Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer was doomed to failure. The film was delayed from summer of 2012 until March of 2013, and the advertising could never find the right tone to sell the film. And so its eventual release was met with yawns. But it’s actually a moderately entertaining little adventure film. Nicholas Hoult stars as the titular Jack, who comes across some magic beans that change his life. The film also stars Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Bill Nighy, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Ian McShane, and my review of the Blu-ray follows after the jump.
Jack, much like the princess Isabelle (Tomlinson) grows up hearing stories about magical beans that lead to the land of giants, where men fought the beasts, and then decided to keep the bridge between worlds separate. As teenagers, Jack and Isabelle bump into each other into town when Jack is trying to sell his horse and cart, and there’s an attraction, but she’s to be married to Roderick (Tucci) to make her father (McShane) happy. Roderick has a collection of the magical beans, which are stolen by a monk that can tell Roderick’s evil. The monk trades his beans for Jack’s horse, which gets Jack in trouble when he gets home. But that night Isabelle shows up in disguise, while one of Jack’s beans rolls under his house. There’s a storm, and the house is lifted into the sky with Isabelle (but not Jack) in tow.
This leads to the king sending out his men, led by the knight Elmont (Mcgregor), who attempt to climb the beanstalk. And so both Roderick and Jack volunteer to go along. Once up to the land of giants, Roderick reveals his master plan, as he has a crown that makes him king of the giants, which he plans to use to take over the world. This leads Jack to become a hero so he can save the princess. Roderick’s plan doesn’t go according to his scheme so the giant General Fallon (Bill Nighy) takes over and leads his giants to attack the king’s castle.
Bryan Singer’s film is basically a hero’s journey tale where the child of simple means rises to the occasion, but where so many films are obsessed with reluctant heroes, and destiny, this film succeeds because Jack is willing and able to be a hero. Hoult has a light and easy chemistry, even if he looks a little fey, but he fits well into the Mark Hamill role of someone unexpected who proves to be the right person.
But the film is stolen by Ewan McGregor. His performance elevates the film, and he hits the right tone of something that can smell that it’s a little silly, but he plays it with the right conviction and a sense of fun. On top of which, the film is well paced, and though the ending is pat, it does what a film like this should do: create empathy for the lead, and take him on a journey that’s fun to watch. The trailer may have been the film’s downfall, and home video may be more forgiving, and — as a film for children — there’s a lot of giants biting the heads off of people, but the film proved to be entertaining enough.
Warner Brothers Blu-ray comes with a DVD and ultraviolet digital copy, while the film is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. As a recent film, the transfer is stunning, and the special effects work (which led to the film’s near $200 million budget) is well represented. But, like a lot of film flops, the special features are limited. There’s a section called “Become a Giant Slayer,’ which offers eight sections of behind the scenes material (about 30 minutes worth), that you have to navigate to by climbing a beanstalk. Though the labor in moving forward is relatively easy, a play all function would have been nice. There’s also five deleted/extended scenes (8 min.), all pretty inconsequential, and a gag reel (3 min.). Slim pickings.