Jack the Giant Slayer | Movie review
Bryan Singer’s high-concept fairy tale never gets off the ground.
The title promises slaughtered giants, but Bryan Singer’s lumbering adventure movie is really just a stop in the ongoing death march of cinema. Years from now, we’ll gather round to tell our children tales of a glorious narrative art form that was murdered by CGI spectacle, dim 3-D, poorly motivated action sequences and market-tested gimmickry. Taking a healthy swig from Lord of the Rings’ cup, this high-concept “Jack and the Beanstalk” dresses up traditionalism in expensive nothingness, much like the director’s Superman Returns. Farm-boy Jack (Nicholas Hoult) falls for Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), only to see her skyrocketed toward a kingdom of Brobdingnagians in the clouds when the beans he’s supposed to hide sprout a giant stalk. (Paging Dr. Freud?) Supplying a welcome dose of matinee-movie hamminess, Stanley Tucci (as the king’s wormy right-hand man) and Ewan McGregor (as the princess’s bodyguard) do what they can to give the rescue mission some verve.
Drained of color, the action doesn’t skimp on projectile effects, but the geometry of who’s where often seems patched together in the editing room. (A duel between McGregor and Tucci is particularly chaotic.) There are a few striking sights, as when Jack looks up at a giant from beneath the surface of a pond or McGregor’s nobleman attempts to cut his way out of a man-size crêpe. The film rallies with an exciting siege, but there’s still an overall sense of marking time. If you’re watching a castle torn asunder and all you can think about is how fake the destruction looks, that’s not magic; it’s the moviemaking equivalent of Miracle-Gro.