A giant mess
This is what it looks like when no one cares about a movie. When a studio moves forward with a concept that it thinks is marketable based on current cinematic trends. When a filmmaker takes a job because he’d like to have an easy hit at the box office. When actors who work in anything that meets their quote get their quote met. This is a movie as pure product, cinema rendered utterly soulless.
Is it any surprise that Jack The Giant Slayer is terrible? Not really, but what’s surprising is the way in which it’s terrible. Jack The Giant Slayer isn’t just tedious and stupid – which would be par for the course for this type of movie – it’s also a tonal nightmare, a constant collision between stupid kiddie elements like farting giants and grim n’ gritty teen elements like giants that bite people’s heads off at every given opportunity.
It’s too brutal for the kids, it’s too silly for the teens. It’s a movie made exactly for no one, except maybe for 35 year old guys with neckbeards who are desperately clinging to their childhoods.
What Bryan Singer and his writers – who include actual talents like Christopher McQuarrie, for the record – have done is attempted to graft a Peter Jackson feeling on the classic Jack and the Beanstalk story. Jackson, at his best, knows how to graft slapstick onto horror, how to have a silly creature walking about amidst a field of decapitated bodies. Singer doesn’t have that skill. Instead of Jackson’s impish mischief, Jack The Giant Slayer feels like the work of someone who tears the wings off flies. While farting.
The skeleton of the story is the same: Jack goes to market to sell his horse and comes home with magic beans. But this bloated movie adds a whole ton of extraneous medieval politics; there’s a headstrong princess who just wants adventures (but who, when she gets adventures, just hangs around in cages screaming) who is due to be married to a snivelling schemer.
The snivelling schemer has in his possession magic beans, a relic of a long-ago war between giants and men (the “mythology” of this is presented in a CG sequence that appears to be emulating RPG cut scenes from the late 90s. The rest of the film’s effects are serviceable, so the crummy CG here must have been an aesthetic choice).
A monk – whose order is dedicated to … I don’t know, watching out for giants? – steals the beans to keep them from the hands of evil. Jack ends up with them, and they get wet at home, dragging Jack’s house – along with Headstrong Princess, who has escaped the castle – up into the clouds.
The next act and a half is a lame variant on exploring Skull Island, with Ewan MacGregor as the very, very heroic knight in charge. The evil schemer betrays everybody, uses and ancient relic to control the giants and then gets them to invade the human kingdom below.
A momentary aside: this is all so much useless action. The giants are established as really wanting to invade the human kingdom. There’s no need for all this stupid back and forth – the script could easily be streamlined so that Jack accidentally allows the giants to attack, and his heroic moment would come from making amends for his mistake. Instead he’s just a player in a larger intrigue in which, frankly, he has little role.
Ewan MacGregor steals the movie. He’s a great swashbuckler, and he’s having all the fun in the world. As everybody sleepwalks through Jack The Giant Slayer, Ewan puts on his biggest grin and commences to strut about, swinging his sword and leap through the air. I’d love to watch a movie about this guy. Everybody else: not so much.
– Devin Faraci