Jack the Giant Slayer, the latest entry in the suddenly popular sub-genre of modern spins on fairy tales, offers up a fantasy adventure story aimed at teens and tweens. Released in March of 2013 after almost two years of post-production, it was quickly overshadowed at the box office by Oz the Great and Powerful. Its Blu-ray release release delivers a modest collection of special features as well as the expected modern digital perfection in terms of picture and sound. This near perfect rendering of some not particularly pleasant production design proves to be a mixed blessing.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 54 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraVioletStandard ELITE Blu-ray case with inner case hubs for two discs
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/18/2013
Directed by: Brian Singer
The Production Rating: 3/5
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Eddie Marsan, Ewen Bremner, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, John Kassir, Cornell John, Andrew Brooke, Angus Barnett, Ben Daniels
In Jack the Giant Slayer, the Kingdom of Cloister is ruled by King Brahmwell (McShane). He and his only child, Isabelle (Tomlinson), are the direct descendents of King Erik, who legends claim defeated a race of giants years ago via the use of a magic crown and severed the connection between the worlds of man and giant. When Princess Isabelle rebels against her overprotective father, she ventures outside of the castle and crosses paths with a Peasant orphan named Jack (Hoult), who has just come into possession of some magic beans after a trip to the market on his Uncle’s (Fairbank) behalf goes awry. When said beans are tossed away by Jack’s Uncle under the floorboards, a stormy night results in a giant beanstalk carrying away Jack’s home and Isabelle into the land of the giants in the clouds. The King dispatches his elite royal guards led by Sir Elmont (McGregor) to rescue his daughter. Jack volunteers, as does Isabelle's arranged fiance, Roderick (Tucci), who has nefarious ulterior motives for entering the land of giants.
Jack the Giant Slayer is a pleasant enough re-working of the familiar Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale recast as an action adventure effects extravaganza aimed at a similar audience to Disney’s modern day Pirates of the Caribbean swashbucklers. It achieves the minimum threshold necessary to entertain a tween to early teen audience not overly familiar with other such genre films, but will come across as a bit derivative and nondescript for more seasoned moviegoers.
Chief among the film’s assets are a couple of charismatic leads in Nicholas Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson. They have good chemistry which helps to smooth over some odd coincidences, plot contrivances, and illogical needs of the film’s plot . They are surrounded by a supporting casts of strong actors such as Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, and (via motion capture) Bill Nighy, but all prove to be surprisingly dull with the possible exception of Tucci who seems to be having fun chewing scenery as an unrepentantly dastardly villain.
Unfortunately, the film carries one major liability that hindered my enjoyment of what otherwise would have been a forgettable but inoffensive diversion with some rousing action-effects set pieces. I found the visual design of the film to be extremely unappealing. First and foremost the CG motion capture giants look like ugly rubbery puppets, and not the kind of ugly that they are supposed to be. While the giants have unique looks and strong profiles that help them to read as individual characters on screen (putting the designers a good several steps ahead of the Transformers films), every creature looks like it is about two to three shader rendering passes from actual completeness. This has the net effect of taking the normal “uncanny valley” associated with virtually rendered characters and turning it into an “uncanny Grand Canyon”. The effects team did at least do a good job of not cheating the scale of the giants too severely when integrating with the live action photography and actors.
My aesthetic complaints do not end with the CG effects unfortunately, as several other design elements of the film, inclusive of costume and hair are equally unappealing. I could probably do a paragraph each speculating about what the thinking was behind Ewan McGregor’s spiky hair-don’t, behind Hoult’s proto hoody jacket, or behind every piece of Ian McShane’s wardrobe, but i just do not have the heart for it. These poor design elements are particularly disappointing when thrown into relief against some of the spectacular real world locations in the UK that were integrated with the CG action.
As unappealing as I found many of the design elements of the film, I can't complain about the clarity with which they are rendered via this 1080p AVC encoded presentation letterboxed to the film's original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It renders the film with the level of perfection one would expect from a modern digitally shot effects heavy film with a nice blend of contrast in both dim and brightly lit scenes and pure, slightly artificial colors.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless rendering of the film's soundtrack also provides a fine home video representation of the film's rousing, raucous surround sound audio. I docked it a half a star for not being quite as clever and immersive in its quieter moments as it is during the bombastic set-pieces, but I may be skewing hyper-critical on that count.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
When the dic is first loaded into a player, the following promos appear. Bothe are presented with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound:
Special Features Rating: 2/5
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy Promo (1:22)
- Warner Blu-ray 3D Promo (1:49)
Become a Giant Slayer is a (somewhat) interactive feature in which the viewer, with the helpful guidance of actor Nicholas Hoult (“Jack”), must use their remote control to “climb” a virtual beanstalk with opportunities to view behind the scenes featurettes at various points of the “ascent”. There are a couple of points where the viewer must take quick action to avoid some hazard with the potential negative consequence of falling down the beanstalk and having to retrace their steps. Reaching the top allows the viewer to access a special reward. The interface is a bit of an annoyance and the “game” aspects are not particularly engaging. The featurettes and “reward” are described below:
- Know Your Enemy (4:23) Discusses the designs of various giants who appear in the film, inclusive of the physical and personality quirks of individual giants. On camera comments are provided by Producer/Director Bryan Singer, Digiatl Effects Supervisor Eric Adrian Fernandes, Visual Effects Supervisor Stephen L. Rosenbaum, Bill Nighy (“General Fallon”).
