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Jack the Giant Slayer (2013), proof that bigger isn’t better

August 2, 2013

MY CALL:  Maybe great for preteens.  But for adults this is just plain not good.  I was disappointed by the effects, the characters and the action.  So…pretty much everything.  WHAT TO WATCH INSTEAD:  Want something a little bit more serious (but still funny), with more appropriate creatures, creature personalities and creature effects?  Then watch Troll Hunter (2010).  Want to see truly gigantic things fighting in amazing action sequences?  Try Pacific Rim (2013), even though the acting, characters and story are at the same level.

Director Bryan Singer, the man behind X-Men and X2 (the “good” movies of the franchise), truly disappointed me with his spin on Jack and the Beanstalk.  Other than a few somewhat funny moments, this movie was simply moderately entertaining and largely a letdown.  This is just my opinion though.  So if you want to cut the criticism short and hear a review from someone who had a more positive experience with this movie, then please read Mark’s review instead.

This classic tale follows the classic plot points.  Jack trades something for some “magic beans,” he’s scolded for being stupid by his uncle, the seeds get wet and a bean stalk on steroids lifts his house to the land of giants up in the clouds, and then he faces off against giants.

As Jack, Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, X-Men: First Class) brings a strong sense of purity and goodness as if it came naturally to him.  Despite that, I wasn’t otherwise impressed by his performance at all, which is unusual.  I typically very much enjoy his acting.  We quickly meet his love interest, future queen Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson; Alice in Wonderland), who also fails to impress me and is accidently carried to the land of giants with Jack’s house.
Jack (Nicholas Hoult) and Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson)

A smooth, well-spoken and stylishly haired knight named Elmont (Ewan McGregor; Haywire, The Impossible) leads a band to rescue Isabelle from the land of giants.  He goes with a company of knights, Jack and Isabelle’s extremely unsavory intended husband Roderick (Stanley Tucci; The Hunger Games, Captain America: The First Avenger).  Roderick slithers his way through the story and manages to do something despicable every step of the way.  He backstabs everybody and sides with the giants to seize King Brahmwell’s (Ian McShane; Snow White and the Huntsman, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) kingdom below for himself.  I was unimpressed with all of these characters.  ALL OF THEM!!!  Sorry.  I call it like I see it.

The giants are led by General Fallon (Bill Nighy; Total Recall, Wrath of the Titans).  Bill Nighy normally does great playing evil bad guys (e.g., Underworld, the Pirates franchise).  However, I felt he really missed his regular benchmark here.  Nothing about his character struck me as inhuman except for the CGI that illustrated him on screen.  Speaking of which, the CGI is just “okay.”  I’ve seen MUCH better.  I guess it does its job but shows far too strong of a contrast with the non-computer-generated actors and backgrounds.  This goes not only for the giants, but for the fantasy-scapes as well.  Much as General Fallon, the other giants fail to feel like monsters outside of eating humans and their deliberate appearance.  They’re simply mean “giant” humans and, as a result, were uninteresting.

Sadly, while provoking a few giggles, I didn’t care for the action either.  And the ending was just awful.  I can comfortably say that there were only three things that I really liked about this movie.

1)  There’s  a knight with a monocle.  That’s as random as the Monopoly guy fighting in the UFC.

2)  General Fallon’s second head.  It’s a brain-damaged, malformed little mongoloid that growls, cackles and mumbles incoherently with a stupid, googly-eyed look on its face at all times.  It reminded me of Gollum.

3)  Ewan McGregor’s hair.  I had no idea that fantasy knights had access to decent hair products.

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