Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: Jack the Giant Slayer

Farmer's son climbs to a land of giants to rescue a kidnapped princess in a fast-moving update of the popular fairytale.

Feb 27, 2013

-By Daniel Eagan


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1372338-Jack_Slayer_Review_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Warner Bros. adds to the fairytale cycle with Jack the Giant Slayer, a film that's a bit moodier and bloodier than some parents might like. Kids won't mind the carnage, but they may not be all that impressed by an adventure that recycles so much material from other movies. 3D and some extended battle sequences will help boost Jack's box-office, at least until Oz the Great and Powerful opens.

For those wondering, yes, this is "Jack and the Beanstalk," with a little "Jack the Giant Killer" thrown in. Ramped up with 3D, CG and motion-capture technology, it's not entirely bad. With a better hero and a little more originality, Jack the Giant Slayer might have crossed over to entirely good.

Familiar elements of the story remain: magic beans, vine to the heavens, murderous giant, treasure horde. The four credited writers embellish the basic plot with a romance across class barriers, an evil aristocrat, a dashing knight and a forced marriage.

A framing device introduces young Jack and his future friend Isabelle, the former the poor son of a widower, the latter a princess destined to rule the country of Cloister. Weirdly, characters reveal the plot of Jack the Giant Slayer a number of times before the actual story starts, once during a pantomime in a fairground tent.

The grown-up Jack (Nicholas Hoult) has the demeanor and attention span of a child. Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) is now a rebellious tomboy on the run from an arranged marriage to the despicable Roderick (Stanley Tucci). Jack defends Isabelle from local ruffians, receives magic beans from a dissident monk, and finds himself harboring the runaway princess during a downpour that night.

Flung by beanstalk to the aerie kingdom of Gantua, Isabelle become prisoner of a race of vindictive giants led by the two-headed Fallon (Bill Nighy and John Kassir). It's up to Jack and noble knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor, channeling Kenneth Branagh) to rescue her. First they will have to best Roderick, whose magic crown lets him enslave the giants.

Director Bryan Singer brings some flair to the story while dropping winking references for older viewers. The entrance to the giants' lair looks a lot like Skull Island, for example. And about the beans, Jack is warned, "Don't let them get wet." But the dominant influence here is The Lord of the Rings, the gold standard for what has become a New Line house style.

And Singer can't quite break free from that style. The giants here resemble orcs and trolls attacking castle strongholds. Fallon even has his own Gollum attached as a second head. Once the battles start, Jack looks like any other noisy, chaotic fairytale adaptation.

Casting makes a big difference, however. McGregor and Tucci approach their roles with high spirits and a sense of fun, while Ian McShane brings unexpected shades to his part as the king. As the princess, Tomlinson is consistently pleasant. Hoult is the weak link in a film that can't afford any. His hangdog posture and bland line readings are hard to watch.

If you can read this, you're not the target audience for Jack and the Giant Slayer. But parents buy the tickets, and Singer and his crew have brought enough to the film to keep them interested. It may not have much depth, but Jack is still more fun to watch than a lot of its competition.


Film Review: Jack the Giant Slayer

Farmer's son climbs to a land of giants to rescue a kidnapped princess in a fast-moving update of the popular fairytale.

Feb 27, 2013

-By Daniel Eagan


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1372338-Jack_Slayer_Review_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Warner Bros. adds to the fairytale cycle with Jack the Giant Slayer, a film that's a bit moodier and bloodier than some parents might like. Kids won't mind the carnage, but they may not be all that impressed by an adventure that recycles so much material from other movies. 3D and some extended battle sequences will help boost Jack's box-office, at least until Oz the Great and Powerful opens.

For those wondering, yes, this is "Jack and the Beanstalk," with a little "Jack the Giant Killer" thrown in. Ramped up with 3D, CG and motion-capture technology, it's not entirely bad. With a better hero and a little more originality, Jack the Giant Slayer might have crossed over to entirely good.

Familiar elements of the story remain: magic beans, vine to the heavens, murderous giant, treasure horde. The four credited writers embellish the basic plot with a romance across class barriers, an evil aristocrat, a dashing knight and a forced marriage.

A framing device introduces young Jack and his future friend Isabelle, the former the poor son of a widower, the latter a princess destined to rule the country of Cloister. Weirdly, characters reveal the plot of Jack the Giant Slayer a number of times before the actual story starts, once during a pantomime in a fairground tent.

The grown-up Jack (Nicholas Hoult) has the demeanor and attention span of a child. Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) is now a rebellious tomboy on the run from an arranged marriage to the despicable Roderick (Stanley Tucci). Jack defends Isabelle from local ruffians, receives magic beans from a dissident monk, and finds himself harboring the runaway princess during a downpour that night.

Flung by beanstalk to the aerie kingdom of Gantua, Isabelle become prisoner of a race of vindictive giants led by the two-headed Fallon (Bill Nighy and John Kassir). It's up to Jack and noble knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor, channeling Kenneth Branagh) to rescue her. First they will have to best Roderick, whose magic crown lets him enslave the giants.

Director Bryan Singer brings some flair to the story while dropping winking references for older viewers. The entrance to the giants' lair looks a lot like Skull Island, for example. And about the beans, Jack is warned, "Don't let them get wet." But the dominant influence here is The Lord of the Rings, the gold standard for what has become a New Line house style.

And Singer can't quite break free from that style. The giants here resemble orcs and trolls attacking castle strongholds. Fallon even has his own Gollum attached as a second head. Once the battles start, Jack looks like any other noisy, chaotic fairytale adaptation.

Casting makes a big difference, however. McGregor and Tucci approach their roles with high spirits and a sense of fun, while Ian McShane brings unexpected shades to his part as the king. As the princess, Tomlinson is consistently pleasant. Hoult is the weak link in a film that can't afford any. His hangdog posture and bland line readings are hard to watch.

If you can read this, you're not the target audience for Jack and the Giant Slayer. But parents buy the tickets, and Singer and his crew have brought enough to the film to keep them interested. It may not have much depth, but Jack is still more fun to watch than a lot of its competition.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Major Releases

Ouija
Film Review: Ouija

Skip the movie, play the game. On second thought, skip the game, too. More »

The Best of Me
Film Review: The Best of Me

Fans of Lifetime TV movies–and previous adaptations of books by Nicholas Sparks–will derive sentimental satisfaction from this handsomely mounted, ultimately hokey romance. For anyone else, it’s an all-too-typical adaptation of a book by Nicholas Sparks. More »

The Book of Life
Film Review: The Book of Life

This animated feature is tricky to get into, but soon enough becomes a colorful piñata spreading goodies hither and yon. More »

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here