Hit The Snooze Button On This "Giant Slayer"

Not one frame of “Jack The Giant Slayer” sets it apart from other CGI-heavy adventure films. Not a single line of its dialogue contains even a glimmer of inspiration. And not one of the film’s characters rises above stock fairy tale conventions. If the aim was to create the most uninspired, robotic, yawn-worthy action pic of the decade, director Bryan Singer (“X-Men”) and company have succeeded wildly. Strangely, the film’s biggest problem is that, taken as a whole, it’s not… bad. But, unfortunately, it is entirely soulless. Even the most awful films have personality, which would have been preferable in this case.

The technical competence on display here works against the film by underlining its incomparably dull storytelling. The special effects are better than the trailers indicate, but to what end? Watching “Jack The Giant Slayer” is like navigating an automated phone system. No matter how hi-tech or user-friendly it might be, it’s still an automated phone system.

The first rule in the appropriation of a public domain story should be that if your re-telling requires four writers, you’re doing something wrong. That this particular screenplay required the work of Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, Dan Studney, and David Dobkin (who, unbelievably, received a “story” credit) is mind-boggling. There’s no cleverness, no depth, and the way the action is written is passé at best (think “Lord Of The Rings” lite). I’m fairly confident that the film is supposed to be funny, but I didn’t laugh once. No, not even at the multiple instances of flatulent giants.

Nicholas Hoult (Jack), Ewan McGregor (Elmont), and Stanley Tucci (Roderick) are talented actors, but here they’re reduced to community theater work, while Bill Nighy is on hand to replicate his voice work from the “Pirates Of The Caribbean” series. Close your eyes and you’ll begin to wonder how Davey Jones fits into the story. Eleanor Tomlinson (Isabelle) acquits herself nicely as Jack’s royal love interest, but her character might be the most one-dimensional of the bunch. No small feat.

By the middle of the third act I was so uninterested in what I was seeing that I found myself focusing on the IMAX presentation. The picture was, unsurprisingly, terrific and the sound, delightful. The sound of birds chirping behind me painted a scene that was much more intriguing that what was actually on screen. The rumble of the bass began to take over. The light bouncing across the theater took hold of different spaces from second to second. I started thinking about how the quality of IMAX theaters continues to floor me and how the price is the only regrettable part of the experience. And now that I’ve gone completely off track, you have some idea of what it’s like to watch “Jack The Giant Slayer.” Wait – did I forget to cancel my dental appointment for next Tuesday?

I wish I had more to say about the picture itself, but my reactions can only be reciprocal. And “Jack” has so little to offer that I’d be foolish to waste any more time writing about it. It’s derivative to its core, which is to be expected, but this level of unoriginality is inexcusable from a talented creative team and a $150 million budget. Fee-fi-ho-hum.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★★ out of ★★★★★ (Not So Good)

Release Date: March 1, 2013
Studio: New Line Cinema (Warner Bros.)
Director: Bryan Singer
Screenwriter: Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, Dan Studney, David Dobkin
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language)