Jack the Giant Slayer has a body count. People are murdered by the hands of a human villain, burned alive as flaming trees catch them in the heat, and eaten as their heads prove a delicacy to rampaging Giants. This is excitement through egregious violence, vicious and uncouth for the PG-13, hilariously out of tone with the breezy material.
We open on young Jack, tucked into bed, being read an ages old fairy tale he will soon live. One wonders if the story concerns beheading. It is teenage Jack (Nicholas Hoult) who assumes responsibility for magic beans, his berating grandfather angrily storming from the home hours before the stalk is inadvertently unleashed.
Setting the human drama is a princess whose routine relishes the tropes of medieval dramas, forced to marry a sniveling Roderick (Stanley Tucci) against her will. In the history of the fantasy genre, not a single arranged marriage has worked, and exist as a paltry, thin excuse for the underclassmen to swoop in and save the helpless heroine. It is as shameless and dull as any cliché.
Up the stalk they go, including a dashing Elmont (Ewan McGreggor), all in search of a princess whose only trait is that she is rebellious… at an age where every kid is rebellious. Donned in high-priced Hollywood armor, Elmont’s crew carry a sophistication fit for filming; Jack wears a hoodie, jeans, and a t-shirt. Wardrobe selections apparently underwent budget cuts.
Of course, they find Giants, computer generated with all of the Hollywood motion capture tools behind them. They’re beastly, ravenous for flesh as they take down least likable or expendable characters. Sharp edits hide the obvious violence, a split second cut enough for the MPAA to give a thumbs up to decapitation.
Giant Slayer is otherwise thrill-less, a dodgy, sloppy production that veers into a fantasy realm without a wink toward the lens. It is played unnaturally straight for its subject matter, wherein the recent Hansel & Gretel captured its lunacy in full acceptance of its stupidity. Giants can be darkened and dirtied, yet the end result remains green screened actors on phony sets speaking to special effect abnormals. Visuals are often bright, even saturated, backing away from the enormity (pun intended) of the inhibiting final slaughter.
Bryan Singer’s film has an out 90-minutes in, presenting a false ending that while missing a lavish battle sequence, caps the level of character audiences will receive. What follows is twenty additional minutes that flounder in repetitious mayhem, needless to satiate any plot devices. Giant Slayer is needlessly expensive, and most of that comes from this climatic showdown at the castle walls.
Giant Slayer is a film of indecision, utilizing pieces of multiple digital cameras that lend an inconsistent and often weary visual quality. Peaks are wonderful, the screen blazing with all-CG to layer texture on top of texture. Giants are fantastic in front of the virtual lens, their Earth (sky?) worn faces home to fidelity in the form of crevices, dirt, or muck. Human actors, while less resolved, still carry the texture needed for an appealing HD image.
Elsewhere, the disc corners itself. High action comes at the cost of compression. An initial Giant meeting comes near a body of water that challenges the AVC encode to a struggle. The modern codec loses, displaying visuals awash with a softened, notably compressed appearance. Applied filters are also a possibility. Shots of grassy fields are weirdly mushy as well.
Some mild, near imperceptible aliasing is the final digital fault, contained to armor. That’s minor. Focus shifts to black levels, which for Giant Slayer are capable. Inside a humble wood cabin with only candles for light, depth is maintained without any signs of losing density. Shadow detail is shown concern, with dimensionality heightened during daylight scenes.
Color grading warms the action escapism, flesh tones tweaked slightly into orange, other primaries taking the hit. Greenery is tinted to match the temperature. Other primaries are inviting as to not feel restricted. A pleasant disc, if a little overmatched.
How awesome are Giants? Ask your subwoofer. Booming, baritone voices sick the LFE for all of the power it can produce, and footsteps wallop the low-end with generous rumble in stages. Intensity grows the closer a Giant may be, and while not unexpected, the handling of the design makes distance felt.
Giant Slayer is equipped with high-energy action at most turns, from the humungous scale of bean stalk growth, outstretched leaves panning into surround channels, to hyper storms that douse the available channels with rain. Debris fields weigh powerfully, and the collapse of the stalk is stupendous in its ability to shower the listener in its audio.
Not all of the scenes are forcing music, effects, and dialogue. A well done kitchen brawl with a gargantuan cook scatters pots and pans, in addition to a roaring monster that stretches around the speakers. This is fun, and loaded with production value.
Become a Giant Slayer is in the lead for “most obnoxious bonus feature,” here in 2013, locking featurettes to a non-game depicting a stalk climb, clips hidden in the branches. Make the wrong move (with no indicators as to what that may be) and you’re needlessly sent downward. This is the only way to find the behind-the-scenes features, and it’s framed as something for the kids to toy with. Distressing considering the film’s content.
Deleted scenes run a little over eight minutes and a brief gag reel is low on laughs.
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