Jack the Giant Slayer

Jack the Giant Slayer photo starrating-2stars.jpgJack the Giant Slayer is one of those effects-laden 3D eyesores short on excitement and big on CGI. It’s based on the English folk tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” and the lesser known (to this critic anyway) “Jack the Giant Killer.” It’s a story that has stood the test of time so this should’ve been a rousing adventure harkening back to traditional fables. Unfortunately this a largely uninspired effort full of flimsy characters, unexciting situations and copious amounts of CGI that look dated and ugly. Hollywood never seems to learn that simply throwing money up on the screen does not an enjoyable film make.

Given the subject, this anecdote could have been a spirited fantasy with touches of humor, but the oppressive spectacle has no joy. The cast includes formidable acting talent including Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane and Ewan McGregor. But the characters are disposable good vs. evil, rich vs. poor cutouts. Nicholas Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson are particularly forgettable as Jack and Isabelle, the lead couple. I blame the script for the blah characterizations. Only Tucci exhibits the personality necessary for the lighthearted romp this aspires to be. Oh and the beanstalk gave a nice performance actually. Seriously it’s the most animated character of them all.

The adventure takes forever to get started. We all know the basic plot, so why the interminable intro? I struggled to stay awake during the first 30 minutes before the beanstalk gets planted. And when the screenplay isn’t generic, it’s stupid. You’ll question King Brahmwell’s mindset when he orders to intentionally cut down the very beanstalk that his beloved daughter has climbed up. Or her memory for that matter when she doesn’t question him on it later. Incidentally, when Jack and Isabelle do fall from the sky, their ability to remain alive is the most unintentionally hilarious display since the last Twilight picture.

This is a CGI nightmare. The entire race of giants, that live up in the sky are all computer generated. There are so many of them and they occupy such an important role that this becomes an animated film whenever they’re on screen. Many sequences would exist of nothing but simply a green screen without the computer graphics. At times CGI can improve visuals, but here they are badly executed and really ugly. The creations look hopelessly dated and cheap especially when they‘re interacting with real human actors. Why couldn’t the giants been accomplished using human actors and creatively shooting to make them appear larger? Oh how I missed the quaint practical effects of classic Hollywood fare of movies like Jason and the Argonauts. The technology may look antiquated today, but at least it had an organic quality that felt authentic.

There just isn’t enough innovation to Jack the Giant Slayer to justify why this was even made. Uninteresting characters, weak script and bad special effects, do not add up to a good time. It’s a deadly trifecta of bad movie making. The overreliance on poor CGI makes this a distinctly dreary exercise. There are snatches of excitement to be found. When Jack dumps a hive full of bees into a giant’s helmet, there’s gleeful anticipation in what will happen. But more often than not the action is a dull, labored affair lacking the fun of the original fairy tale. Not surprisingly the $195 million production has been a costly bomb. Maybe they should have just included music by Slayer. Guess we can be thankful we were spared sequels like Jack the Giant Megadeth or Jack the Giant Anthrax.

29 Responses to “Jack the Giant Slayer”

  1. Wordschat Says:

    Wow haven’t had a chance to write review except a tweet. Boy are we on opposite sides and I don’t usually like 3D. I like your humour in the cutting the movie down to size though. Cheers


    • Thanks. I’m glad I was able to salvage a funny review then. Your comment reminds me of Peter Travers’ review in Rolling Stone: “Jack the Giant Slayer proves the axiom ‘If you can’t make it good, make it 3D.'”


  2. Good review Mark. I’ll give you that; it is stupid. However, I had a bunch of fun with this movie because it was just wild, wacky, and always entertaining. Never seemed to lose my interest a single-bit.


    • Once they went up the beanstalk and started battling with the giants, I perked up a bit, but the dialogue was so boring. Where was the humor? It was just depressing.


  3. After reading the reviews for this weekends new releases I am glad that I decided to stay away from the theater for one more week. Hopefully, we can start getting some decent releases starting next week.


    • I know. It’s been a difficult year at the movies so far. Despite the bad reviews, this looked like it might be fun. I was really hoping the critics were wrong.


  4. Glad I missed this one. Previews looked pretty bad.


  5. Aww its bad isn’t it 😦

    Trailers looked quite bad but I still held hope. Bad year so far isn’t it?


    • Yes it’s been a very bad year, so far. This time of the year is always plagued by the worst films, but box office is way down despite ever increasing ticket prices and 3D. Audiences seem to sense a lack of good films and aren’t going as much.


  6. 2013 is really getting off to a weak start :/
    I think I’ll be giving this one a miss haha 😉


  7. Great review (LOL at the final lines). Ever since the first trailer came out, I was like “hell no”.


  8. “formidable acting talent including Stanley Tucci, Ian MacShane, and Ewan McGregor”

    I’m guessing they motivated you to see this….I’m a fan of both Tucci and McGregor, but if the trailer is anything like the movie itself, let’s hope their careers aren’t at stake. Glad you saw this one for me. 🙂


  9. “Given the subject, this anecdote could have been a spirited fantasy with touches of humor, but the oppressive spectacle has no joy.” – Nicely put.

    I liked how you went off on the CGI, too. Its worthy of derision for sure. It was honestly pretty terrible.

    Meanwhile, I’m right about where you are if I were to score it. I think on my Lambscores I went 2.5 😉


    • When I left the theater, I actually thought: “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ is really DUMB!“ I later read your well written review and you ended with the same line. Ha ha. Great minds think alike. 😀


  10. I might have enjoyed the film, but I agree that the character development lacked considerable depth. Really, the only thing driving Jack seems to be his connection to Isabelle. Otherwise, meh.


  11. After reading your review I am so glad I decided to skip the press screening of this film. You confirm my worst fears about what I thought this picture would be: unimaginative CGI-ridden fluff with a stupid story and script I too very muchmiss the days of practical effects. You’re right that probably would have been a better way to do them, with really good actors. I think you might be on to something with the music by Slayer idea. I bet a band like Gwar or Primus might actually be ambitious enough to do an epic project like that combining a bizarre fairy tale and their music.


    • One of the many reasons I admire a director like Christopher Nolan is his use of practical effects. Slayer was kind of a joke, but now that you suggest Gwar or Primus, I’m starting to actually warm up to the idea. I like where you’re taking the concept.


  12. absolutely agreed. They could’ve done so much more with this but it just was a gigantic mess. Great review. I found the CGI to be pretty distracting.


    • These days given the quality of special effects, they usually get the CGI right even when the story suffers. When that’s an issue, you know you’re in trouble.


  13. martin250 Says:

    i enjoyed reading your review. i agree with some of your points, particularly about the first 30 minutes being boring.

    but i thought the Giants really saved this film. seeing them in 3d was quite fun.

    did you watch this in 3d?


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