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Jack the Giant Slayer (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 117 minutes.

OK for children.

When I told my assistant that I was going to Warner Bros. to see a screening of Jack the Giant Slayer, she groaned and commiserated. Although I always like to go to the Warner Bros. lot, I was not looking forward to yet another silly fantasy based on a classic fairytale.

Fortunately, however, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a well-paced action feature that starts with a good tempo and doesn’t let up. The dialogue is lighthearted and the special effects are spectacular. Even better, though, the 3-D is as good as you’re going to get.

Sure, the story is a fantasy and the characters and situation are ridiculous. But the two protagonists, the princess Isobel (Eleanor Tomlinson) and the commoner Jack (Nicholas Hoult) are likable and believable. The bad guy, Stanley Tucci, is evil and hateful. The Giants are monsters (with a ratio of 4 to 1, so if the normal male in the movie is 6 feet tall [just an estimate] the giants are 24 feet tall) who seem indomitable, making the odds of the good guys prevailing very long.

This was filmed using traditional effects in addition to CG characters created by precision motion and facial-capture performances, using the Simul-Cam system developed for “Avatar” to integrate live with virtual in real time, while the cameras were rolling. So even though Bill Nighy plays the leader of the giants, he is unrecognizable since his character is a CG creation of motion and facial capture. He developed a gravelly voice unique to his character by screaming so loudly that he sounded hoarse when he arrived on the set. It is remarkable.

Ewan MacGregor plays Elmont, a knight in shining armor, sworn to save the Princess for the King. The role doesn’t require much and Ewan is fine, although he’s terribly overqualified for the part.

Actors portraying humans were also subject to motion capture. Even MacGregor had his movements recorded so that he could be filmed running, then cut to motion capture to show the jump and fall, picking up again with him after the fall.

Special mention must be made of the music by John Ottman that keeps the pace moving throughout the entire two hours. Even better than the music are the visual effects and makeup, for which there are hundreds of credits.

Well directed by Bryan Singer from a script by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dan Studney, this is a thoroughly delightful movie, an entertainment, something we don’t get a lot of these days.

February 25, 2013