Jack the Giant Slayer
Jack the Giant Slayer is one of those films that didn't come across to me as the worst movie I've ever seen, but it certainly ranks up there as one of the most uninspiring. There were a few scenes, I guess, that were entertaining and probably fell into the category of mindless fun. But for the most part, as I'm a few days removed from seeing Giant Slayer, all I can remember about it is what was wrong with it. Which was basically:
1. What was the deal with the backstory animation? I could barely follow along with what was being presented to me, because the animation during this sequence was unbearably awful. It looked like a video game cutscene from the 90's. It looked like Pre-Viz. It looked like unpolished, pixelated characters. It was legitimately terrible. It was embarassing to include in a $200 million major studio production. I don't understand how they could have created that sequence, and had it go through department after department of approvals, and nobody once stopped and said "Wait, what the hell was that?" Not that I think this movie deserved to have any more money thrown at it, but if I worked for the studio, and gave even just one crap about making anything resembling something good, I would have spent $30 million more dollars to burn the computers that created that awful sequence and started over from scratch with something that doesn't look like a $5 PC game you can buy at Target.
2. The giants had TERRIBLE character design. I'm not sure Bryan Singer was aware that the one benefit of slathering this film in oceans of CG, is that he could have created basically whatever he wanted for the design of the giants. The giants, mind you, that are the entire selling point of this film. Instead we just got a whole bunch of big, dirt-covered humans. Big orange and brownish humans. With terrible hair choices (one of them has a Kid 'n Play hi-top). The whole film had a dreadfully dull color pallet. The leader giant had TWO heads (oh wow! [eye roll]), but it wasn't even a cool second head, it had a mental handicap... Was the second head there for comic relief? Am I supposed to be laughing at a disabled head? I don't feel comfortable with that. Don't put me in that position, please. And then in some scenes when there weren't any tiny humans around, and the giants are hanging out in their clubhouse or whatever; there is no scale for comparison and they didn't even feel like giants anymore... They didn't thunder around and destroy scenery, they were just big orange dudes sitting at tables. Anyway, look at all of these character designs and ask yourself not only do any of them even look different from each other, but was the basic style of the giants even a worthwhile choice to begin with?
3. It was a relay race of villains. One guy is the main villain for most of the movie, then at some point he hands it off to one of the giants, who then hands the villain baton to another (almost completely underdeveloped) giant. Am I supposed to feel immense fear and hatred towards this giant that's had about four minutes of screen time prior to his leadership role? Then the movie just kind of ends without really having any kind of satisfying conclusion to ANY of the villains. What did any of them even really achieve? I guess without spoiling it specifically, even though I wouldn't really even care at this point, the end of the climactic action scene of the movie was a lot like Gangs of New York. In other words: the promise of a great battle is presented with a lot of build up that just gets brought to an abrupt halt by an unsatisfying outside element.
4. What a CGI nightmare. And it was bad CGI. At no point is the audience ever to believe that these giant computerized creations were ever actually part of the environment. Not even in a suspension of disbelief kind of way. They couldn't even use practical effects for the giant's' closeups? It's not like they couldn't afford to use some make up, because again, this was a $200 million dollar production. It looks like the money went towards making the world as glossed over as possible. As a counter-example, The Hobbit cost only slightly more than Giant Slayer did, and they used a lot of real (Oscar nominated) make-up effects, and I believed that the characters were actually part of their environments. At least in an "I have to believe this to enjoy the movie" kind of way. In Giant Slayer, I spent basically the entire movie thinking "FAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE".
5. Boring characters. No one in this film, from monk to farmer to king to orange giant, has any semblance of charisma. Everyone is so boring and flat and one dimensional. You can tell in scenes like when Ewan McGregor is rolled up in dough about to be served as a pig-in-a-blanket, while he's just unemotionally rambling through his goofy lines, that he's most likely thinking about what better movie he missed out on while earning this easy paycheck.
6. This has to have one of the worst endings/epilogues ever made. I didn't even know this movie was supposed to take place in real life London. I thought it was a fantasy land, ya know, where GIANTS lived on a big floating island in the sky. By taking us back to some kind of present day reality, are they implying that this giant land actually exists? Maybe we would have picked it up on a satellite or something? Maybe one of our drones would have flown past it?
7. Also, is this movie for children? It was way too simple and stupid of a plot for an adult to enjoy, but it was way too violent for a child to see. It's like it was suitable for some kind of weird middle ground. Either an adult that's a little slow, or a 6-year-old whose parents think he's mature enough to handle it. I came across feeling like it was dumbed down, yet obnoxiously over-complicated. Like there were so many characters and minor storylines that come and go, that it would confuse the simple minds of the people brainless enough to actually enjoy it. Or maybe this was like a dumb person's equivalent to a Robert Altman film? "Daaahhh have you seen Jake the Giant Killer, it is comploycated...! It is this generation's Battlefield Earth" says the guy eating Doritos Locos tacos with the Charlie Sheen 'Winning" t-shirt. I don't know.
