Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Eleanor Tomlinson
Running Time: 114 mins
Release Date: March 22
3D: Skip it
Bryan Singer has had a strange career. When you look at his beginnings, namely The Usual Suspects, there was a feeling that anything was possible. It was smartly directed, intelligently scripted and brilliantly entertaining. That was almost twenty years ago, and time hasn’t been kind to his works. Looking now at X-Men, Superman Returns and Valkyrie, one could be forgiven for thinking that initial triumph was a fluke.
Jack the Giant Slayer continues this trend. Set in “ancient times”, it tells the story of a plucky young boy (Nicholas Hoult) who finds himself in possession of magical beans. These magical beans, we’re told, are a gateway to another dimension where—you guessed it—giants live. The story takes in a princess who doesn’t want to be married to an older noble, who’s an advisor to her father, the king. As well as this, there’s a dashing knight (Ewan McGregor) and a clumsy attendant (Ewen Bremmer). Does this sound vaguely familiar? Of course it does.
The cast are, by and large, uninteresting and tepid, with a chief offender being Hoult, who has the charisma of a toothbrush. He’s boring to watch, never really draws attention to himself when he’s on-screen and simply isn’t a good actor. Ewan McGregor is clearly capable of far better than this, but manfully plays out his role with some aplomb. Ian McShane, likewise, is a far better actor than his last few credits would have you believe. Stanley Tucci, playing the evil Lord Roderick, is the only one who seems to be enjoying himself and is a delight to watch. Eddie Marsan, playing Ewan McGregor’s right-hand man, and Eleanor Tomlinson, here playing the damsel in distress, are both non-events. Bill Nighy also turns up as the voice of one of the giants, all of whom are Northern Irish apparently.
There’s nothing in the least bit enjoyable about Jack The Giant Slayer. The final half-hour could easily have been excised and put into the inevitable sequel. The cheap CGI lends the film a soulless gleam, and the 3D effects are rough and uninteresting; there isn’t anything remotely clever about throwing pieces of wood at the camera. The script and dialogue are uneventful, with a cast of bland characters who fail to inspire empathy even as they’re being killed off one by one.
Taking fairytales like these and trying to stretch them into a fully-fledged story is a tough challenge for any writer and director. Instead of trying to cajole a tale like this into a film, why not do something original? Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie are capable of this; we know that from The Usual Suspects. So why not go back to their roots? Be original and daring, like they were—instead of trying to ape Snow White & The Hunstman.