Jack the Giant Slayer – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

jackJack the Giant Slayer -3/5 – Fantasy Films; they are ones that bring us the endless possibilities of the human imagination.  When it comes to these kinds of movies, you have to suspend a lot of disbelief, and enjoy the ride brought to you on the big screen.  Within the fantasy, the film will always have to provide you with entertainment and a connection to the audience.  This can either be the theme, story or characters.  Sometimes, we get great epic fantasies (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars) but, we also always get films where the artistry and creativity falls flat, providing us with a unlikable experience(Snow White and the Huntsman; Eragon).  Within this film, we get a live action retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk.  Through this imaginative world, we get something that is believable, but also falls flat because of a thin story, predictability and character development.  In the end, Jack the Giant Slayer is a good ride for the family.

Premise: Through the retelling of a folk tale, Jack the Giant Slayer tells the story of an ancient war, between men and giants, which is reignited when a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and theirs. Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost.  Within this the war, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is forced into the battle of his life. Fighting for a kingdom, its people, and the love of a brave princess, he comes face to face with the unstoppable warriors he thought only existed in legend, getting a chance to become a legend himself.

In the main role of Jack, we have newcomer Nicholas Hoult.  He has played in a few roles recently (Warm Bodies, Xmen: First Class) and in those films, he has shown great acting skills in those roles, respectfully.  As Jack, he provides a genuine look at a normal boy caught in this fantastical world.  Through Jack, we see someone we believe to be like us.  We see someone who must faced extensive odds to prove his worth.  Outside of all the characters in the film, you witness true emotion and depth with the character, Jack.  That is a great compliment to the job Nicholas does, showing his maturity and that no role is not too big for him to tackle.  Outside of Nicholas, everyone else in the film played their roles as any traditional fairytale character.  This makes their performances become one-dimensional.  This is really disappointing, when you come to realize who are in their roles.  In the other roles we have Ian McShane as King Brahmwell, Eleanor Tomlinson as Princess Isabelle, Ewan McGregor as First Knight Elmont and Stanley Tucci as the treacherous Roderick.  When you see those names, you would think their own experience; they could have brought some depth to these these roles.  Sadly they do not.  Throughout the movie, they become pawns to the overall folklore of the story, and turn in predictable roles through their actions, becoming devices in helping move the story along.  Another fault of them being one dimensional is the story, which leads into the next part.

The direction and overall storytelling of this film is very thin.  From the beginning, you already know where the story is going, even before they give us a good look at the main players in the movie.  Granted, this is based on a folktale that is only probably meant for kids and is basic, but in the grand scheme of things, you can make a good movie out of a short story (Brokeback Mountain; District 9).  Once the movie starts, it moves at a very quick pace.  In this fast paced direction, we get a basic setup for all the characters, with little to no back stories.  As the introduction come and fade, they move like pawns on a chess board, as they are placed into position for the real beginning; the beanstalk growing to the sky, and the land of the giants is revealed.  As the movie continues on this thin, linear path, the predictability nature of a ‘common fairy tale’ kicks in, showing the lack of depth or eye for good storytelling.  As the ‘rescue the princess’ cliché theme starts, you guess:

The bad guy

The unsung hero

The sacrificial lamb

The brave warrior

The Inevitable ‘happily ever after’

With all these things being sown thinly in this film, it just provides you with a sour experience.  Fairy tales are retold many, many times, but what separates the good from the bad is that the good films will emphasis a point to provide deep characters and storytelling within the fantasy, and the bad just rely on clichés, gimmicky scripts and quick camera angles to invoke emotional involvement when certain plot devices pop up as predicted in a common fantasy film.  Once the main ‘Jack and the beanstalk’ story is told, there is still another half of the film to be told.  This half of the film flips the predictable script, turning everything inside out.  With the giants now on earth, all hell breaks loose.  When this happens, some conventional things do take place, but the pure action and entertainment factor provides thrills, drama and engrossing elements for audience participation. As you get engaged (even if it’s late in the film) you actually feel for the characters in the film.  When we hit the real climax, everything that is ‘happily ever after’ feels more bona fide than the first half of the film.

Where storytelling and acting fails, cinematography prevails.  Within this film, we have the creation of a beautiful kingdom, as well as an authentic world of the giants.  With the use of cameras and vast zooming, we see sweeping landscape that is both vivid to the eye and believable to the mind.  You feel as if you can venture into this kingdom, as well as the giant’s world.  From the epic waterfalls to the rocky landscape, to the big castles and the far-reaching farmlands, you are drawn into the world, as the visuals creates the imagination that the story itself couldn’t do.  Another great aspect is the creation of the giants.  Created by CGI, you actually get the feeling that you can see and feel (vile and disgusting at times) as if these giants are real.  Through the vividness, you also feel fear when you realize the giants provide a real threat to the humans in the movie.  When the war goes down, you also get a grand scale of a live fantasy battle, as you see buildings crumble, giants tossing flaming trees and people getting eating or stomped on.  This provides heart pumping moments, because you do not know if they have the strength to fight the giants.  Along with the visuals, we get a great score.  When emotional overtones are needed, we get that feeling through the use of music.

Overall, Jack the Giant Slayer is an average, but entertaining fantasy films.  Outside of the main character Jack, everyone felt wooden and gimmicky.  The storytelling is very much a fragment of linear predictability combined with thrilling fantastical elements.  Through the use of visuals, music and the lively creation of the giants, you are engrossed moderately from beginning till the end.  I’d recommend this film for families to bring their kids too.  This film is worth a matinee watch in theaters.  You can also wait for it to be a rental when it gets a blu-ray/DVD release.

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