With the downpour of fairytale adaptations to the big screen going strong, it’s fair to assume that there are going to be some mediocre stories thrown in. No I’m not talking about Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters! That movie was a bloody good time (bodily fluid drenched kind, not British)! I’m thinking more along the lines of Alice in Wonderland. Jack the Giant Slayer is definitely not that bad, it would take a filmmaker not trying to stoop that low, but it definitely leaves much to be desired.
The film starts out with our protagonist as a child, living through his tiny book telling of the legend of the giants living in the sky that hope to one-day return to the land below to feast on the fleshy human goodness. A short distance away, his future love interest is being told of the same legend by her mother, the queen. The poor quality, dated animation used to show Jack visualizing the story being acted out by wooden men like the toy in his hands isn’t the best way to start this CGI fest, other than to set the standards low since the giants of the film aren’t always the easiest to believe as being real. But that comes later. For now we are stuck on Earth’s surface, with these parallel backstories being the main way for us to pair Jack and Isabelle together since there is little time for relationship building before Isabelle gets kidnapped by a feverishly growing beanstalk that is luckily perfectly placed to grow to the edge of Giant Island.
As Ian McShane’s King Brahmwell, who looks surprisingly like Shrek’s Lord Farquaad as his armor dwarfs him, sends Jack along up the stalk with a group of his most trusted, we finally get some much deserved Ewan McGregor time. As I’m sure is no surprise to anyone, he is the main highlight of this film as his character has much more to him than the rest, including some fancy hair and armor (actually the costume design was pretty cool throughout). Those that are evil are simply evil, and those that are good are simply good. Even Nicholas Hoult’s Jack seems hardly deserving to have a film named after him since he is a rather unoriginal version of the dutiful hero doing what is right to save the princess.
With this lack of depth in characters and the eye roll worthy booger and fart jokes (that I have yet to forgive The Hobbit for either), I was actually surprised to see that the film is rated PG-13 instead of PG. Granted, if there is one more thing other than McGregor to compliment, it was the squirming brought on by the introduction of the giants. As the ground quakes along with the advancing thuds, I was reminded of how I felt as a child when I first saw the comparable scene in Jurassic Park in which the Tyrannosaurus Rex first appears. My heart was pounding along with his steps, and I can’t help but imagine that the kids around me felt the same way during Jack. And that’s before even considering that they like to bring humans up to their face and bite them in half (I’m assuming since we never actually see the bisections).
The animation of the action and environments far surpasses the giants, leading up to a pretty decent latter portion as the story comes to its climax. Not only that, but it has a rather intense demise for a certain character that is definitely worth seeing, and the PG-13 rating. If only the rest of the film had lived up to this.
Final grade: C- Follow @BewareOfTrees