The latest film from Bryan Singer, Jack the Giant Killer Slayer opened this past weekend starring Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor. The film is a fantasy adventure based on the fairy tales ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. The movie itself is very much a traditional fairy tale depiction, so much so that by and large it’s a ‘complete’ film from start to finish.
The premise of is as follows:
When Jack, a young farmhand, accidentally opens a gateway to the world of Giants an ancient war restarts as the giants, thought only of as legend, try to reclaim the world they lost centuries ago. Jack is forced into a fight to not only save his own life, but that of those in the kingdom and that of the princess.
By now, you’ve probably already seen the trailers just as it’s safe to assume you know the fairy tale itself. Relatively well known cast, varying CGI effects, 3D marketing, and boy meets girl, girl turns out to be a princess, and boy wants to try to save the princess, amidst a battle with giants. In most ways, it’s a ‘been there, done that’ approach and with the clamor to go see a movie in the theatre nowadays, you also wonder what the motivation is to see it. Jack the Giant Slayer is an odd film in that it looked extremely average, smelled even more average and very much – was average.
And you know what, it was a good thing.
Jack the Giant Slayer is enjoyable for exactly what it is, a very traditional fairy tale using a big budget to tell it. If you’re into just watching a movie for the sake of watching it, munching on some popcorn and walking out of the theatre saying “that was just ok”, then that’s exactly what you’ll expect. I suspect the same could be said for possibly Netflix’ing the movie at a later date, because that too is exactly what this film is worth. It’s just a question of whether or not you found the urge to look at what opened this past weekend to see what was there to watch. Because that’s where I found myself as Jack the Giant Slayer wasn’t a film I was clamoring to see. It was a movie that was just there.
The only real difference, if there was one, was a conceptual twist playing on the idea “what if these fairy tales were actually based on something real?” and as Bill Nighy’s character Fallon puts it “have we, too, fallen into legend?” I’m paraphrasing that line, but it’s the concept of where fairy tales and the stories that they tell are manufactured from. It’s the brief ‘what if’ and Singer approaches this idea making it a somewhat reality.
There isn’t anything overtly good or bad to say about Jack the Giant Slayer. I found that immediately with the cast you could tell they enjoyed themselves on-screen and it’s a rarity where that is completely evident. However that being said, I believe the actors because of this, gave the film the vitality it needed. A level of seriousness but in the bigger sense, a level of adventure, it was fun watching Ewan McGregor look like an outlandish knight, the on-screen chemistry/romance with Hoult and Tomlinson was whimsical and light-hearted, Tucci played up his villain role very well, Nighy provided an animated characterization of Fallon through his voice, and McShane dawned the king’s robe exuding the correct amount of presence. The film was simple and unashamedly fun.
For me the curiosity of the film lies within the budget. Jack the Giant Slayer cost roughly $200 million to make and for how average this movie was, it’s frankly astonishing. The movie was also slated to release back in June 2012 but was held back to give more time for special effects, eventually finding a release nine months later. A release I think, is too late, if there ever was a window of success, it’s long passed. I could assume fans of Hoult from his performance in Warm Bodies (2013) may help, but again, that idea seems very marginal. This movie reminds me of John Carter (2012) at the moment, outside of the terrible marketing. I see Jack the Giant Slayer barely breaking even or not making its money back at all, even at the worldwide level. The film itself portrayed a sincere level of violence but sells it at a PG level, when clearly death occurs off-screen or is shown on-screen as an event that happens after the fact. I wouldn’t be surprised if there a ‘PG-13’ version of the film existed.
It’s a curious notion as to how the film itself is trying to attract ‘families’ to go and watch the movie together. As that’s exactly what this movie is being marketed as, a family oriented movie – all ages. When in fact it isn’t, in all the ways Jack the Giant Slayer is average and knows it. It doesn’t know which audience it’s trying to capture. It’s probably the same reason the title was changed from ‘killer’ to ‘slayer’. And I think because of this, is where the budget becomes a concern, if we as viewers cared about the economics of a studio seeing its return on investment. It was a thought I had mulling over the overall fate of the film, especially with Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) opening next weekend.
If you didn’t catch this movie by now, I suspect you won’t until a much later date (or never) and in reality its Jack the Giant Slayer’s own fault – if a film could ever be blamed. It’s average, a good average but because you know something better is coming you’ll wait for that instead.
I give Jack the Giant Slayer a 6 out of 10.