Jack the Giant Slayer (2013): Bryan Singer’s Big-Budget, Special-Effects Misfire

In intent, Jack and the Giant Slayer is to director Bryan Singer and his career what “Raiders of the Lost Ark” series was to Lucas and Spielberg three decades ago, a tribute to thrilling adventures that he had watched and loved in his boyhood. Unfortunately, the movie lacks the artistic quality, savvy craftsmanship and overall fun factor of the aforementioned pictures.

Cashing in on the popularity of the recent cycle of special effects-ridden fantasy fairytales, “Jack and the Giant Slayer” is a mediocre effort in every respect, recycling characters, elements, and motifs of what has become the most prominent genre of Hollywood of the new millennium.

Loosely based on stories like “Jack and the Beanstalk” and the older and darker “Jack the Giant Killer,” the screenplay is credited to Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dan Studney, based on story by Lemke and David Dobkin.

Sharply uneven, and overstaying its welcome by at least 20 minutes, is simplistic to a fault, relying on big and noisy set-pieces, only half of which delivering the expected goods.

Warner will take a huge loss on a movie whose production budget is over $200 million and marketing costs over $100 milllion, not to mention the impact of negative reviews. The movie had reportedly tested poorly, which forced reshoots as well as delaying the film’s release from the summer of 2012 to March 2013.

Though as self-reflexive and calculated as the other big-budget spectacles of recent years, “Jack and the Giant Slayer” just goes through the motions, and more often than not, it comes across as downright silly if not dumb.

Singer goes out of his way to ground the saga in an exciting milieu, where forces of good battle evil, bold voyagers seek fortune, which they believe belongs to them, fighting for their lives in a worlds rule by nasty beasts and oversized monsters.

Known by different names in myriad cultures, and dating back to the 12th century, the tale claims details that have evolved with local lore and various retellings. The plot of this particular reincarnation could be summed up in one sentence: A young, appealing hero named Jack must confront a gruesome giant that’s bent on grinding his bones into bread–literally.

It does not help that the hero is too bland (not the actor’s fault) and that there is no chemistry between him and the leading lady. Two good actors are wasted in underwritten parts: Stanley Tucci as the villain, and Ewan McGregor as the king.

Size matters: Singer goes for scale, holding that bigger is better, and his use of 3D technology leaves much to be desired.  Unlike Peter Jackson (especially in “The Lord of the Ring” series) and Chris Nolan (“Dark Night Rises”), Singer is a competent craftsman, but not an artist.  As a result, most of his films are surface works, lacking unity or vision, not to mention subtlety.

 

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