What happened to Bryan Singer? Where is the filmmaker who gave us the brilliant ‘The Usual Suspects?’ Where is the director who gave us the fantastic first two ‘X-Men‘ films? Most believe that he started going downhill with ‘Superman Returns‘ (I’m actually in the tiny minority that loves that one) and fizzled with ‘Valkyrie‘. After the ‘X-Men’ franchise was revitalized with ‘First Class‘, I’ve been looking forward to Singer’s return with the soon-to-be-shooting ‘Days of Future Past’. However, after ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’, I’m worried that the director has completely lost his touch..
The first teaser trailer for ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ made me groan – that is, until I found out that Singer was behind it. The movie looked very childish, and nothing about it was appealing. The story seemed flimsy and the CGI appeared sub-par. Still, I gave it the benefit of the doubt when Singer’s role came to light. Perhaps the studio just didn’t know how to market the movie? With that, I actually found myself getting excited to see it. Sadly, I only built myself up for failure.
The trend of reinventing fairy tales continues. With ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’, we get an expanded retelling of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. In it, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a poor, simple-minded farmer who lives with his uncle. Trying to get out of poverty, Jack travels to the city to sell his uncle’s possessions, but is deterred when a monk offers him a golden deal that’s too good to be true. The monk will buy the horse for an unbelievable amount, but he can’t pay up in the moment. He offers the monastery’s priceless mysterious beans as collateral and heads off with a warning that echoes something from ‘Gremlins‘: Whatever you do, don’t let the beans get wet.
Of course, the uncle is furious and storms away from both the cottage and remainder of the film – but not without tossing the beans across the kitchen and losing one between the floorboards. When it begins raining that night, the leaky roof causes the bean to get wet just moments after a rebellious runaway princess shows up on Jack’s doorstep. A few minutes after he grants her refuge from the torrential downpour, the bean quickly sprouts and raises the house high into the sky (but not without conveniently tossing Jack from the house). The princess is soon to be betrothed, so her future husband (Stanley Tucci) and personal bodyguard (Ewan McGregor) join Jack on the adventure up the beanstalk to save her.
Nicholas Hoult is on fire right now. I didn’t think much of him in ‘First Class’, but he sure commanded his first starring feature ‘Warm Bodies’. His achievement there actually added to my anticipation for ‘Jack’. Unfortunately, his character here is completely superficial and one-dimensional. Only making matters worse is the fact that, despite being the title character, the film’s focus all-too-often shifts from Jack to other secondary characters. Half of the movie feels like a standard protagonist flick, the other half feels like an ensemble flick. The movie’s tone is equally jumbled. Love it or hate it (I choose to hate it), ‘Mirror Mirror’ knew its identity; it was a low level fairy tale made for the youngest of audiences. ‘Snow White and the Huntsman‘ also knew exactly what it was trying to be – a dark version of the same tale made for older teenage audiences and twentysomethings (neither of which I am, yet I still enjoyed it). ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ has no clue what it’s trying to be. At times, it’s childish and silly, showing dimwit giants eating their boogers. Other times, it’s violent and dark.
‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ isn’t awful, but it isn’t exactly good either. I deem it worth watching once, but probably not in theaters and definitely not in 3D. Too much of the film takes place in the dark of night. Add that darkness to the tinted 3D glasses and you can hardly see anything. The entire inciting incident takes place during the movie’s darkest scenes, which makes it very hard to enjoy. The on-screen action can’t be seen!
Do yourself a favor and save your first ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ viewing for a cozy in-home experience.