Film Review – Jack the Giant Slayer
I’m continually surprised at how underappreciated it feels like Bryan Singer is. Despite having directed one of the best thrillers (and my favorite movie) in The Usual Suspects, and helping to resurrect the comic book movie with his work on X-Men, he is generally overlooked when people discuss the best directors. Heck, I’m not even sure most people would know of him by name. This isn’t even factoring in his underappreciated film work (Apt Pupil) or his impressive body of TV work (producer on shows such as House—including directing the pilot). So it is amazing to me the general disinterest there seems to be towards his newest project, Jack the Giant Slayer. Now, I will concede that I wish Bryan Singer spent more time working on more unconventional projects, but any time he produces something, it is an event movie for me.
The story of the new film is loosely based on the film Jack the Giant Killer (1962), following Jack (Nicholas Hoult) as he ventures into the land of giants to rescue princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) and stop the giants from returning to (and destroying) the world of men. Despite this simplistic re-hashing of the plot, don’t get the wrong impression and assume this is your classic damsel-in-distress storyline; it goes far beyond that. While the film is fairly breezy, it does still touch on the politics of power, the complexity of war, and an exploration of legend vs. reality.
Adventure films are not nearly as in vogue as they have been in the past. A few times a year something comes up, but discounting the contribution of Peter Jackson and J. R. R. Tolkien, the pickings get pretty slim. Growing up, I loved adventure films like the Indiana Jones franchise. It seems the problem with adventure films is that they are perceived as being less serious than other films, because there is a tongue-in-cheek quality to the stories, and they are frequently filled with as much humor as there is action. They tend to be predictable and the hero always wins, but they are meant to be more fun experiences than genre-shaking movies. Despite what the trailers tell you, you know Jack; he is like comfort food…that tasty mac & cheese you grew up watching.
Regardless of your feelings about the concept of the story, the film is brought to life by Nicholas Hoult. Hoult has recently re-established himself as a star, with Warm Bodies (as you may or may not remember, it has been quite a while since his breakout role in About A Boy), and this role will certainly enhance that standing. He is so versatile and charismatic that he really does display that classic star potential, which is somewhat appropriate, as he feels like a young Ewan McGregor (who is also present in the film). Already he has proven himself to be capable of doing drama and comedy, and between this and X-Men: First Class, he has established himself as a capable action star as well. His chemistry with Tomlinson is excellent, and they make a solid tandem. It is still probably too early to call him 2013’s Channing Tatum, but with a part in the new Mad Max film on the horizon in 2014, Hoult’s career looks incredibly promising. He clearly has a fan already in Singer. Tomlinson is a lot of fun too; think more of Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark than your traditional female lead. If the two leads aren’t engaging enough, the supporting cast includes McGregor, Stanley Tucci, and Ian McShane—do I really need to sell you on them any more than that?
The one glaring flaw I see in the movie is the use of toilet humor—giants farting, giants picking their noses, etc. Yeah, I get it, the giants are a crude race, but it really adds nothing that the treatment of them couldn’t already create. One of the critiques I’d heard coming into the movie concerned the quality of the CGI; I found it to be a good fit for the mood. The giants are certainly not photo-realistic, and it doesn’t feel like that was the goal. The use of 3D was for the most part decent, but at times certain angles would pop up that were almost painful to look at. While I don’t think the 3D is unsatisfactory, I also don’t think it is necessary to pay the surcharge to see it in 3D.
It is unfortunate that this film was given such an early release date and that the trailers seem to be getting some backlash. I think under different circumstances this film could’ve been a summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how well it will do at the box office, but I think if people are actually willing to give it a chance, they will like it. It might be mindless fun, but it still is fun.
Final Grade: B+