off the current run of blockbuster super hero films with his X-Men (reviewed here!). With Jack The Giant Slayer, he seems to be much more content to follow the current trends, as opposed to lead the charge. Jack The Giant Slayer is very obviously attempting to capitalize on the current market for re-imagined fairy tales. Fortunately for viewers, Singer, and Hoult’s career, Jack The Giant Slayer is much more analogous to Snow White And The Huntsman (reviewed here!) than it is to Mirror Mirror (reviewed here!).

Jack The Giant Slayer takes the relatively simple fairy tale of Jack And The Bean Stalk and fleshes it out with a romantic subplot, palace intrigue and a feisty princess. While Jack The Giant Slayer is very likely to be analogized by most to Snow White And The Huntsman, there are a number of similarities between it and Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (reviewed here!), most notably in the character arc of Princess Isabelle. Just as in the Pirates Of The Caribbean film, the initially feisty woman of high social standing goes on an adventure, becomes a damsel in distress and ends up romantically entangled with the less-desirable (from her social standing) character who, in turn gives men without money an absolutely unrealistic idea of what kind of woman they might actually draw out here in reality. That said, Jack The Giant Slayer is fun, even though it is hardly original or as substantial as one might hope. While the original fairy tale had a purpose of sharing a moral, Jack The Giant Slayer focuses on spectacle and adventure, as opposed to developing truly deep or important themes.

Jack is a peasant, raised on adventure stories, living in a small hovel. One dark and stormy night, he gives shelter to Princess Isabelle, whom he recognized from a prior gathering in the nearby city. The storm feeds the magic bean underneath Jack’s hut and while he is knocked out of his home, the massive vine that sprouts up, whisks Isabelle up into the clouds and the floating city of the giants. When King Brahmwell investigates and discovers what has happened, he assigns the knight, Elmont, to rescue his daughter from the giants. Jack volunteers to accompany him and Elmont, Jack, and a squadron of knights ascend to the fantastic land of the giants.

In the giant’s realm, there is unrest from the capture of Isabelle; her presence in their realm and the subsequent appearance of the knights, leads the Giants to believe the peace between the Giants and the humans is at an end. Further manipulated by the villainous Roderick, the Giants prepare to invade the human portions of Earth to conquer it. As Jack and Elmont recover and work to keep Isabelle alive, the Giants assemble and Isabelle and Jack begin to grow closer. Fleeing the realm of the Giants, the kingdom faces an attack they cannot hope to repel.

Jack The Giant Slayer is fun and seeing it on the big screen is really the only way to get the most out of it. Director Bryan Singer and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie seem to have capitalized on a winning formula, though it is unfortunate that they stoop to something so formulaic. The treachery of Roderick and the burgeoning romance of Jack and Isabelle seem much more obvious than original and clever. And while Jack The Giant Slayer is as visually impressive as film buffs have hoped for, the movie lacks a sense of thematic importance that make it into something more than a popcorn movie.

That said, the acting in Jack The Giant Slayer is decidedly above average. Nicholas Hoult continues to expand his on-screen range and give viewers something they have not seen from him yet. In Jack The Giant Slayer, he portrays Jack with a sense of responsibility and a quiet, geeky, sense of heroism that is very endearing. He manages to play Jack as somewhat quiet and withheld in a way that is different from how he played Hank McCoy in X-Men: First Class and given how similar the characters could have been, that is a testament to Hoult’s performance.

While Eleanor Tomlinson is pretty much a generic Hollywood beauty (sure, she plays Isabelle up as adventurous and rebellious initially, but she ends up as a damsel in distress for a troubling portion of the film where she is not given as much to do but react), Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci (Roderick), Ewan McGregor, and Hoult all play incredibly well off the virtual settings, objects and characters they encounter in the land of the giants and in the subsequent battle on Earth. Tucci plays Roderick as over-the-top and there is little to his character and performance that does not make the viewer think he is hamming it up and playing the role as something of a parody of a megalomaniacal villain. But, even with those limitations of character, Tucci is fun to watch. Ewan McGregor is all right as Jack, but the over-confident, somewhat arrogant Elmont is not a role that capitalized on his usual range or depth of his charisma.

Fans of fairy tales will undoubtedly flock to Jack The Giant Slayer and while it is easy to predict that it will do well in theaters, it is a movie that seems virtually impossible to bank on the movie doing well after it leaves theaters. Jack The Giant Slayer is a big movie, banking on spectacle and I don’t believe it would play nearly as well on a smaller screen.

For other works with Ian McShane, please visit my reviews of:
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Death Race
Babylon 5: River Of Souls


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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