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Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/18/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/17/2013
Own Jack the Giant Slayer on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Download 6/18!
When people think of Hollywood, they typically picture extravagance -- lavish parties, expensive cars, and money being thrown everywhere. And while it is true that a lot of money is spent in the film industry, the truth of the matter is that the studios can be quite frugal and they certainly don't mind saving a buck where ever they can. One easy way is to avoid any kind of copyright fees by working with a story which no one owns the rights to, maybe something like a classic fairy tale. That way, you bring the public a story with which they are already familiar and you maintain the bottom line. But, a recognizable story and a budget-minded approach don't always equal success, as evidenced by Jack the Giant Slayer.
Jack the Giant Slayer opens with the retelling of a legend concerning a magical beanstalk which connected Earth to the land of the giants in the sky. A war between humans and the giants ensued and it only ended when a crown fashioned out of a giant's heart allowed the king to control the giants and send them home. This story was a favorite of Jack (Nicholas Hoult) as a child, but now he's older and he is about to lose his farm. Following the death of his father, Jack's uncle (Christopher Fairbank) has come to live with him, and he sends Jack to the castle to sell the horse and cart. Once there, Jack has quite an exciting day, as he saves Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) from some toughs and has a run-in with a fugitive monk who gives him a pouch full of beans. That night, Isabelle, who is looking for adventure, comes to Jack's house just as a storm hits. The beans get wet and suddenly a giant beanstalk sprouts and carries the house into the sky, carrying Isabelle with it. King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) sends his chief guard, Elmont (Ewan McGregor), Isabelle's arranged-marriage fiancee and the King's advisor, Roderick (Stanley Tucci), and Jack up the stalk to rescue the Princess. There, they will discover that the legend of the giants is true and that those close to the King can't be trusted.
Money-saving goals aside, if you're going to bring back a story as old and as familiar as Jack and the Beanstalk, then you'd better make it something special, and I'm sure that, on paper, this project looked good. Behind the camera, you've got Bryan Singer, director of X-Men and X2, two of the best superhero movies of the modern age. While he'd stumbled with Superman Returns and Valkyrie, Singer still has undeniable talent. One of the film's screenwriters is the Oscar-winning writer of The Usual Suspects. The cast has some familiar faces backing up rising star Nicholas Hoult. We've seen a recent resurgence of movies based on fairy tales, and they are hot right now. Yes, this looks like it could be a winner.
So, where did Jack the Giant Slayer go wrong? First of all, a movie like this had better be ready to offer something new and different, but it doesn't. Yes, it expands upon the original, classic story, but it actually brings us a narrative which is too complicated for its own good. Beyond that, the movie doesn't contain any surprises or twists. The story moves along exactly like we think it will, and this sucks a lot of energy out of the movie. The movie also makes the mistake of trying to be too modern. Jack's leather "hoodie" is almost laughable and how many times have we seen the "princess who wants to see what life is really like" storyline?
The other major problem with the film are the special effects. All of the giants are CGI and they don't look very good -- not when one considers that the budget was an estimated $195 million. From their first appearance on-screen, the giants look "fake" (for lack of a better word). They are grey and rubbery and look like toys when compared to the humans. This really pulled me out of a movie which was already having difficulty holding my attention. And, as if often the case in these movies, the scale changes from scene-to-scene. (When Jack and Elmont approach the sleeping giant, note how small it looks compared to the other giants.) Some closeup of the giants show more detail, but for the most part, this doesn't hold up to our modern expectations of CG.
While watching Jack the Giant Slayer, I kept thinking, "This isn't a bad movie, but it's isn't a particularly good one either." This is simply one of those films which is big and loud, but because none of what is happening on-screen is very gripping, it's not engaging. The linear script and questionable special effects result in a movie which has a great cast and a grand scope, but very little to say. The biggest thing here is the amount of disappointment.
Jack the Giant Slayer does offer a good cameo by a cat on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 adn the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably the greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture has a nice crispness to it and the levels of both depth (even in this 2D version) and detail are quite impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a muscular track which offers notable surround sound and subwoofer effects throughout. These effects show good separation and the rear sounds don't just duplicate those coming from the front. The movements of the giants creates many opportunities for wall-shaking subwoofer effects.
The Jack the Giant Slayer Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. "Become a Giant Slayer" is an interactive game-like feature where the viewer gets to climb the beanstalk. Along the way, there are some brief behind-the-scene videos which show how specific scenes from the film were shot. These include comments from the cast and Singer, as well as on-set footage. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. This includes an alternate animated opening. A swinging bridge scene which was cut from the film is actually pretty good. They also should have left in the scene where Jack's uncle sees how well he has done. The final extra is a 3-minute GAG REEL.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.