The UnPopular Opinion: Jack the Giant Slayer
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
Bryan Singer is a very talented director. From his iconic THE USUAL SUSPECTS to thrillers like APT PUPIL and VALKYRIE, Singer has managed to bring an auteur's eye to studio projects. It was exciting when it was announced that he would be returning to direct X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and X-MEN: APOCALYPSE as he was instrumental in creating the big screen superhero movie with the first X-MEN films. Despite some feeling SUPERMAN RETURNS was a misstep for Singer, I consider his filmography to be without flaw. That includes last year's underappreciated fantasy adventure JACK THE GIANT SLAYER.
With the Hollywood trend of rebooting old fairy tales into grand fantasy epics all the rage these days, some stand above the rest. JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is a movie that had the difficult task of telling an age old tale in a new way but without venturing too far from the source material. Why the movie failed is unknown to me as it is a rousing adventure with all the elements that make studio pictures great. And, to boot, it is an all-encompassing motion picture that can appeal to adults and children alike without alienating younger audiences. Some of you may read that and laugh, but think back to when you were a kid and the movies that hit theaters. Unless it was an R-rated sexual thriller, a horror movie, or a drama with profanity, most other movies were things we could watch without having our eyes covered.
Man, Aerosmith have let themselves go.
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is in the tradition of movies like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and STAR WARS. Again, you may want to punch me through your screen, but tell me I am wrong. You have a dashing and brash young hero in the form of Nicholas Hoult (Beast from X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST), a beautiful young princess (Eleanor Tomlinson), a powerful king (the always awesome Ian McShane), the noble knight (Ewan McGregor), and the diabolical villain (Stanley Tucci). And that doesn't even include the giants! With a cast like that, how can you go wrong? All of the roles her are broad caricatures that are performed with cheeky glints by the cast. Everyone involved here knows they aren't making a high drama, so they run with it and have fun.
Just because a movie is aimed at wide audiences doesn't mean it cannot still be fun. Where movies like the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy or the HARRY POTTER franchise lose their viewers is due to the layers upon layers of mythology. Fans of the books will surely enjoy digging deep into the rich histories forged by their respective authors, but general audiences may feel lost in the mix. While both of those series are still incredibly well made and popular with all sorts of fans, they are not always the easiest to just drop into and pick up for the casual viewer. JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is based on a classic fairy tale, one that comprises only a few pages. But, screenwriters Darren Lemke (SHREK FOREVER AFTER, TURBO) and Christopher McQuarrie (JACK REACHER, THE USUAL SUSPECTS) manage to build an elaborate and developed world without making it impenetrable.
Chicks dig the armor.
If there is anything wrong with JACK THE GIANT SLAYER, it comes from the studio and their marketing department. Originally set for release in 2012, Bryan Singer's film was pushed several times before landing at the beginning of March. With little fanfare, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER was expected to sell itself to audiences without a major face in a starring role. For a movie designed to appeal to families, the posters and trailers spent a lot of attention to the faces of the giants themselves. Criticism of the film's special effects said the giants looked fake and unrealistic, something Bryan Singer was aiming for. To appeal to everyone, Singer toned down the special effects, giving the giants a slighty cartoony appearance which allows for a separation from reality while still being able to go along for the ride. Personally, I still found them quite convincing, along the lines of Michael Bay's Transformers.
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is another example of a film publically associated with an extensive budget. Coupled with release pushes and weak marketing, many probably smelled a dud and stayed away. But, what they missed was a movie that relishes in being just a movie and not the first chapter in a prolonged franchise. Not designed as a first movie, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER stands alone as a fully functioning adventure movie with a beginning, middle, and a concrete end. It also doesn't suffer from a bloated running time. The movie is one you can pop on, enjoy, and not have to worry about queuing up the sequel for to finish the story. This movie doesn't want to change the world but just let you enoy a skillfully made retelling of a classic tale.
Damn, they got Edward James Olmos to play a giant? Nice!
What Bryan Singer accomplished with JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is a more successful attempt than what he tried with SUPERMAN RETURNS. He echoes the swashbuckling adventures of old movies while embracing the wide array of technological toys at his disposal. But, there is never a moment in JACK THE GIANT SLAYER where you are not having fun. The movie does not need analysis or deep insight into the political subtext of the heroes and villains. This movie is not a parable for 9/11 or an indictment of the modern economic landscape of our world. JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is just two hours of popcorn-chomping fun. Keep this one on your shelf alongside JOHN CARTER and THE LONE RANGER as a movie that will gain appreciation years from now.