Jack the Giant Slayer
When I told my assistant that I was going to Warner Bros. to see a screening of Jack the Giant Slayer, she groaned and commiserated. Although I always like to go to the Warner Bros. lot, I was not looking forward to yet another silly fantasy based on a classic fairytale.
Fortunately, however, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a well-paced action feature that starts with a good tempo and doesn’t let up. The dialogue is lighthearted and the special effects are spectacular. Even better, though, the 3-D is as good as you’re going to get.
Sure, the story is a fantasy and the characters and situation are ridiculous. But the two protagonists, the princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) and the commoner Jack (Nicholas Hoult) are likable and believable. The bad guy, Stanley Tucci, is evil and hateful. The Giants are monsters (with a ratio of 4 to 1, so if the normal male in the movie is 6 feet tall [just an estimate] the giants are 24 feet tall) who seem indomitable, making the odds of the good guys prevailing very long.
This was filmed using traditional effects in addition to CG characters created by precision motion and facial-capture performances, using the Simul-Cam system developed for Avatar to integrate live with virtual in real time, while the cameras were rolling. So even though Bill Nighy plays the leader of the giants, he is unrecognizable since his character is a CG creation of motion and facial capture. He developed a gravelly voice unique to his character by screaming so loudly that he sounded hoarse when he arrived on the set. It is remarkable.
Ewan MacGregor plays Elmont, a knight in shining armor, sworn to save the Princess for the King. The role doesn’t require much and Ewan is fine, although he’s terribly overqualified for the part.
Actors portraying humans were also subject to motion capture. Even MacGregor had his movements recorded so that he could be filmed running, then cut to motion capture to show the jump and fall, picking up again with him after the fall.
Special mention must be made of the music by John Ottman that keeps the pace moving throughout the entire two hours. Even better than the music are the visual effects and makeup, for which there are hundreds of credits.
Well directed by Bryan Singer from a script by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dan Studney, this is a delightful movie, an entertainment, something we don’t get a lot of these days.
Watching this film is sheer, unadulterated agony. This is yet another movie about young adults, showing them to be immoral, profane, irresponsible dolts. There were a couple of these last year, Fun Size and Project X come to mind, which were equally atrocious. Actually, I want to rethink that. This could be the worst movie I’ve ever had to endure.
It starts out with Miles Teller and Skylar Astin, two of the more unappealing, unattractive protagonists one could imagine, walking naked across the school quadrangle with socks covering their genitals. It plunges downhill from there. Miller (Teller) is a smart aleck jerk, and looks the part, although I don’t think he is supposed to be viewed as a jerk. They are supposed to be the best friends of Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), who is said to be a straight-A student preparing for a big interview the next morning to get into med school. These “best friends” encourage him to spend the evening getting drunk, doing drugs, and completely wasting himself. That’s not the way “best friends” treat one another.
The best way to describe this story and script is to say that they are banal and to leave it at that. That’s not too surprising, considering that the film is written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also wrote Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a 2009 bomb starring Matthew McConaughey. That film was so bad that not even brilliant director Mark Waters, who has Freaky Friday and Mean Girls to his credit, could make it anything more than awful. Lucas and Moore fell into a hit as the writers of The Hangover, but followed it up with the dismal The Change-Up. Then they made a bad decision, thinking they could avoid becoming one-hit wonders by not only writing this, but directing it, too. But maybe they had no choice. Maybe they couldn’t find anyone in Hollywood stupid enough to direct this nonsense.
These silly films have another thing in common, and that is to demean family. In this one, Jeff has an overbearing father who wants him to go to med school and who is pictured as an unsmiling Hitler-esque tyrant. All the films with which Lucas and Moore have been involved encourage degrading, antisocial behavior. Like most of these low intellect films, there’s a lot of vomiting (in slow motion, no less!) and disgusting scenes that make you want to turn your head or close your eyes.