When you hear the name Bryan Singer, most film fans will immediately think of the first two X-Men film entries (and the new, upcoming one) or even the war drama Valkyrie (or, if you're a diehard film fan, you'll know he helmed The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil in the 90s). What you probably wouldn't think of him being a part of, though, is a fantastical adventure film like Jack The Giant Slayer. For 2013, Singer offered something completely different for audiences than what he normally does by bringing to the big screen a familiar tale with a new spin on it -- something that you might think would be fun for the whole family. However, Singer gives the story an edge that will make parents want to think twice before showing it to their children.
I suppose opting for a title like Jack The Giant Slayer over Jack and the Bean Stalk, and giving it a PG-13 rating, indeed clarifies for audiences what kind of movie it is. It's certainly a modernized version of the "Jack and the Bean Stalk" story, and it maintains the period feel of the story while being given a unique spin. For example, because giants are mythical creatures--particularly in this context--they're created entirely using CGI here, and their appearance is made to look humanoid with earthy elements added to make them appear more fantastical. Furthermore, because Singer tries to give the story a unique look, some of the costumes, and even some of the language they use border on being anachronisms. When one of the giants dies while speaking the "F" word during the climax, it feels completely out of place and just included to either elicit a laugh or merely surprise the audience. Also, Jack's costume, as a farm boy, is made up of a leather jacket with a hood on it. It looks cool in the movie, but the chances of a farm boy in this era wearing something similar is rather unlikely (In some ways, this movie's approach can be compared to A Knight's Tale). Still, the very biggest problem Jack The Giant Slayer possesses is in the look of the titular giants. There isn't a moment in the movie when the giants don't look fake. Where movies like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Transformers, or even as far back as Jurassic Park, offer photorealistic animation, the poorly rendered giants in Jack The Giant Slayer look cheesy and fake in every scene. It's almost as if the movie we're watching is some kind of unfinished product. To make matters worse, the opening storytelling animatic looks more like previsualization test animation and not completed animation. The animatic tells the story of mankind versus the giants as a legend, and it's not until the camera zooms in on one of the humans in the story that we see they're supposed to be wooden characters in a deliberately stylized fairytale telling. Still, such storytelling has been done exquisitely better before, making this look sophomoric at best.
It's all so very unfortunate because, if you can look past the cheesy animation, Jack The Giant Slayer is a really fun action/adventure movie. Everyone in the cast turns in solid performances, with Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class) being great as the lead, while Ewan McGregor and Stanley Tucci are great supports for the cast. Eleanor Tomlinson is lovely as Isabelle, the feisty princess in distress. Also, Singer utilizes some real, tangible set pieces, like parts of the bean stalk and portions of the king's castle and giants' lair, that make the story easier to grasp. There's a great set piece where McGregor's Elmont is being prepared by a cook in the kitchen (while Isabelle is in a nearby cage) that is amusing and fun to watch unfold. It's just a shame that Singer's approach to the sets and giants are uneven in quality.
The content for Jack The Giant Slayer is intense at times. While it can be pretty violent, it's seldom graphic. However, it's implied that a man's head and arms are bitten off when a giant picks him up and brings him to his mouth. I'd read that this movie was a little more gory than it seemed to be, which makes me wonder if they decided to tone some of the blood and such down for the Blu-Ray release (but it's possible I missed some of the more graphic details somehow?). Other moments show giants smacking people unconscious or swatting them with weapons, tossing them into the air. One giant spits out a man's armor after eating him whole, and in another shot we see the bones of one of its victims inside the stomach of a giant as the camera zooms down its throat into its belly. This is kind of a spoiler, but it's also the most graphic moment of the movie; a stalk grows out of a giant near the climax of the movie and we see it sprout out of the giant's neck, body and face. And, at one point, it says a semi-interrupted "Oh, f---" (most of the word is said though) before their head explodes and an eyeball flies at the screen. We then see the hand hit the ground and one of its fingers lay dismembered. It's the most gruesome moment in the movie, but most of the other scenes are pretty intense or would be potentially frightening to younger viewers. There's a little bit of other language in the movie, but it's mostly the usage of the word "h*ll."
