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The Independent Critic

Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor, Ian McShane, Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci
Bryan Singer
Christopher McQuarrie (Screenplay), Dan Studney (Screenplay), Darren Lemke (Story), David Dobkin (Story), and Mark Bomback (Writer)
Rated PG-13
114 Mins.
Warner Brothers Pictures

 Will Jack Slay the Box-Office?  
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There are moments in Jack the Giant Slayer when I started thinking to myself "This is going to be really amazing," only to wind up regularly disappointed at what amounts to another paint-by-numbers technified retelling of a children's tale that uses its technology to disguise its many structural flaws.

Coming from director Bryan Singer, I must confess that I'd hoped for more or, at the very minimum, I hoped for a genuinely entertaining two hours of escapism. While Jack the Giant Slayer comes closer to nailing the right tone than other recent endeavors like Snow White and the Huntsman and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, that's a rather low threshold of success to meet and actually achieving it doesn't really symbolize success at all.

This PG-13 rated action adventure takes the framework of the children's tale and crafts the story of a fragile peace between men and giants seemingly coming to an end when a princess is kidnapped and a young farmer leads an expedition into the kingdom of the giants to rescue her.

Jack the Giant Slayer is an unusual film in that it's filled with mismatched moments. There are times when you are struck by the film's beauty and a rather remarkable fantasy-like aura that was surely intentional on Singer's part. Then, there are moments, usually the larger CG-laden moments, when the film's design is almost mind-numbingly fake to the point of distraction. This is definitely one film I'd have much rather seen without the 3-D imagery.

The film kicks off in the kingdom of Cloister with a king (Ian McShane), the king's advisor and the king's preferred chap to marry his daughter (Stanley Tucci), a sidekick (Ewan Bremner), a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) and, the aforementioned farmer (Nicholas Hoult), with whom the princess will become smitten because they share a love for adventure books. Of course, it doesn't take long before the princess has been taken up the beanstalk, one can't really call it kidnapping since she really is trying to experience freedom, and Jack joins the others on a charge to get her back against those dastardly giants.

I always thought wolves were portrayed badly in movies. Giants are really portrayed badly!

The film's script-by-committee made some awfully weird choices, ranging from resolving the fate of the baddie rather quickly in the film to practically no character development at all for the remaining computer generated giants.

While the cast is all game here, Stanley Tucci is a real hoot, and the script from The Usual Suspects scribe Christopher McQuarrie has many fine elements, the film as a whole just never seems to gel together into a cohesive cinematic experience. I would liken it to a rather impressive puzzle with a few essential pieces missing that render completion a less than satisfying experience.

Nicholas Hoult was much more convincing in his Warm Bodies coupling, though a good portion of that responsibility lies with Eleanor Tomlinson's far too placid portrayal of the princess. Hoult's onscreen persona already leans towards passive, and passive and placid simply don't make for interesting cinema.

Jack the Giant Slayer feels intentional, like a film that wants to be so much more than it is either in terms of cinematic excess or potential franchise. While it's rather difficult to imagine the franchise potential for this film, one could almost imagine the giants themselves making for an interesting film. While there's no question that the giants, especially Fallon (Bill Nighy), are the baddies of the film, they are simultaneously the most sympathetic characters amongst human beings who aren't exactly portrayed with tremendous sympathy. While we're not given much chance to bond with these giants, it's hard not to find them compelling.

Unfortunately, in the end Jack the Giant Slayer feels rather disappointing for a film rumored to have had a production budget nearing $200 million. For $200 million, I'd think they'd have been able to have afforded a little gel.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic