Saturday, March 23, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Jack The Giant Slayer

Hey look, it's yet another fairly tale movie. Methinks this is another bubble that's on the verge of bursting, if it hasn't already. This time it's Jack The Giant Slayer from director Bryan Singer. Singer's a pretty spotty director at best, who helmed good films like The Usual Suspects and three of the X-Men movies, but also foisted meh films like Superman Returns and Valkyrie upon us. 

Jack The Giant Slayer is entertaining, but somehow jussssst misses the mark. It's good, but it feels like there's something missing, something that keeps it from being great. What that something might be though, I have no idea.

The problem may lie with the story. It's based on the familiar Jack & The Beanstalk fairy tale of course, but unfortunately there's nowhere near enough story to fill up the run time, forcing the screenwriters to pad things out in a mighty struggle to keep our attention.

Jack has an amazing cast including Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor, who do their best to elevate the material. Well, most of them anyway. Hoult is fine as a eager young farmboy, Tucci is amazing as always, and McGregor seems to be having a good time. Ian McShane though seems perplexed by the proceedings and looks like he's not quite sure what's going on throughout the entire movie.

Supposedly the film is considered a huge bomb as it's grossed less than half its $195 million budget so far. I'm honestly at a loss to understand why it's being shunned. As I said, it's not great, but it's entertaining, and isn't that a movie's job? I've seen far, far worse films this year and it's only March. Maybe the public's growing weary of big budget fairy tales.

Lastly, I'm honestly surprised that no Professionally Offended group has expressed outrage at the character of General Fallon, the two-headed giant. One of Fallon's heads is a shriveled, mentally challenged cretin who constantly shouts a stream of unintelligible gibberish. Hey, if people complained about Thor's "He's adopted" joke in The Avengers, they ought to go ape sh*t over a giant with a retarded second head. 

GIANT SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
Um... it's Jack And The Beanstalk. Maybe you've heard of it?

Pros:
• The amazing cast. Stanley Tucci in particular stands out (seemingly channeling Christopher Guest's Count Rugen in The Princess Bride), and Bill Nighy gives a great motion-capture performance as the two headed giant Fallon.

• Interesting character designs for the giants.

Star Wars fans no doubt caught Ewan McGregor's "I've got a bad feeling about this" line.

• It was nice to see Warwick Davis pop up in the film. Davis is another Star Wars alum, having played Wicket the Ewok in Return Of The Jedi (and at least one of the prequels).

Cons:
• At the risk of losing my Male Membership Card, I didn't much care for the costumes in the film. Jack's outfit looked like it wouldn't be too out of place in 2013. The other costumes varied wildly between ridiculously outlandish and spectacularly unmemorable. The villager's costumes in particular looked like they were on loan from Peasants R Us.

The worst though was poor Ian McShane's bizarre looking golden suit of armor. The breastplate was extremely wide and featured an odd flared metal skirt which all made him look like he weighed 300 pounds. He quite literally looked like an egg with pipe cleaners for arms and legs. Well here, see for yourself:

Surely McShane's not really built like that? Was he supposed to look that way, like a once-virile king who's now gone to pot? I'm honestly surprised he didn't look at himself in the mirror and shout, "Are you kidding me? There's no way in hell I'm walking out of my trailer in this cockamamie thing!"

• The animated prologue (explaining the history of the giants) was very odd. It looked for all the world like a 1990s era video game. Was it supposed to look that bad on purpose? If they were trying for a crude, primitive style (like the Horcrux flashback in the next to last Harry Potter movie) then they failed miserably.

• The film feels a bit padded. There's not enough story in the original tale to fill up an entire movie, so the screenwriters add superfluous plot details, such as Princess Isabelle's forced marriage to Lord Roderick.

A fairly entertaining retelling of the Jack & The Beanstalk story that's OK but could have been better. I give it a B-.

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