It's a bit depressing to come across a movie that does absolutely nothing for you. It doesn't make you love it. It doesn't even make you hate it. It invokes not one ounce of passion within you as a result of watching it one way or the other. Mediocre or average doesn't accurately describe the film for you, because even that would mean it moved the needle for you by some small measure. You're indifferent to the film as a whole, numb to its very existance, because it's complete blandness fails miserably at getting you to care one bit about it. You don't care about its characters. You don't care about its story. You just know that the movie started, it happened, and in two hours, you'll leave totally unchanged by what transpired in front of you, barely able to recall any of its finer details, as if you watched the film behind some fog, never compelled to see your way through it in order to get at the nuts and bolts of the picture. It's like taking a two hour nap with your eyes open, facing the moving images, yet glazing over them entirely, because they don't matter to you nor do they make any attempt to matter to you. That's the type of film JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is. It's lifeless, devoid of emotion and just there for the sake of being there. Even now, trying to piece this review, I couldn't care less about writing it. Why? Because the movie stirred nothing within me. JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is a statue of a movie - it's cold, it's there as something to look at, and it goes nowhere.
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER gets off to a very inauspicious start, presenting a rather cartoonish prologue of the giant legend that serves as the basis for the rest of the film. In addition to the jarringly poor visual effects that populate this segment (and many others to follow), there's no sense of purpose to any of this rambling story that intercuts strangely between two different children getting their fair share of the tale. Yeah, I get that this young Jack is the titular character... but who is this little girl? And why does she matter? If you're going to introduce characters that we may not be familiar with right off the bat, it might actually help to take a little snippet of time to actually introduce them. We have a general sense of who Jack is, what his role in the story is, what he's going to do. Some strange girl who isn't really part of the JACK AND THE BEANSTALK fairy tale...? Not so much. Once we get through this story that features monks and a magic crown and a land of giants between heaven and hell, all things that I don't remember ever being a part of JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, you're left a little confused as to what just transpired, since it happens at a whirlwind pace, that once the title card hits, you're already feeling emotionally distant from the movie. Within 10 minutes, you feel disengaged, and Bryan Singer will then spend the next hour and 50 minutes not even bothering to bring you back into the fold.
Nicholas Hoult plays the elder Jack, a poor and hopeless farm boy who only holds such characteristics, because the film tells you so. He has to sell his horse and cart, so he must be hurting for money. But he somehow manages to make time to stand in on some stage performance within the kingdom he's looking to make his sale in before he makes any sort of deal, so really... with that lack of urgency, how bad can it be? However, if you don't believe that Jack is some low-level commoner, then the forbidden love at first sight he'll experience with Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) will seem even more ridiculous than it's already drawn up. She doesn't want to be married off to someone she doesn't love (Stanley Tucci, who you know is going to turn out to have evil intentions in such a role), and seeks adventure of some sort out in the world... and once again, we only know such things, because that's what we're told, and that should be enough for the general make-up of her character. She's a princess. He's a nobody. They can't be together, so, of course, it makes perfect sense for them to be drawn towards each other for some reason over a quick exchange of glances in the briefest of moments.
After the key transaction of Jack trading his horse for a pouch of magic beans which he's then supposed to trade for money elsewhere, Jack and Isabelle are brought together once more in another odd bit of coincidence. They flirt and they talk about their parents and their childhoods, but none of it matters. These characters just aren't very interesting already, just shells of cliches that we're supposed to feel something for, because... oh, look... they're young potential lovers who the formula states we should be hoping end up together. There's just nothing to these characters - nothing interesting, nothing intriguing, nothing worth grabbing onto. So, when one of these magic beans gets wet, and a massive beanstalk grows, carrying Isabelle off into the sky while sending Jack crashing down to the earth below alone, who cares? Their story is irrelevant. It doesn't matter, because, in the short time it took to even get to that point, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER never made it matter. Telling us these people should be together is such a lazy approach to try making the two leads meaningful that when it doesn't really work, there's no foundation for the rest of the movie to even exist. If you don't care about the people going on an adventure, then why even boither watching the adventure unfold itself?
Anyway, we learn there are giants up the beanstalk, so, at the command of the King (Ian McShane - Seriously, has no one seen DEADWOOD to figure out how to use him properly?), led by Elmont of the King's Guardians (a terribly miscast Ewan McGregor, who comes across as much too clean and elegant for such a hands-dirty type of job), volunteering Jack, evil Tucci and a band of expendable guards make their way skyward in order to recover the princess. Once they finally reach the top, in reduced numbers because Tucci needs to roll out his badness rather quickly, it's not too long before we discover that the legend of giants up there is indeed truth, and they're more than happy to welcome human visitors into their land, because people equals food to them. There's a whole thing with the crown and the giants and their revenge against the King from long ago who essentially jailed them in this elevated land, but once again, none of it matters. It's in one ear and out the other, as you're distracting by the terrible rendering of the giants on-screen. My understanding is that they were created using motion-capture technology, and, if that's the case, this is one of the worst uses of it that I've ever seen. The giants looks like something cropped out of a video game, with no photo-realism to their appearance whatsoever. I get that JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is meant to be a fairy tale, but when the giants are supposed to look like humans, only taller and a bit grosser, having them look like walking caricatures doesn't really serve the story well at all.
Making matters worse, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER refuses to end. I'd like to think we all have some grasp on the original fairy tale, so knowing how that story ends, it's a bit of a surprise that Bryan Singer figures out a way to prolong the movie, for the sheer purpose of bringing about a human-giant showdown. The sad part of that is that we'd gotten to that point without much in the way of action to begin with. Doing so just brought me closer to the point when I could get up, walk out of the theatre and leave JACK THE GIANT SLAYER behind. But Singer insists on making me sit in my seat even longer, in order to experience a battle that isn't much of a battle, but more of a tug-of-war over a drawbridge. I wish I was making that up... but I'm not. At least an extra half-hour is devoted to a climactic fight that isn't really a fight at all, further cementing the point that JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is out there in the world as something to look at, but beyond that, it really does nothing as a piece of art, as a movie, or as a piece of entertainment.
I have no complaints with any of the acting performances. They're neither good nor bad. They just are, uttering lines to characters that don't resonate one bit. Hoult, Tomlinson and the rest of the cast right down to Bill Nighy's voice-work as the general of the giants are clearly trying... but it's the material that fails them in a big way. In the past, mixed in with his more brilliant films, Singer has also certainly made his share of cold works, but this one takes the cake. JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is a waste of two hours, if for no other reason than it feels as if you spent that time not even watching a movie to begin with. It's no escapist entertainment in the slightest, and is exactly the type of film that people say you "turn your brain off" for. However, in this case, it's not because thinking intelligently about the film might ruin the stupidity of it. No, here it's as if you turn your brain off, because not one bit of this film is memorable or will rattle around in your head longer than your time in the theatre, if it even makes it that long.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
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