Jack the Giant Slayer
Jack 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.