Saturday, March 2, 2013

Movie Review: "Jack the Giant Slayer"

If you even have a passing knowledge of the, "Jack and the Beanstalk," fairy tale, then you know the story of Jack the Giant Slayer.  Where director Bryan Singer's film finds its footing and stands on its own is that it doesn't try to reimagine the fairy tale as something darker or more twisted, but rather makes the film like a Golden Age Errol Flynn adventure film, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Jack the Giant Slayer is a very simple film in that you know who the heroes and the villains are from the first time you see them, it's not looking to overcomplicate the fairy tale or create surprise.  The film utilizes the archetypal characters from the Hero's Journey, just as the original Star Wars did, and from the first moments you see farm boy Jack and princess Isabelle, you know their motivations and you're already in love with them.  Nicholas Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson have very good chemistry as Jack and Isabelle, but the performance I loved the most was Ewan McGregor doing his best Errol Flynn impression as swashbuckler, Elmont the knight.  Rounding out the cast is Stanley Tucci as bad guy Roderick, and he's the type of mustache twirling bad guy you remember from all those great adventure flicks of your youth.

What really sells this film as a throwback to the Golden Age of Hollywood, is that the film never takes itself too seriously and always remains lighthearted and adventurous, with jokes even in some of the more serious moments where Singer and company could have made it darker.  Then there's the spot on musical score by John Ottman, who channels the best of Old Hollywood's go-to adventure film composer, Max Steiner, with a recurring theme that is memorable and heroic.  However, what really separates this film from being like those Errol Flynn swashbucklers, is the sheer scope of the story.

A film like this could not have been made in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and I would argue that this film could have not even been made ten years ago, in live action at least.  To effectively pull this concept off, the film required tons of special effects to work, and while some of the CGI work isn't always photorealistic and a little cartoonish, all of the giants are created through motion capture performance technology, and without it this film could not have been realized.  It's this ginormous scale that makes the film modern and not simply a throwback to a bygone era of moviemaking.  Though, to assume that Jack the Giant Slayer is so simple that it doesn't actually have anything to say, would also be wrong.

The true brilliance of Jack the Giant Slayer is the thematic idea that ties the entire story together of how stories are told, and how stories change over time and become myth or are taken out of context, to where people often forget that something they read in a book actually occurred and is the truth.  I found this commentary hitting very close to home.  Whether it's history, myth, or a religious tome, many people nowadays seem to not ever think twice about the stories that exist in our society and refuse to believe, and Jack the Giant Slayer has me genuinely thinking about the truths so often ignored in those stories.

I give Jack the Giant Slayer an A!

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