So, despite the fact that I forgot everything except the bad parts after three days, the only comforting thing about seeing a movie like this is that I'll forget *everything* about it in three more days. It's sad that a film with no real redeemable value opened #1 at the box office with $28 million. But then it becomes funny again when you realize it cost the studio $195 million to make, and probably $100 million more to market. Let us hope that this is the death rattle of the recent overproduction of fairy tale stories being butchered by Hollywood.
4 out of 10
Scott - your reviews are becoming more interesting than the movies themselves.
Giant Slayer follows a formula than Hollywood has not yet realized does not work:
High concept idea + B-list director + lots of money + a concept the public is not interested in + some executives think it is a great idea + some A to B-list actors involved for the easy paycheck = disaster
Disaster movies like Armageddon, Towering Inferno, Titanic, 2012, etc are usually pretty popular
But movie disasters are fun to watch burn down, but can burn a lot of actual cash money in the process. Not fun for the artists involved once they see their hard work go down the drain.
What are the long term implications for $200 million movies?
Get an A-List director to ensure a sound investment. Bryan Singer had some hits but most recently some misses. And he was the 2nd director. Brett Rattner was waiting by his phone for 6 months no doubt.
Two weeks ago the SciFi channel competition show Face/Off (makeup effects competition) did a Giant Slayer tie-in where they had to create a giant influenced by the Giant Slayer visuals, with the rule of having at least two heads in their creation. Bryan Singer was even a guest judge. The end result was 6 giants that looked almost as bad as the ones in the actual movie.
Perhaps this movie should have been a SciFi channel movie instead. It would have cost 1/3 as much to make, and they could have made some of their money back from advertising during their late night reruns over the next 5 years. Imagine a double feature with that Yosemite Volcano movie, or perhaps the Earthquake New York one. Either way, Beau Bridges and Meredith Baxter would benefit. Ewan McGregor's role could easily have been handled by Brian Bonsall. Trade the kid from Skins for any generic Disney channel castoff in the Jack role and you could save even more green.
If only Lorenzo di Bonaventura were involved.
[Mike Cohen] "Scott - your reviews are becoming more interesting than the movies themselves."
I almost hope that the movies aren't good. LOL
[Mike Cohen] "High concept idea"
I'm a big fan of high concept. The higher the better. I think the problem with this one is the fuzzy audience target. The whole "if you don't know where you're going, you're never going to get there" thing. The concept was only about yay high, no higher. No target, so no way to hit it.
I also think that they all did these sort-of adult big budget fairy tale things in such close succession that nobody had time to recalibrate based on the other people's failures. Because I can't imagine that the Jack people looked at Snow White & The Huntsman and said, "That won't happen to US." I think they saw that train coming, Wile E. Coyote style, staring straight at the camera so we can see his bugged out eyes, him and us both doing nothing but waiting for the train to flatten him, with very different expressions on our faces.
It's easy to forget that Hansel & Gretel sat on a shelf for two years. It might have been better for everyone if they'd released it, had it bomb THEN, and keep Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Jack et al, from ever being made, freeing up that billion dollars to squander on the making and marketing of films based on other bad ideas.
[Mike Cohen] "Ewan McGregor's role could easily have been handled by Brian Bonsall."
OH NO HE DI'INT! Dude, you're killing me. LOL I'm laughing too hard to hone my own mockery, which can't possibly scale these heights.
[Mike Cohen] "If only Lorenzo di Bonaventura were involved."
Except not a small budget bone in the man's body. Or are you saying that a higher class of big budget would do better than going the SyFy route? I think it might.
Because if you compare the result, Zo's $200 million production budget for Transformers 3 was a freaking steal. Not that anyone believes that $200 million number LOL -- but wow, whatever other problems the movie had, none of them had to do with not getting their money's worth. It's all on the screen, to say the least.
We only have a couple of weeks until Scott sees it and savages it LOL but I'm really, really rooting for Zo's GI Joe: Retaliation. Talk about a reboot! The writers brought us Zombieland, which I thought was a gas. (One of the writers was the EP of it, in fact.) The director is a highly-decorated whiz out of the USC Film School. Most of his work until now has been in musicals, including Step Up 3D (WHICH ROCKED, no kidding).
Then for your front line, you got Channing Tatum (he was in the 2009 GI Joe: The Rise Of The Cobra, back before he was CHANNING TATUM), Dwayne Johnson (god help me, I love this guy), Bruce Willis, Ray Park (Darth Maul!, also back from 2009) and some dandy supporting actors like Walton Goggins (Justified, Deadwood), Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights), Ray Stevenson (Dexter, Thor, Rome), the criminally underused Arnold Vosloo returning as Zartan, and THE RZA (sorry I can't make that bigger and bolder...ooh, wait, I can color it red: THE RZA) as THE BLIND MASTER, an ancient marial artist who trained Ray Park's character. Crikey! I'm ready for The Blind Master franchise starring The RZA RIGHT NOW. Hollywood: DO THIS. And do it like this:
THE RZA IS: THE BLIND MASTER
I'm not looking for lyricism from GI Joe. All I'm hoping for is big, stupid fun. Lots of lame one-liners followed by lots of sh|t blowing up. Then a couple of laughs, followed by more sh|t blowing up. I'm not afraid to admit that I'm ready to see both Channing AND Dwayne lose their shirts at some point.