Overall, I liked Jack The Giant Slayer far more than I expected to. I had to force myself to forgive the lame animation of the giants to fully enjoy the film. It's a flawed and imperfect movie for sure, but fans of fairytales, fantasy stories like "Jack and the Bean Stalk" and any of the cast are likely to find some things about Jack The Giant Slayer to really enjoy.
- John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/16/13)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Jack The Giant Slayer is available in a Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet combo pack, a 3D Blu-Ray/2D Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet combo pack and on just a single-disc DVD, and through the usual digital providers. It looks really great in HD and offers the best picture possible. The sweeping scenic shots and action sequences are what Blu-Ray is best for.
Along with the feature film are the following bonus features...
Become A Giant Slayer - To be honest, this is a pretty cheesy way to present the making-of footage, but it's one of the more unique presentations of such content I've seen to date. Nick Hoult serves as your host for an interactive featurette that has you climbing the bean stalk with your Blu-Ray remote and choosing short videos along the way. Apparently choosing the wrong directions or hitting the wrong buttons can make you start the climb all over again, but it serves as a "Choose your own adventure" kind of featurette where you have to navigate the bean stalk more deliberately than a typical list of making-of featurettes. The first video when you start your climb is dedicated to the design of the giants. It's interesting to hear their train of thought for the intent behind the details in the monsters. The next is devoted to the costumes of the characters. At that point, the stalk splits and you can choose left or right. I chose right, and the first featurette is about the stalk itself, showing on-set footage of the real sets they built, as well as the CG portions of it. The next one is called "How To Zip" and Hoult introduces a behind-the-scenes look at his zip-lining moment in the movie. At that point, we, the viewer, "zip-line" back to the other stalk and resume watching featurettes there, but we miss a couple of the videos in the process. I continued upward and watched a making-of video about the kitchen scene (It was interesting to hear Singer say they made up the whole sequence on the spot). We then need to "dodge" a falling boulder and "win" the challenge. We're then shown a video about how to "defend" our kingdom which leads to our "reward" for going through the experience. This video ends up being an alternate opening of the movie. It shows alternate animation of the story at the beginning of the movie, and then it shows little Jack talking to, not only his father but both of his parents this time. We then see a short scene of Jack dealing with the loss of his parents to the plague before it cuts to the scene with older Jack as it is in the movie. In the climbing of the stalk, you miss 2 of the videos, so when you go back down, you can see a video about Jack's journey through the movie. Then there's one last that one you need to restart the featurette to get to (which is kind of odd) and it's about fighting the giants. The videos are great; I just wish there was a way to watch them without having to go through the stalk map.
Deleted Scenes (8:27) - There are five deleted scenes. It begins with an alternate version of the opening animated fairytale story shown in black and white. It appears to be unfinished animation. It then shifts to color as it shows Jack's house. In the next scene, we see Jack finding a giant rope bridge in the sky and he leaps across the slats and slips and falls between two of them, only to land on the ground below. The third scene shows Jack finding a prison for the giants' human victims and he imagines previous captors trapped in them. He finds a child's doll in one of the cages before spotting a giant carrying Isabelle to the kitchen. The fourth scene shows two soldiers talking and one of them worries that there might be giants at the top of the bean stalk. The other soldier mocks him for believing in the legend and then he's suddenly crushed by the falling giant. Lastly, as Isabelle and Jack run through the courtyard of the castle, Jack sees his uncle and gives him the money the king had given him.
Gag Reel (3:09) - The gag reel is decent; it's mostly line mess-ups (with several bleeped out uses of the "F word"), and stuff like trying to get a cat to lick Nick's face in one scene. Finally, it ends with them playing a prank on Eleanor on set.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/16/13)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Isabelle shows some cleavage in her dress in the beginning of the movie.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 "F" word (a sort of interrupted "Oh fu--"); 3 "h*ll" (including one with "bloody"); 1 "piss off!"; 1 "b*stard"
Alcohol/Drugs: Drunk guys harass Isabelle at a pub.
