Movie Review: Jack the Giant Slayer- An Embarrassingly Lazy Fantasy Adaptation That Lacks a True Sense of Childhood Wonderment

Jack_the_Giant_Slayer_640x360Nothing is sacred in Hollywood that’s for certain, especially when the profiteering of destroying beloved childhood fantasies can easily be done without a consideration of consequence. As each and every fantasy tale from our youth gets bastardized and leaks its way into the theaters we lose more and more of a sense of what made those adventures truly special, which is a true sense of wonderment. The latest of the embellished fantasy tales comes from a director we all thought should know better, Bryan Singer. Jack the Giant Slayer, or known by its original title Jack the Giant Killer, fits the typical mold of blockbuster drivel filling a script with caricature pawns instead of actual fleshed out characters and distracts you with special effects instead of engaging you in a well formed plot. However, there is something unusually bad here because it’s not just an abhorrent waste of talent on the screen but even the CGI appears to have taken a vacation from the usual quality expected in these sorts of spectacle pieces. It’ almost as if the creators of this realized the mistake they had made midway through the making of this film and pulled out the rest of the effort that otherwise was going to be wasted. Fantasy tales used to inspire a magical curiosity and expanded the imagination, something that seems so sparse in the medium of cinema today. In fact, Jack the Giant Slayer goes the extra mile in its laziness by slaying any magical wonderment from a familiar story that very well could have inspired a well thought out blend of classical fairy tale and blockbuster structure. While there have already been disastrous films released early on in 2013 it’s safe to say that considering all the talent involved from writing, directing, and acting in Jack the Giant Slayer it really becomes the first cinematic embarrassment of the year. The only positive reflection that could be had after seeing this monstrosity of awfulness is that they’re probably running out of classic fairy tales they can ruin.

Just knowing it took three screenwriters to pen this cumbersome script is enough to make you feel immense shame for them because they clearly aren’t feeling enough themselves. Considering half the dialogue is just mere exclamations of character’s names its confusing why it needed three writers to make it three times as mediocre. Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dan Studney have written an incredibly choppy story that has a hard time balancing their 9-year old sensibilities for bodily humor with their mixture of sensitized violence, neither of which are anywhere close to amusing. Everything from the simulated predictable romance to the pseudo-Lord of the Rings action is written in too choreographed a manner making the entire film feel forceful in an unwelcoming way. Basically the whole script lacks what should be an initial requirement for modernized fairy tale movies and that’s enchantment. Because the lead romantic protagonists Jack and Isabelle aren’t written to be anything beyond an excuse to see an avalanche of special effects the whole story is deceptively inflated and begins to deconstruct the further we journey without a reliable character map. Jack the Giant Slayer is a script that is obviously constructed based off of marketing meetings in a desperate attempt to appeal to as many demographics as they could possibly think up not realizing that when you lack specifics then you’ll probably lose everyone in your meandering unfocused mess. What’s truly upsetting is the realization that screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie is the Academy Award winner behind the 1995 thriller The Usual Suspects, which Bryan Singer also directed. If writers who have penned quality material before feel comfortable falling back on easily regurgitated nonsense then it becomes a pretty bleak outlook for the cinema and blockbuster worlds.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

Bryan Singer was a fine director with quality credits in drama with The Usual Suspects and action with X-Men until he cursed himself by ruining one of comic books most beloved and cherished heroes in Superman Returns. Perhaps on a comparative scale Jack the Giant Slayer isn’t as bad as his incredibly dull Superman Returns but the two of them are uncomfortably close. Throughout his newest fantasy adventure Singer doesn’t even utilize his strength as an action sequence director to the best of his abilities though that very well could be attributed to a script that lacks direction and substance. Even though his visual effects artists arrange some impressive feats, such as the erupting beanstalk or the stampeding giants out of the forest, the characters never seem to be believable in their sense of danger or genuinely connect us with their experience. Singer might know how to deliver a rousing action sequence but his ability to work with actors in order to bring about believability in a world of fantasy has been dwindling. Again this could very well be attributed to the script that has absolutely zero substance in relation to character development, dialogue, expression, and motivation but a director should be able to uproot those elements in a film. It’s an unfortunate series of events to see a director who basically revolutionized and reignited the comic book genre become a director of a cheaply written fantasy adaptation even if his intentions in creating this lazy project were valid. Having Jack the Giant Slayer taint your filmography wouldn’t be such an awful stamp if it weren’t for the fact that Singer’s last good movie was exactly a decade ago. Even though we associate Singer with intriguing characters, symbolic visuals, and tightly choreographed action sequences there is no evidence in this film that he possesses any of those qualities. Jack the Giant Slayer basically becomes a waste of Singer’s known attributes as he also takes down a cast of exceptional leads and character actors with him.

Taking the lead in this ungodly mess of a film is Nicholas Hoult who has proven his versatile acting range from comedy in Warm Bodies to action in X-Men: First Class to drama in A Single Man. Despite having the ability to be a credible and sympathetic lead the script just fails to give this interpretation of Jack any intriguing foundation past a typical interest in adventure. This actually could be the exact same explanation of the performance by actress Eleanor Tomlinson as the other romantic lead in the film. To both their credit Hoult and Tomlinson don’t allow the awfulness of the script to plague their performances as they continuously sell their charming personas as often as they can. This actually could be said for most of the supporting cast from the unexplainable presence of Ian McShane to the unfortunate involvement of Ewan McGregor. Seeing the always remarkable Stanley Tucci reduced to playing a one dimensional villain without actually being threatening and having zero foresight is an unforgivable sin. Jack the Giant Slayer would have been unthinkably worse if credible actors hadn’t been carefully placed throughout to keep the sinking ship afloat, but even their professional experience couldn’t keep it from tanking. It’s a shame that they were involved in it at all because awful scripts don’t deserve this kind of talent though nothing would be made without a recognizable name or two. On the acting side of things it’s a positive trait to have credible actors give credible performances as to not allow the audience in how bad it really is.

Eleanor-Tomlinson-Jack-the-giant-slayer

For all of its valid intentions and researched market targeting decisions, Jack the Giant Slayer is just an unfortunately lazy attempt at adapting a beloved children’s fantasy that becomes grimmer than any Grimm fairy tale. The crushing weight of this poorly designed fantasy adventure comes from the mediocre script that constructs an expected romance that lacks vigor and creates action sequences that lack consequence or purpose. Not even Bryan Singer’s experience in the blockbuster genre could introduce some inventive visual displays or unexpected twists in direction though it seems his abilities have been getting weaker over time. Stories are written now as excuses for special effects driven sequences in order to have bigger promotions in the hopes of turning out bigger numbers. Unfortunately this overtly cynical business approach is the reason the cinema has been losing its wonderment and though it might be subtle audiences are taking note. Jack the Giant Slayer is another uninventive blockbuster that follows the formula in order to produce the same results as the last intended tent pole movie but eventually the formula wears off in strength. It might take a little while but regurgitated material, whether it’s a fantasy or a thriller or a heist movie, will eventually wear out its welcome even among the people most accepting of them.

Grade: D+

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