Monday, June 24, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer

Not to be confused with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, or Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Those are nothing like this movie; they have colons in their titles!

Okay, there is one pretty big difference I suppose... Jack the Giant Slayer, with a cheesy PG-13 rating, is more of a kid's movie. But does that really set it apart?

Fee fi fo fum. Ask not whence the thunder comes. For... giants-- giants make the thunder... yeah.

Jack starts out just farm boy, not a giant killer -- he doesn't even know that giants exist! When he was little, his father used to read him stories at night about the giants, but now his father is dead, and Jack lives with his uncle. One day Jack's uncle sends him to the market to sell a horse and cart, but Jack is distracted by the local beautiful princess making an appearance, and the cart is stolen. Then he sells the horse for a tiny bag of beans. Okay, so the horse was basically stolen too.

Later that night the free-spirited princess Isabelle -- whose now dead mother also used to tell her bedtime stories of giants -- runs away from the castle and her father, who wants her to marry his right-hand man Roderick. In the storm, she finds her way to Jack's house, where a few minutes later one of those beans gets wet, grows very large very fast and very high, taking the house and Isabelle with it. Jack, well... falls out. After he explains what happened to the king (and they have to believe him because there's a huge beanstalk towering right behind him) he volunteers to go with the search party assembled to find her, led by Elmont, who is the head knight, or personal guard to Isabelle, or, something important. Roderick and his henchman also come for devious reasons of their own, and the adventure begins!

Hero shot of heroes heroically climbing bean stalk!

So take an old fairy tale, take away anything "uninteresting", add epic elements, a dash of comedy, a smattering of romance, then smother in digital effects and blend thoroughly, and you have yourself a nice modern take on a classic tale that everyone will love. Guaranteed. Or so it seems every filmmaker is thinking now. Fairy tales have never been out of style of course, but the modern fixation on making them... epic -- at the expense of other things -- only seems to degrade them. Some worse than others; the two I mentioned at the top I wouldn't waste time on, but Mirror Mirror was cute, and I laughed my way through Snow White and the Huntsman. I'm even looking forward to Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella. But how does Jack do? Well there are good things, and there are bad things.

("The good thing don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things, and make them unimportant.")

Good things: The acting, and characters, definitely. Nicholas Hoult as Jack was a good hero, very sweet and brave, but his real acting skills were mostly underused I think. My "oh yeah, I have seen him before" moment: He kissed Jenifer Lawrence in X-Men: First Class, was killed by Medusa in Clash of the Titans, and (my personal favorite) was totally creepy in a Kenneth Branagh Wallander episode. I'm looking forward to getting around to watching him in Warm Bodies sometime, and hopefully in many movies to come.

Everything I think of to say here gives away the fact that I think this is a very cute photo... so I'll just admit it.

Ewan McGregor was the picture of charisma as Elmont, with his spiky hair, his charming smile, and his twirl-able mustache. His true talent was also not really used, but I really enjoyed his character, being heroic at every turn, and keeping the energy high. Without him, Jack (the person and the film) might have easily ended in dismal failure. He's the true hero of this tale.

You know that's right!

Then there's Isabelle, played by Eleanor Tomlinson, and I can't say if she was used to her full potential or not; I've only seen her before as a young version of Jessica Biel in The Illusionist. But she did impress me by not being a completely generic princess. She was, however, a completely generic damsel in distress, not the fighting princess who can take care of herself. I thought that was strange, but I'm definitely not complaining.

Jack and Isabelle take a breather for a "moment."

Stanley Tucci as the traitor baddie Roderick wasn't as good as I was hoping he'd be, but I guess my expectations were just too high. He was very good, just, again, underused. Lastly I'd like to mention Bill Nighy in the role of the two-headed leader of the giants. He was pretty much the only enjoyable thing about the giants. As my brothers said, "he sounds like... like, Davey Jones." Yep, and it's a good sound for him. He made the bad guy actually memorable.

Roderick and his... minion.

And that leads me perfectly into... the bad things. Deep breath. It seemed like the digital effects were the whole point of the movie, but they were no good. The opening sequence looked seriously like a video game. Lazy, I suppose? Everything looked cheap, and the giants were barely animated better than they appeared to be in the trailer (which was horribly). There was also too many gross-out moments with them -- too childish -- but, on the violent side, there was too much as well. Was this supposed to be a kid movie, or a teen movie? I don't think anyone decided; some ridiculous stunts and stupid "humor" didn't match the more mature PG-13 violence level.

Story/script wise, it was pretty mixed. There were some unique plot devices and details, but overall it was pretty lifeless, despite some valiant efforts from the cast. Interestingly, I thought it got better as it went along, unlike most movies that just give up about halfway through. And the ending actually surprised me very pleasantly. Even though it was immature and cheap at times, I enjoyed it thoroughly in its good moments, and there were plenty of them. Not to be taken seriously by any means, but it was a fun ride.

Number nine!


  1. I thought Jack struck a good balance, myself. Didn't take itself too seriously, like SW and The Huntsman, wasn't campily laughing behind its hand like Mirror, Mirror. Just merrily told a story with a smile on its face and a song in its heart.

    And I think the parts at the beginning are meant to look like a computer game to emphasize that the kids believe this is just a story, not history.

    1. Haha, yes, it never tried to be anything but what it was, even though what it was was pretty cheesy... embrace the cheese!

      Oh, yeah, I realized it was supposed to look like a computer game, and I think it was a bad idea. If they wanted to make it look like just a story, any kind of animation except something that says "video game" would have been way better. Mirror Mirror used the same idea, but more creatively and it worked pretty well.

  2. This one was really cute. Not the best fairytale ever but really fun! Sure the whole armor costume on Isabelle was over-the-top shiny but I didn't think this movie took itself too seriously. It was like it didn't mind poking fun at itself and that was nice.

    Glad you liked it alright also, Sarah.

    1. I'm glad you liked it! I didn't think it was very well done, but I couldn't help but enjoy it, so I don't regret seeing it, and that's all I can ask for!