Blood/Gore: Jack's dad relays the legendary story of the giants coming down to earth and terrorizing the humans, which is told in animated form, and we see a person stab a dead giant and we see blood on their clothes spread and a heart removed. We then see the heart be melted down to be made into a crown; There's some blood on Roderick's face when he's struck with a knife; We see burns on Fallon's skin; We see the inside of a giant's throat leading to its stomach and the stomach acid inside, complete with the skeleton of a dead victim, as a bean enters their digestive system. A stalk grows out of a giant's body, shooting through its neck and head and everywhere else. Eventually it blows up the giant's head and we see body parts fly at the screen. We see a large arm and hand land on the ground, as well as a dismembered finger.
Violence: Jack's dad relays the legendary story of the giants coming down to earth and terrorizing the humans and we see people falling down the bean stalk, giants ravaging the town, and we hear that the giants eat people. Later in the story, which is told in animated form, we see a person stab a dead giant and we see blood on their clothes spread and a heart removed. We then see the heart be melted down to be made into a crown; We briefly see a play being acted out with full-grown adults and short, dwarf humans; Drunk guys harass Isabelle and Jack steps in to intervene. One of them punches Jack in the face; The town's law chase down a monk who's on a horse. They stop him; Later, we see the monk tied up and a character makes a motion to stab and kill him but the scene cuts away; We see a stalk grow out of Jack's house and the ground and it traps Isabelle inside. Jack climbs up to help her but falls to the ground, hitting the stalk on the way down, and is knocked unconscious; Some of the palace guards climbing the stalk via rope slip and are dangling, so Wicke cuts them loose and they fall to their deaths. We later see their dead bodies lying on the ground; Crawe and Jack get caught in a rope net trap and cut themselves out; A giant picks up a lamb and eats it (we see this sort of from a distance/distorted); A giant smacks Crawe to the ground, knocking him out. Elmont stabs its ankle and it kicks him back, knocking him into a rock. He hits his head and is knocked out. The giant carries them both away; Roderick pushes a soldier off a cliff. A man is picked up and bitten by a giant (potentially decapitated); A man is crushed by a giant and then eaten. We see Fallon spit out his armor; Cooke puts wooden picks through two pigs he's preparing to eat and it kills them (we don't see the impact but we hear them stop making sounds); Jack grabs a giant kitchen knife and jumps with it, plunging it into the back of Cooke. He flails about and ends up slamming his back against a wall, pushing the knife in further, killing him. He then falls forward, dead; A giant falls off the cliff and lands on the earth below, dead; Roderick and Elmont fight each other with knives. Elmont cuts Roderick's face with his knife. Roderick pokes Elmont's hand as he dangles off the side of a cliff and Elmont pulls away. As Roderick stabs Elmont's other hand, Elmont causes him to stab his own foot and then grabs the blade and stabs Roderick in the stomach, killing him; The stalk unravels and pulls people through the air and then falls, crushing people and things beneath it; Jack and Isabelle jump off the unravelling stalk and fall short of a plow blade; A giant steps on a man's already dead body; Giants swat men off their horses with hammers and other weapons; One rips the blades off a windmill and tosses it through the air. It hits the king in the back of the head, knocking off his helmet; The people shoot Fallon with arrows and he falls into the flaming moat; A bell flies through the castle wall and kills a soldier and topples the king's statue; Flaming trees are hurled over the castle walls by the giants as they struggle with keeping the draw bridge up as the giants try to pull it down; Fallon busts through the floor inside the castle; An arrow pierces a giant's tongue and we see many other giants hit by arrows. One then slings a rock at a large weapon that was shooting the arrows; Fallon chases Isabelle and Jack with a mace, destroying parts of the castle in the process; A stalk grows out of a giant's body, shooting through its neck and head and everywhere else. Eventually it blows up the giant's head and we see body parts fly at the screen. We see a large arm and hand land on the ground, as well as a dismembered finger; A growing stalk demolishes much of the castle.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.