I wonder if the person who green-lit “Jack the Giant Slayer” is still working in Hollywood. If so, my soul hurts.
In fact, when I finished watching the movie, my diaphragm hurt, too; I was convulsing in fits of laughter throughout the entire movie. I don’t believe that was the intention of the producers, however.
It needn’t have been this way. The folk tale of Jack and the magic beanstalk, despite being a staple of bedtime stories for generations, hasn’t really been attempted in movie form. The story is adventuresome, filled with magic and giants and peasants, the stuff fantasy legends are made of. The fact that it is relatively untouched practically guaranteed originality.
Instead of originality, I had the epiphany midway through the movie that what I was actually watching was a rather comical mash-up of Disney’s “Aladdin” and Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, both “Aladdin” and “Lord of the Rings” are great movies; please don’t mix them together.
Apparently, the producers over at Warner Bros. decided to throw in a princess in an effort to appeal to the Disney preteen demographic. The princess named Isabelle and played by Eleanor Tomlinson, is tired of the secluded royal life, and so constantly escapes into the village undercover, where she meets Jack, played by Nicholas Hoult.
Alas, their love cannot be, because the law says that she must marry royalty. Her father, a pleasant enough but stubborn fellow, has arranged for her to marry Roderick, who has his own nefarious plans to take over the kingdom. Sound familiar yet?
If not, fast forward to Jack and Isabelle’s descent down from the lair of the giants in the sky by way of the beanstalk. They practically have their own romantic “A Whole New World” moment while staring down at the human kingdom.
While we are on the beanstalk topic, the characters sure do spend a lot of time climbing the damn thing in the first half of the movie. When I say “climbing,” I actually mean attempting to climb and falling. Repeatedly. I get that the beanstalk is huge, but they really should’ve focused the film more on other plot points.
Meanwhile, as the plot takes a decisive turn towards the Disney Renaissance, the film stylistically attempts to imitate the visual world of “Lord of the Rings.” It fails quite hilariously.
First, “Lord of the Rings” featured groundbreaking CGI and fantastic artistic design, especially in dealing with the various non-human creatures that inhabit Middle Earth. In contrast, the giants found in “Jack the Giant Slayer” are often poorly rendered even by the standards of a decade ago.
The tone, too, attempts to convey the dark, mortal peril of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, as evident in naming a film about a peasant-princess romance and a magic beanstalk “Jack the Giant Slayer.” The giants, when rendered correctly, have a kind of orc-ish feel to them. In true saga spirit, people die left and right in all sorts of gruesome manners. In fact, remember the scheming Roderick, the ostensible villain of the film? He dies halfway through the movie.
Sometime after the script was completed, though, the filmmakers must have remembered “Oh wait, this is a children’s fairytale.” Their solution? There is not a single ounce of blood spilt in the entire movie, despite the aforementioned large collection of morbid murders. At the end of the film, a giant literally explodes from the inside out onscreen, with random body parts being flung in all directions. But no blood of course, because the children wouldn’t like that.
I kind of feel bad for poor Hoult, who is fresh off of successes like “X-Men: First Class” and “Warm Bodies.” Hoult leads a cast that actually does fairly well in portraying the characters desired of the story. There are a few decent gags in the movie, too. I just wish the story and style had even remotely caught up to that decent quality.
For me, the icing on the moldy cake was a scene in which Jack, Isabelle, and elite guardsman Elmont, played by Ewan McGregor, remove a sleeping giant from the front of a tunnel they need to pass through. How? They stick a bee’s nest in its helmet and watch it run around in agony. The entire time I was thinking of Nicholas Cage’s infamous performance in the 2006 remake of “The Wicker Man.” After all, this seems like the spirit in which “Jack the Giant Slayer” was made.
If you enjoy terrible movies as much as I do, and boy do I love viciously ripping into something that deserves it, this is definitely one to check out. However you might want to wait for the DVD; even I feel a little dirty for contributing to its weekend box office.