Jack the Giant Slayer Movie Review
WARNING SPOILERS! SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!
There is no such thing as the objective tone; everyone is inevitably subjective because they’re human. So I need to give a brief background to the mentality I had going into watching this movie. I am an avid anime otaku (no not a fujoshi… yet) but I do have to explain my biases in terms of enjoying fantasy series about reverse-gender King Arthur(ia), so I will make references to Fate Stay Night TV series, Fate Unlimited Blade Works, Fate Zero and Fate; Extra to some extent in this review. I will also reference Norse mythology to some extent too.
Beginning with the cons because my cons came from the biases and predisposition the trailers left me in. This is specifically a review on the movie in it's 3d form in theatres.
The movie utilized CGI animation to portray a backstory for the creation of cursed beans as an attempt by a devout group of monks (they didn’t specify the religion, since this is a fantasy setting I’m quite happy with this). The puppet like characters however utilized wood as an essential material to portraying skin, and the Giants in the opening CGI did lack a storybook quality. Since this is the framing narrative, I believe as the opening CGI it led many viewers to be led astray to believing that the Giants would look like that for the whole film. But they do not thankfully. So my only con is, if you’re going to open up with a storybook quality, might as well have the VFX artists utilize a storybook aesthetic, even a pop up book.
Next is the viewer expectation after the director has presented source material information in the trailers, specifically the source material of Vikings and Arthurian myth of Giants being slain by Jack and having their heads presented to the King. I actually do not mind this, but it sets a viewer expectation of a skewered head. I don’t mind Nicholas Hoult holding up a golden sword from the Giant’s stash of gold and actually doing something like this. But it did not happen, please please please on the bluray have an additional scene where He does something like this. Please tell me that smaller head on the two-headed Giant Fallon (John Kassir) COULD have been this head, even in the director’s commentary, concept artist, anyone! I might be prejudiced from Fate series' Vlad the Impaler! BUT STILL!
Minor quirks that could be fixed, language usage specifically of King Brahmwell (Ian McShane), he was a bit too colloquial for his statement of ‘Like Hell-‘ – well there’s a problem here that I can see, now we can either ground the world as a ‘Hel’ of the Norse Hel, or the Christian Hell. But mostly, this was a point where I had a break from immersion just for a moment. In the future, I hope the script writer learns how to write within the style of language everyone else is using within the movie. If I could, I'd recommend watching how Gilgamesh in the Fate anime series belittles people- never does he have to resort to fowl language, but he manages to make people feel angry and terrible at the same time.
Final con I can think of that can easily be alleviated is- Jack (Nicholas Hoult), or actually this is just one for Nicholas Hoult in general, he’s done excellent job in Warm Bodies as a zombie except in this movie he’s once again bound to the hoody. Albeit, it’s a leather hoody he’s adorned himself with that is sort of indie in his own way I guess. But whoever is handling his costumes in the future, keep him AWAY from the hoody, unless it’s specifically required. Turn it into a cloak to match the fantasy setting for goodness sake! He looks too close to his zombie form especially in dark settings! But whoever decided on the cowlick hairstyle they get an A+. He looks like a real farmboy that had his hair licked by a real cow. (You need this in a deleted scene. I will approve forever).
Now onto the praises and pros of this movie! Now the costumes, particularly the weapons and the armour design. I absolutely adored the gold armour for the Princess and the King. Jack even pokes fun at the fact Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) and King Brahmwell match within the movie. There needs to be praise given here because of the fact that the Lord of the Rings movie armour looked so difficult for Éowyn (Miranda Otto) to move around in versus the armour of Isabelle’s. It looked like it was not difficult to run, walk, or even get back up after getting tossed by a giant into limestone floors in terms of Isabelle’s armour design. I like to think that if Gilgamesh from Fate Stay Night for some reason became a live action character, he would have gold armour like this, oh and of course if his gender were reversed, because WHY NOT.
Next is World design praises and starting off: Cloister looks like a fantastic city. They were trying very hard to set it in a fantasy medieval setting and Cloister brings it to life. The encampments by the soldiers around the vines showed off the aspect ratio of human to Vines. There are some references to Albion being the old name of the world in the fairytale Jack and the child princess Isabelle reads with their parents.
This is a must in a fantasy film, in terms of portraying a whimsical quality in the world. The child Jack is not able to sleep at night and the 3d effects were just excellent here portraying the lamp he leaves lit at night to keep the darkness and thunder of giants from haunting him in his sleep. The small leather-bound fairy tale book he reads with his father is also particularly touching. This is his home, he barely wants to sell his horse, his cat notices something’s amiss and he still leaves his lights on well into the evening in adulthood. Jack (Nicholas Hoult) continues paying heed to the whimsical quality of the world in terms of having the orange tabby (strongly resembling a certain cat in boots), and his friendly banter with his horse also allowed for immersion and believability of the fairy tale formula being preserved. The vines grow so beautifully high that there is the moment of the sublime, Jack stops his climb mid beanstalk to stare at the summit of being right above the clouds, the sun rises and the CGI in 3d is breathtaking. Understandably, Nicholas Hoult was probably in a green room staring onto Green walls, but for a moment, I BELIEVED that he was in a sublime state of mind. Props to the lighting artists, cloud artists and whoever decided to make the Vines 3d too.
Now onto the mythical quality of the world portrayed by the VFX of CGI Giants references to Viking lore of the Giants disappearing from the world of man (possibly after Ragnarok). This world seems to exist in a realm between Valhalla or Heaven and Midgaard or Albion. The princess looked excellent with her gold armour and the matching chain mail. Movability within armour costumes is a huge issue in the professional world as well as in the fan hobbiest designs of cosplayers.
Interesting additional character, Elmont (Ewan McGregor) is part of King Brahmwell’s elite guard and acts as a role model for Jack that does not care about class position in terms of having prestige due to birth and class, but wishes to be judged by his actions instead. His armour design was one that also could come apart and he gives the emblem of the Elite Guard to Jack that just wonderfully pops off of his gauntlet. He is a lot like Balthier of the Final Fantasy 12 series, in that he believes he’s the leading man in the universe. However Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci) goes out of his way to prove that every person in the world believes they are the leading man to their own stories. There is a moment of recognition that there is also the potential for everyone to become the hero of their own stories if they should commit the time and effort to do so.
I would recommend this movie to anyone that enjoys fairy tales and likes seeing a molding of fairy tale with Viking (Norse) mythology in a non-video game, non-anime setting. The 3d made the whimsical quality of the world stand out, so for those that are interested – yes it was a good 3d movie!