‘Jack’ reaches for sky, falls short

By Austin Flynn


Hollywood just can’t get enough make-believe.

Every studio wanted to cash in when “Alice in Wonderland” grossed more than $1 billion worldwide and the “Shrek” series before it broke box-office records.Hoping to tap into the fairytale genre’s success, Warner Bros. remade “Red Riding Hood,” and Paramount turned “Hansel and Gretel” into a guilty-pleasure revenge fantasy. Warner Bros. re-entered the game this weekend with “Jack the Giant Slayer,” an adventure film that not only throws in new characters to the “Jack and the Beanstalk” tale but also follows what happens after Jack returns to Earth.


The film was delayed eight months while effects were fixed and marketing was revamped to make the film family friendly. However, much of the film’s content doesn’t match up with the new ad campaign. The film grossed an estimated $28 million during its opening weekend, which barely scratches the surface of  its nearly $190 million budget.

Was the wait worth it?

Karsten Burgstahler: I obviously don’t know what “Giant Slayer” looked like before, but it must have been pretty bad. The film was just average effects-wise, and it took eight extra months to achieve that level. Hollywood walks a tightrope of sorts with films like “Jack.” Studio heads want to spin the classic tales, but the film will fall flat if the marketing isn’t distinct enough. “Jack” was marketed toward kids, but much of the film’s violent content — which, while obviously fake, still shows giants devouring humans and ripping heads off — helped the film achieve a family unfriendly PG-13 rating. The film’s impressive castle siege climax proves the tale certainly could have been remade as an epic war film, but the studio took an unsuccessful marketing gamble.

Austin Flynn: Eight months of editing is a lot, especially when it appears filmmakers edited only the blood and occasional entrail. I wasn’t terribly offended with the violence, but I also didn’t bring kids to the movie. Families made up about 80 percent of the audience in my viewing experience, and a collective shudder passed over the crowd  every time a giant bit off a man’s head. The writers mixed decapitations with fart and booger jokes, so I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cringe most of the time. However, the acting helped liven the experience. Stanley Tucci stole the show with his stand-up performance as the main villain, and Ewan McGregor’s role as the princess’ guard made me laugh several times. Despite this, I never felt like it was enough to make up for the film’s apparent identity crisis.

KB: I agree that the character writing was up to par.  Tucci is a national treasure, even when the writers attempt to convince us he’s only 36 years old. However, the performances don’t make up for the film’s poor pacing. “Giant Slayer” comes to  grinding halt during its second-to-third act transition. The film concludes after Jack descends the beanstalk, but it drags an extra 30 minutes when it suddenly launches into another battle. The action is entertaining, but the transition could have been smoother. The violence and humor mix was also awkward. The biggest offense came from a two-headed giant, the main antagonist. One head is smart and conniving, voiced by Bill Nighy (“Pirates of the Caribbean”’s Davy Jones), but the other head, voiced by John Kassir was portrayed to be slow, and barely uttered more then a few grunts or groans. Maybe I’m being oversensitive, but I felt like the writers played the giant’s mental handicaps as an offensive joke. The poor humor choices go hand-in-hand with the film’s incessant fart jokes like the writers weren’t sure who their target audience was. In fact, the whole movie reeks of indecision.

AF: While that may be true, I’m willing to occasionally look past the writers’ indecisiveness because the fight scenes were impressive. Some of the movie’s best action came from a chase scene where battle-ready giants erupted from a forest to pursue Jack and other main characters. It is a tense scene that was a clear break in the calm before the storm. I’ll admit the movie could have ended when Jack climbed down the beanstalk, but I was glad it didn’t. The last 40 minutes added just enough action and drama to make it feel complete. Even though parents might want to steer clear of this movie as a fun fairytale flick for children, adventure genre fans can use “Giant Slayer” as a hold-me-over until Disney’s  “Oz the Great and Powerful” releases Friday.