Saturday, April 15, 2017

In short: Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

Unless he’s going the “Superman is Jesus” route, you can usually trust in Bryan Singer to turn out a good to great bit of mainstream Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking. Personally, I hold him responsible for the fact that most of Fox’s X-Men films are actually worth watching, and actually seem to get what the better parts of the comics are thematically about.

Jack isn’t really up there with Days of Future Past, though. It’s still a fun bit of spectacle, with quite a few mildly rousing scenes of anti-giant violence, a usually fun to watch cast and assured pacing. This isn’t one of those big loud Hollywood movies that take their dear time actually starting (I’m looking at you, Suicide Squad’s never ending character introductions), either. Singer knows the hoary adventure chestnut he wants to tell, he knows which elements he needs to tell it, and he’s not going to bore his audience with stuff that doesn’t belong in it.

Still, there are some puzzling directorial choices here: why is the short exposition in form of a fairy tale shown as a bit of ass-ugly digital animation that looks as if they’d hired a handful of interns to cook something up in a weekend? Why does semi-fairy tale Olde Englande seem to be more inspired by Monty Python than fairy tales (or old England, for that matter)? What’s up with the curious tonal shifts between all ages fantasy adventure and moments of what surely must be conscious grittiness, seeing as they don’t have any thematic meaning? This certainly isn’t a film that’s trying to compare the idealistic ideas of adventure of its two young main characters with an uglier truth, nor one that’s trying to argue something about the power of the imagination trumping brutal reality, so I can see much reason for these tonal problems beyond them being the dreaded artefacts of earlier script versions that nobody bothered to get rid of. Also, why hire Stanley Tucci (whom I usually adore) of all people as a villain instead of someone who can do a proper Basil Rathbone by virtue of being British and not having to spend so much of his acting energy on his fake accent?

Again, this doesn’t mean Jack the Giant Slayer isn’t big loud fun. I certainly enjoyed my two hours with it, and am certainly not averse to watching it again in a couple of years. It’s just that Singer usually can do more working in the space Jack belongs to.

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