When it was announced that Hollywood was going to turn the folktale “Jack and the Beanstalk” into a feature length film, like everyone else I was a bit skeptical about its success. However, once The Usual Suspects and X-Men director Bryan Singer was attached to direct the picture, I definitely was a little intrigued and even a bit hopeful that this adaptation could be something worth watching. Alas, this isn’t the case. Jack the Giant Slayer is just the latest in a string of fairy tale/folktale stories that we heard as kids turned into a just okay movie.
The core problem with Jack the Giant Slayer is that nothing really stands out to grab you. Not the story, not the acting, not the visuals, nothing. While there are some exciting moments and a few times where integrations of practical effects and CGI are pretty cool, there are not enough moments like these to sustain the entire film. With nothing to really latch onto, at no point was I ever really blown away or heavily invested in what was going on in the film.
What really stood out to me though was the terrible CGI used to create the “look” of the giants. Designed a little cartoon-ish and cavemen-like, they did not look great at all and came off looking cheap. Being a fantasy film, one with the word “Giant” in the title, it’s a given that there will have to be some suspension of disbelief on behalf of the viewer. No amount of this could help me believe in these unrealistic giants, not even Bill Nighy, whose menacing voice was used for the lead giant.
I guess what it boils down to was that the giants looked like poorly animated characters from a bad Saturday morning cartoon. Their looks did not hint at any of the reported $195 million dollar budget that this film is carrying. I know that most viewers can spot visual effect magic a mile a way, but there are awesome examples of great CGI characters in bad films like the Tharks in last year’s John Carter or even Jar Jar Binks back in the Star Wars prequels.
On the positive side there are some bright spots to Jack the Giant Slayer. As I previously mentioned, there’s some good integration between set work and visual effects work, most notably in places where the beanstalk is involved. There were a few reminders of Honey I Shrunk the Kids more than a few times as our heroes were climbing the beanstalk–which I loved. Also, in a few scenes where the beanstalk is coming down I thought there was some great action there as well between real life actors, animals, practical beanstalk props, and the visual effects.
While Nicholas Hoult was “warm” and affectionate in his last outing Warm Bodies, he did not bring anything to the table this time around. The highlight of the entire film had to have been Ewan McGregor. Having proven his blue and green screen acting chops with the Star Wars prequels, he looked the most believable out of all the actors in the film. In fact, McGregor was chewing on scenery a number of times and looked to be having fun doing so. I enjoyed his character the most and was entertained almost every time he was on screen.
When it comes right down to it, Bryan Singer was in a tough spot when he took over production on Jack the Giant Slayer from the original director, the effects of which can still be felt in the film that is now in theaters. Tonally, I’m not sure who the right audience for the film is, and I’m not sure the film does either. Sure, it has some great action sequences and some funny lines, but it also has crude humor that got old after a while as well as crummy-looking giants. While Jack the Giant Slayer is not a bad movie, it might be more of a mediocre one. For the man that made us fearful of Keyser Söze and jump-started the superhero genre, this film is more in line with Superman Returns and Valkyrie–films of his that no one hardly mentions anymore.
Jack the Giant Slayer gets 2 out of 5 stars.