“Jack the Giant Slayer” is simultaneously overachieving and underachieving. It comes from a director who has made some great, great films, yet it belongs to one of the worst genres in the world. It’s not terrible, and actually has a pretty strong third act, but the whole thing is ultimately pretty forgettable.
The film, directed by Bryan Singer, is the latest in this new, terrible mini-genre that consists of turning classic children’s fairy tales into revisionist, action-packed, CGI-heavy adventure movies, the one that in the last year has brought us “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.”
No, this isn’t as bad as Kristen Stewart trudging through “Snow White” with a perpetually blank facial expression. But it’s nothing remotely special or memorable, either.
Based on the “Jack and the Beanstalk” legend, “Jack the Giant Slayer” stars Nicholas Hoult (from the recent “Warm Bodies”) as Jack, a farmhand and orphan who stumbles into some beans that activate a beanstalk, leading humanity into conflict with a race of CGI-born giants. Amid the battles with giants, Jack also romances Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson).
The film treads water for pretty much its entire first hour, but its third act is actually a highlight. It’s something we’ve seen a bunch of times- an elaborate battle scene involving the storming of a castle- but Singer directs it well and it’s actually exciting.
Another strength of the film is a deep bench of good supporting actors, led by Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci, and BOTH Ewans from “Trainspotting” (McGregor and Bremner.)
However, the plot is a slog, and it’s got just the worst kind of special effects- they always look expensive, but never particularly impressive. Also, like a lot of recent sword-and-battle films, ‘Giant Slayer’ pales by comparison to HBO’s Game of Thrones. In just about every way, that show does fantasy better than any of these films ever do.
“Jack the Giant Slayer” was directed by Singer, and one of three credited screenwriters is Christopher McQuarrie. Singer directed and McQuarrie wrote ‘The Usual Suspects,” which is nothing less than one of the best films of my lifetime. Sure, they’re not going for the same thing, but there’s nothing in this film even approaching the creativity or ingenuity of ‘Suspects.’
If this review is short, it’s for a simple reason: This movie left no impression on me whatsoever. It went in one ear and out the other, I saw it a couple of days ago and have already forgotten just about everything about it.