Fee Fi Fo Fum, I hear the snores of boredom!
The H-Bomb: Over the last couple of years, we’ve been seeing a new trend coming out of Hollywood, the revisionist fairy tale, where they take classic stories and give them a âmodernâ twist. Like, for example, taking the main characters from said stories, giving them weapons, reinventing them as ass-kickers, and casting attractive young actors who look way too contemporary for the story’s medieval setting. Thanks to this, we’ve gotten to see Snow White in a suit of armor, and Hansel & Gretel re-imagined as witch hunters, all in a cynical attempt to make these timeless fables “cool” and market them to the hip (and potentially lucrative) adolescent demographic. Now, Jack and the Beanstalk is the latest fairy tale to fall victim to this trend, as its young hero has been transformed into a âgiant slayer.â
Much like A Good Day to Die Hard, the set up for Jack the Giant Slayer is laughably convoluted, so I shall try to spit it out as concisely and coherently as I can. Once upon a time these giants came down from their giant world in the clouds and waged war with mankind. Then along came a king who had a special crown. This magic crown had power over the giants, as basically whomever possessed this crown could control them. The king used the power of the crown to banish the giants back to their world, between Heaven and Earth (God, I feel fucking stupid writing this). When this king died, he was buried with the crown, as well as with the magic beans that can grow the humongous stalks that act as bridges between the giants’ world and our own.
Jumping ahead several generations, to a point in time when the story of the giants is thought to be only a myth, a young, peasant farm boy named Jack (Nicholas Hoult), is at the castle trying to sell his horse when he encounters a monk who is eager to take the horse off his hands. As payment, he gives Jack these beans that he insists are very special and very valuable. Before Jack really has a chance to turn down this amazing offer, the monk jumps on the horse and tries to escape the castle walls.
As we already know, this monk is on the run from Roderick (a hammy Stanley Tucci), a dastardly villain who stole the magic crown and beans from the king’s tomb. His plan, surprisingly, is to use the crown and the giants to take over the kingdom himself.
Unfortunately for everyone, Roderick happens to be one of the current king’s top advisers, and is set to marry his beautiful young daughter, Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson, who’s about as lively as a wooden plank). Isabelle, naturally, does not want to marry this creepy, ugly middle-age guy, and runs away in the middle of the night.
And wouldn’t you know it, she runs right into Jack’s farmhouse. The two of them had a strange run-in earlier that day, and as they converse, they realize that there’s a spark between them (at least the movie would like us to think there is). Of course, nothing could ever come of this romance, as he’s a peasant, and she’s royalty, and there are laws against them hooking up.Â But there is a spark, nonetheless. As all this is happening, one of the magic beans, which Jack accidentally dropped into the cellar, starts to grow into a giant beanstalk that shoots up into the sky, taking his farmhouse, and the princess, with it.
Before Jack knows it, the king, along with his entire army, is standing in front of him, demanding to know where his daughter is. All Jack has to do is point up at the giant beanstalk behind him, and a rescue party, including Jack and the evil Roderick, is formed to ascend the stalk up into the clouds to fetch the fair maiden. To make a long story short (too late), what they find at the top of the stalk are some very pissed off giants, thirsty for the blood of some Englishmen. Oh, and Ewan McGregor plays a knight.
Ugggh… what can I say about Jack the Giant Slayer, other than it serves as yet another perfect example of why you should never go to movies that are released this time of year. I hate that I’m being so down on films lately, but part of my job is to be straight up and honest, and honestly, this flick bored me stiff. Oh, there were some nice special effects, as both the beanstalk and the giants looked like real, physical things with weight and life to them, and not just like images drawn in a computer. There was plenty of action to spare, but because I wasn’t invested in the shallow, thinly drawn characters, I wasn’t invested in any of it. In fact, I would say this movie has the least involving action scenes since Zack Snyder’s ill-conceived Sucker Punch, and, with the exception of a scene where a giant swallows a bee hive, they somehow manage to be even less memorable.
What truly boggles my mind is that this dreary, soulless fantasy yarn was directed by Brian Singer, the man who made The Usual Suspects, which is one of the greatest crime thrillers in existence. Granted, I haven’t been impressed with anything else he’s done, as I never cared about X-Men, and his Superman movie bored me even more than this did, but man, I can’t get around the idea that he could make something this utterly generic.
From the lazy design of the giants, which are well-rendered, but basically look like Orcs left over from The Hobbit, to the âReal 3D,â which is flatter than a Kansas landscape, I just get the sense that Singer really, truly did not give a shit with this one. That this was nothing more than a payday for him.
The actors could’ve helped, had the undernourished screenplay given them anything to work with. Leading man Hoult tries to add a quirky sense of self-deprecating humor to Jack, but the character is written as the cliched, timid, unlikely hero who follows an all-too-predictable arc. The fact that he and leading lady Tomlinson had absolutely no chemistry whatsoever only made it worse. As for what I thought of Tomlinson’s performance…the CGI beanstalk acted circles around her, need I say more? Tucci, as the conniving human antagonist, does the requisite scenery chewing, and he seems to be having a lot more fun than anyone in the audience, so good on him. Then we get to McGregor, playing a valiant, heroic knight who is treated as a complete afterthought and seems completely extraneous. He brings absolutely nothing to this undeveloped character, and ultimately, he’s as out-of-place in this movie as his inappropriately modern hairstyle.
Trust me, folks, if the studio who released Jack the Giant Slayer actually wanted people to go see it, they wouldn’t be releasing it in the first week of March. This ârevisionistâ fairy tale is an unspeakably dull butt-burner that goes on way too long, and as icing on the cake, puts the audience through a series of false endings before finally rolling the credits. It has no sense of adventure, no sense of wonder, no sense of excitement, and there is absolutely, positively no reason for anyone to see it.
[Swift aside: And THAT folks, is why we are the 'viciously ruthless' movie critics]