Jack The Giant Slayer – 2013
Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, John Kassir, Ewan Bremner, Ralph Brown
Written by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, Dan Studney
Why is Bryan Singer directing a movie about a fairy tale? Really. The Usual Suspects. X-Men. Valkyrie. Now, a fairy tale. Of course, it’s easy to forget Superman Returns. Everyone else seems to have forgotten it. Supposedly, this movie’s idea was proposed before the recent spate of effects laden fairy tale films including Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Huntsman, Hansel and Gretel, Alice in Wonderland, and Mirror Mirror. All of these films, except for Snow White were bad. This one has certain things going for it: Hoult, McShane, McGregor. There’s one thing definitely not in its favor: Stanley Tucci as Stanley Tucci. Another problem, quite obviously, is the fact that the giants look goofier than Harryhausen special effects.
Yes, there aree giants. Plural. There are a bunch of them. Named, among other things, Fe, Fi, Fo and Fum. This is not the only departure from the original tale, but as usual, most of them are in the spirit of expanding the tale. Not for the sake of story. Just the chance for extensive special effects. The good news, however is that some of the giants interact like genuine characters. I give credit to Bill Nighy, who, along with John Kassir plays the two-headed King Fallon. One wishes that we had, perhaps, a Helen Mirren giant to go along with him.
What we get this time is a fairy tale within the fairy tale about the ancient King Eric, who saved the kingdom from giants before. His bloodline survives, along with the tale, which eventually becomes so old it is no longer considered real. This is an important lesson for the viewer, allowing the story tellers to preset the possibility of a reality to the tale known as Jack and the Beanstalk. Whatever. We really just know we can expect explosions, arrows, fire and death.
There always has to be some sort of automatic crossbow in these faux tales, and here is no exception. At least this time we have the pleasure of seeing it stopped by a sling shot that shoots more than peas. There are many inventive and somewhat unexpected deaths in the films. Some folks you thought would stick around until the annoying end are offed in the first hour. This makes the film more daring than most of its kind, and the benefit almost overcomes the lack of a real conclusive battle.
Hoult is excellent as the unexpected hero. He has a real humble and honest charm that makes him a common day hero. McGregor has an electric smile, and he puts it to good use here, along with the requisite blue screen skills he acquired in the 3 bad Star Wars films. Ian McShane can be my king anytime. Or my saloon owner. It’s a joy to see him think things through. It’s good to see Ralph Brown, of “85” fame from Alien3. He is also in Stoker. He’s a presence that adds a quiet, wonderful dimension to most films he is in.
Of the rest of cast, there is not much to say. Just a bunch of (human) faces and (giant) voices. It would have been nice to know the motives of the giants, or to find out some of their history. Alas, it was not to be. Oh, well. They haven’t done 3 Little Pigs yet. One wonders how they will fit the machine gun crossbow in there.
(*** out of *****)