‘Jack the Giant Slayer’
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Eddie Marsan
Rated: PG-13, for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language
Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Bottom line: No magic in these beans
Another week, another folk tale hits movie theaters.
Hot on the heels of the modestly performing “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” comes “Jack the Giant Slayer,” an attempt to expand the old English tale into a big budget epic.
“Jack” comes with some giant-sized names attached, particularly Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie (the directing and writing duo behind “The Usual Suspects”), but you’d never guess that from the shoddy production values and uneven tone.
The familiar tale is set in a world in which humans and giants have waged war for centuries. Long ago, the giants were banished to a land that somehow floats among the clouds, and the human king possesses a crown that makes him ruler over the giants because their blood is mixed into the metal. Oh, and there are those beans.
In the vaguely medieval present tense of the movie, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) goes to the city to sell a horse and cart because he and his uncle have fallen on hard times.
There, Jack encounters Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) and gets dragged into a plot among some monks to steal the beans and the crown.
The beans accidentally get planted once Jack is back home, the stalk grows up to the giants’ land and takes Isabelle with it, and Jack tags along with a group of knights and courtesans sent by the king (Ian McShane) to rescue Isabelle.
The knights, Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and Crawe (Eddie Marsan), are noble, while the courtesans, Roderick (Stanley Tucci) and Wicke (Ewen Bremner), are deceitful.
Jack must kill some giants and rescue Isabelle while avoiding Roderick’s devious schemes.
This movie arrives with many well-publicized problems.
Warner Bros. originally intended it for a June 2012 release and hoped it would compete against last summer’s heavy hitters. That date would have put it in competition against “Madagascar 3,” Snow White and the Huntsman,” and “Brave,” all of which are better than this movie. (Yes, even “Snow White” is better.)
Warner apparently delayed the film because it wasn’t family friendly enough. Too dark and, according to one insider, “too fanboy,” whatever that means.
Reshoots were done, but they didn’t help. It is painfully obvious the filmmakers were unsure of what tone they wanted to produce.
“Jack” is overall a rather dark movie. Parents, don’t be fooled by the movie’s source material. This is a PG-13 movie that is not suitable for young children.
There are copious close-ups of frightening, menacing giants seething with rage and threats, and several people are killed, and not in a blatantly fake, fairy tale manner. Even Warner Bros. representatives have said the film is not intended for kids under 10 years old.
Occasionally, though, the filmmakers shift to a lighter, campy tone. McGregor and Hoult are both charming, funny actors. When the filmmakers let them exercise their comedic chops, it works.
But those scenes are out of place within the rest of the film, and the movie doesn’t stick to that tone.
Problems with the visual effects were reportedly the other source of the delay, and oh my, does it show. The delay didn’t solve those problems, either.
The movie opens with an animated sequence that relates the backstory of the war between the humans and giants.
The character animation is embarrassingly choppy and disjointed. I took off the 3D glasses to see if the problem was in the projection or my own eyes.
Alas, no, the animation itself is just terrible. Nor do the visual effects improve much as the film progresses.
The result of all this is a movie that reportedly cost $300 million to make and market, yet stands about as much chance of breaking even as I do of finding magic beans.
Perhaps the best way to summarize the movie’s quality is to draw on another traditional English tale.
“Jack the Giant Slayer” is so fractured and fallen that not even a cast and crew that includes Singer, McQuarrie, McGregor, Tucci, McShane and Bill Nighy’s magnificent voice could put it back together again.
Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.