- Suiting Up (3:55) focuses on costume designs, both physical and CG/virtual. On-camera comments are provided by Costume Designer Joanna Johnston, Singer, Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson (“Isabelle”), Ewan McGregor (“Elmont”), and Stanley Tucci (“Roderick”).
- The Magic of a Beanstalk (3:03) looks at the various practical and virtual ways the giant beanstalk was realized on film. On-camera comments are provided by Singer, Hoult, Tomlinson, McGregor,and Eddie Marsan (“Crawe”)
- How to Zip (2:05) focuses on the beanstalk “zip-line” sequence and how it was realized cinematically through a combination of stunts and effects. On camera comments are provided by Hoult and Singer.
- Giant’s Kitchen (2:57) focuses on a set piece involving the attempt by numerous characters to escape from a giant’s kitchen. In addition to discussion of the practical and digital props and effects, there is some brief but interesting discussion about how elements of the scene were improvised on a motion capture stage. On-camera comments are provided by Set Decorator Richard Roberts, McGregor, and Hoult.
- Saving the Princess (2:17) discusses the character of Jack and his quest to rescue Isabelle with some particular emphasis on the escape set-piece heading down the beanstalk. On-camera comments come from Hoult, Singer, and Tomlinson.
- Attack Tactics (3:48) concentrates on the giant fighting methods employed by characters in key film sequences. On-camera comments come from Singer, Hoult, Tucci, Marsan, Animation Supervisor Jan Philip Cramer, Fernandes, and Tomlinson.
- Defending your Kingdom (3:05) Looks at the creation of the movie’s fairy-tale world combining spectacular real UK locations with practical and digital effects. The latter part of the featurette is devoted to the film’s climactic castle siege sequence.
- Reward (5:04) viewers making it to the top of the beanstalk (whether they have been choosing to watch the featurettes on the way or not) are rewarded with an extensive alternate opening sequence for the film consisting of pre-visualization and storyboard material with a couple of unused live action shots near the end.
- CG animatic of alternate opening (not the same as the alternate opening used as the reward for completing the Become a Giant Slayer feature)
- Jack encounters a precarious bridge when pursuing the giants who captured his friends
- Jack discovers cages where the giants detain several humans
- A giant falls from the sky on a guard in the middle of a conversation
- Jack is reunited briefly with his Uncle during the climactic siege
This two-disc Combo pack includes an SD DVD of the film presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Alternate language DD 5.1 tracks are also available in French and Spanish. Subtitles options include English SDH, French, and Spanish. The Deleted Scenes and Gag Reel features from the Blu-ray are repeated here in standard definition. When the disc is first loaded into a player, the viewer is greeted with the following series of promos presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed when appropriate with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio:
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy promo (1:20)
- Pacific Rim Theatrical Trailer (2:34)
- Man of Steel Theatrical Trailer (2:32)
- 42 Theatrical Trailer (2:27)
- The Amazing Burt Wonderstone home video trailer (2:28)
- Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox DTV Trailer (1:04)
The disc also comes packaged with an access code for an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. This allows users to access a streaming version of the film on computers and certain tablets and mobile devices. It also allows viewers with appropriate desktop software to download a copy to their computer's hard drive. Multiple viewing options are available from online services such as Flixster, Vudu, and CinemaNow which redemption of Ultraviolet titles and/or linking to Ultraviolet accounts.
Jack the Giant Slayer offers some pleasant if not particularly memorable fantasy adventure targeted squarely at tweens and teens. The film is marred somewhat by visually unappealing design elements that mesh uncomfortably with some beautiful location photography. These occasionally unpleasant design elements are rendered to digital perfection by an outstanding audio/video presentation. Extras are modest, with the most informative featurettes only accessible by a somewhat unwieldy and not particularly entertaining Blu-ray remote game interface.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden
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