Jack The Giant Slayer Review: Weirdness, Charm, And A Whole Lot Of Smashy Smash
Of course, the big draw for many won't be the actors so much as it will be the giants and the way they stomp and smash their way through this bucolic fantasy setting. The cinematography of the film, CGI-aided as it may be, is quite lovely to look at and much more expansive and sprawling than much of Singer's previous work. The giants themselves will likely be a point of contention. They live in that unusual world, far from the uncanny valley, of CGI/motion-captured creations that don't look the least bit real, yet can still be utilized effectively. As such, they alternate between being utterly cartoonish and startlingly lifelike, creating an occasionally off-putting sense of imbalance. The lead giant, Fallon, played with atypical grimness by Bill Nighy, is depicted by an almost video game-ish animation, full of harsh edges and hard stares... except for the oft-hilarious, mentally defective second head that sprouts from his shoulder. At the same time, Fallon has a scheming usurper in his ranks named Fumm (natch, and yes there is also a Fee, Fye and Foe) played by Ben Daniels who, with bulbous nose and springy shock of hair, who is basically a troll doll writ gigantic. Yet when taken as a whole, the giants work in their own unusual way -- they're not believably realistic in the conventional sense, but at the same time it's a fairy tale in every sense of the word, and so it's easy to forgive their obvious artificiality.
Oh, and by all means don't bother with the 3D version -- it's barely even noticeable.
Tonally, the film is similarly all over the place -- it wants to be light and breezy, yet there's a surprising amount of killing that takes place, although never graphically or gratuitously depicted. As a result, it's hard to say just what age group it's appropriate for -- it's quite funny at times and sweetly romantic in a strictly PG fashion, yet there's also a good number of folk that get swatted by humongous hands and chomped on by massive maws. Ironically, for a film called Jack The Giant Slayer, surprisingly few giants are slain. The film is breathlessly paced, never really letting off the gas right up to the climax, a full-blown seige of Brahmwell's castle. That scene is a harrowing and enjoyably tense affair that certainly has a respectable amount of thrills to it, yet the aftermath is curiously tepid, making it all feel a little disproportionate. Also muddying the film's waters is what feels like an excess of villainy - between Roderick, Fallon and Fumm, it feels like a film overcrowded by ideas of who, exactly, should be the bad guy. What keeps it from falling apart is that at its root, it's a genuine tale of adventure and derring-do, something that we don't often find capably done anymore.
What does this add up to? A mostly enjoyable, though oft-inconsistent film that can't quite settle into a niche comfortably. The downside to this is that it's destined to fill everyone's glass halfway, without ever really creating a real sense of cinematic fulfillment. Jack The Giant Slayer was certainly fun, and it's definitely a welcome change from some of the unnecessarily darker, grungier fairy tale adaptations, but it's also a bit too schizophrenic for its own good. All of that said, it has a healthy sense of adventure and wonderment, and perhaps, despite all of its strange dichotomies, that's something that's in short enough order these days to make it worthwhile.