Anyway, Jack never seemed to have idea what it wanted to be, nobody to make sure that the money got spent the RIGHT way...and neither Brian Bonsall nor RZA. Sorry, THE RZA.
[Mike Cohen] "Two weeks ago the SciFi channel competition show Face/Off (makeup effects competition) did a Giant Slayer tie-in where they had to create a giant influenced by the Giant Slayer visuals, with the rule of having at least two heads in their creation. Bryan Singer was even a guest judge. The end result was 6 giants that looked almost as bad as the ones in the actual movie. "
I'd just like to say I love Face/Off, I've watched the past three seasons, and it's a great show about movie make-up techniques. I was pretty confused during the Giant Slayer tie-in episode, how they forced the contestants to do multiple heads like it would be an aesthetic from the film. Because when I watched the film, none of the giant designs were creative at all, and only one giant had multiple heads... What gives, Singer?
[Tim Wilson] "I'm really, really rooting for Zo's GI Joe: Retaliation. Talk about a reboot! The writers brought us Zombieland, which I thought was a gas."
Yeah, but the director of Zombieland, Ruben Fleischer, has made two absolute duds after the great zom-com (30 Minutes or Less and Gangster Squad). So, I struggle to hold "they made Zombieland" as a worthy barometer for future success.
[Tim Wilson] "I'm ready for The Blind Master franchise starring The RZA RIGHT NOW. Hollywood: DO THIS. "
RZA RULES. The Man With the Iron Fists was just serviceable, but that was his first directorial effort, so I won't hold it against him. I'd like to see RZA do more things.
[Scott Roberts] "Yeah, but the director of Zombieland, Ruben Fleischer, has made two absolute duds after the great zom-com "
It was the writers of Zombieland who wrote Retaliation. The director's not in involved.
The writers haven't done anything since then besides season 3 of The Joe Schmo Show, which I'd never heard of before I checked IMDb, so I can't comment on that one way or the other.
It does however show a level of comfort with protagonists named Joe. That's gotta be a good sign, right?
[Scott Roberts] "I'd just like to say I love Face/Off,"
Good to know there is another fan of this show. Although it follows the formulaic bible of reality competition shows, every episode features some incredible work and creativity.
Every season has the same types of contestants:
A single mom
One or more women with shockingly red hair and usually bad tempers
A 40 or 50-something man who is the most talented person there but can't get along with others in group challenges
Somebody with one or both hands not working at 100% but doing amazing work anyway
A red shirt who is booted on the first episode
Someone who makes every challenge a Goth creature regardless of the assignment
Someone who is good at fabricating costumes and props but forgets about the makeup
But it is a fun show with judges who are truly leaders in their field. And they do two seasons in 12 months.
PS - Brian Bonsall for those of you under 40, was the precocious add-on child in the final season of Family Ties. They did something similar in Diff'rent Strokes and numerous other shows once the previously cute lead kids grew up. Bonsall went on to play Alexander Worf on several Star Trek the Next Generation episodes, so he is no stranger to SciFi.
[Mike Cohen] "...the precocious add-on child in the final season of Family Ties. They did something similar in Diff'rent Strokes and numerous other shows once the previously cute lead kids grew up."
The originators were Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch and next door neighbor Ricky on The Partridge Family. Ricky was on for the whole last season, whereas Cousin Oliver was only on for the last six episodes -- but his presence was so egregious, so non-organic, that this phenomenon became known as the Cousin Oliver Effect -- a phrase identifying a common, egregious phenomenon a full 3 years before Arthur Fonzarelli visited Los Angeles in an episode designed to show off Henry Winkler's real-life waterskiing skills.
Note that Cousin Oliver, Ricky, and jumping the shark were all in the fifth seasons of their shows.
This probably deserves its own thread, and I'll probably start it, but also not that the Cousin Oliver Effect was named IMMEDIATELY (1974) because it was so widely and quickly adopted, but the phrase "jumping the shark" wasn't coined until 20 years after the fact in 1997 by Jon Hein.
Here's the thing though: the shark-jumping episode was the premiere of the 5th season, and by no means represented the beginning of the end, or any loss of credibility or popularity. The show ran for ANOTHER SIX SEASONS after that, and didn't really get wobbly until the last couple. Indeed, Season 5 ended the year as the #2 most popular show, and Season 6 was still at #3.
Although, season 5 of Happy Days could arguably have succumbed to the Oliver Effect with the introduction of Chachi, a younger, cuter Fonzi. I'm not sure that freaking MORK FROM ORK counts as either the Oliver Effect or Jumping the Shark...but seriously man, Mork is introduced in Season 5 of Happy Days.
Anyway, Cousin Oliver was notable because his ineptitude was at a scale that very nearly achieves true evil. Very few clips on YouTube, alas, and this one is edited by somebody goofing around...but you'll get the gist. Oliver shows up at around 1:30.