One question kept lingering in my mind as I watched Jack the Giant Slayer: how do the giants procreate? Aside from some physical abnormalities, they’re basically big people who sleep, eat and produce all the bodily fluids one would expect, yet they’re all male. Where are the women in this land of the clouds? Without them, do they reproduce asexually? If so, where are the (comparatively) little ones? If they aren’t able to procreate, are they immortal? Normally, a lack of answers would bother my obsessive compulsive brain, but in this case, they gave me something to think about while I was otherwise bored out of my mind. Jack the Giant Slayer is a lackluster production all around that features thin characters stuck in an even thinner story that stumbles along boorishly, never really building all that much excitement despite its titular promise of giant slaying.
Nicholas Hoult, who was so good in last month’s Warm Bodies, plays Jack. He’s a poor farm boy whose father told him stories of a mystical land full of giants when he was younger, which gave him hope to one day go on a grand adventure. Little did he know, however, that those stories were actually true and his adventure was going to mimic the stories he loved so much as a child. After making a deal with a monk, he finds himself in possession of some magical beans, one of which sprouts a giant beanstalk that soars to the sky and above the clouds. Unfortunately, this beanstalk takes his home with it, with the kingdom’s princess, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), inside. He, along with the king’s men, Elmont (Ewan McGregor), Roderick (Stanley Tucci) and Crawe (Eddie Marsan), begins his ascent to rescue her.
It’s not unreasonable to expect a fantasy tale to have an imagination. Thinking outside the box is paramount to the genre’s success, but Jack the Giant Slayer is as bland as they come. This fantasy world in the clouds is severely lacking in the fantastical elements to make it come alive, aside from the actual giants, of course. The land is virtually no different than the one beneath them at the bottom of the beanstalk. There are grassy knolls, waterfalls, small ponds, forests and little else. Much of the film’s supposed appeal comes from the exploration of this land in the moments leading up to the confrontation, but, despite an abundance of CGI, there’s nothing particularly interesting to see.
More startling than its lack of imagination, however, is a narrative that is stretched so thin that it feels like two movies in one. After about an hour or so of wandering around and a moment or two of heroism, the film comes to a conclusion that one might expect the first part of a multi-part franchise to have. But then it starts again. It almost feels like the filmmakers shot the first half of the film, realized it wasn’t long enough to be justified as a feature length movie and expanded the story with the more action packed part two. Even more surprising is that when the film actually ends, it sets itself up for an actual sequel that could be set in modern day.
But making a sequel to an idea that wasn’t particularly interesting to begin with seems unlikely. Jack the Giant Slayer won’t be heavily panned, however. Some will see the charm in it, mostly due to a script that is a lot goofier than the trailers have led us to believe, complete with groan inducing puns. “He wouldn’t spill the beans,” one character says while trying to extract information on their whereabouts from that aforementioned monk. Although this goofiness will appeal to some, it’s a pandering type of goofiness, one that’s trying to trick viewers into thinking it’s amusing while simultaneously hiding its lackluster story. When you tack on a useless 3D that creates constant double vision and even further darkens some already visually dark scenes, as most films in the format do, you have something that simply doesn’t work. Director Bryan Singer is a talented guy who, unfortunately, seems to take more flack these days for the underrated Superman Returns than praise for his knockout X-Men movies and The Usual Suspects, but he failed to bring Jack to life.
Jack the Giant Slayer receives 1.5/5