The Pitch: New Jack Country.
The Review:Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of some Englishmen, And also a Scot, but mainly a Yank, The director whose efforts we now have to thank For bringing this fairy tale brashly to life; But fantasy movies, once scarce, are now rife, So is this another Lord Of The Rings, Or just some half-hearted fantasy mings? Fee-fi-fo-fudget, They’ve really not skimped when setting the budget. A director who once shone with limited means, But now Bryan Singer’s got more than old beans. So how come the CG looks rather unfinished, The threat of the giants being somewhat diminished By their poor design, their look unrealistic And not just their looks that are far too simplistic Fee-fi-fo-farrative, The original Jack’s not a complex narrative: Jack sells cow for beans, beans grow big, Jack turns out to be thieving pig. This Jack’s less concerned with harps and gold coins, Instead it’s a princess that’s stirring his loins, So Jack’s a good lad, and does what he oughter, And heads for the giants to find the king’s daughter. Fee-fi-fo-fenanigans, This slayer has no greater plot shenanigans, It’s tweaked motivations, but still such a story Could muster a framework for fairytale glory But it’s hard to know who’d appreciate Jack, The tone skews too adult, it’s all out of whack; The battles are no match for Middle Earth conflicts, The characters weak and the tale never quite clicks. Fee-fi-fo-ferformances, This film is a dead weight of earnest performances, Hoult and McGregor are likeable leads But seriousness isn’t what this fable needs, It’s just Stanley Tucci that finds the right tone, But his scenery chewing stands sadly alone, And even the giants are flat and annoying There’s not much of anything for your enjoying. Fee-fi-fo-fum, This lavish folly is just a bit rum, It’s all inoffensive, occasionally pretty But story wise never surpasses just bitty. Now Singer and Hoult will soon reunite On X-Men; Singer did more than all right Telling mutant tales, and maybe that’s where He should stay; for his Jack I just don’t care.
Why see it in the cinema: The last act is certainly epic – more epic than the first two, anyway – although it feels as if more happens than actually does at times. But certainly the cinema is the best place to appreciate the spectacle, one of the few saving graces.
Why see it in 3D: It does ensure that the tiny characters look far away on occasion, helping to add to the effect, but movies from the LOTR trilogy to Honey I Shrunk The Kids have managed without 3D, and despite being shot in the format there’s very little to require you to pay the premium for the indoor sunglasses. Speaking of which, there’s also been little done to address the brightness issues so some sequences, such as Jack’s cabin, look murkier than a giant’s underpants on wash day.
What about the rating: Rated 12A for moderate fantasy violence and threat. That may be the biggest flaw in Jack The Giant Killer, for the moments that justify that rating are few and far between, and you can’t help but think this would have worked better with a lighter tone and a pitch for the upper end of the PG market.
My cinema experience: A sparse Saturday tea-time crowd, but thankfully sound and projection were both decent. No one hung around when the credits rolled.
The Corridor Of Uncertainty: As is often the case with a 3D release, an extra trailer with a dog reminding you to put on 3D glasses bumped the running time up that bit further, so it was 26 minutes before Jack started slaying giants.
The Score: 5/10
The Review: There used to be a few well held and rarely disputed rules about certain genres, including that there’s never really been any good pirate movies (as in movies with pirates, not dodgy market copies of Jurassic Park III filmed on a shakycam and transferred to VHS), and that to make a film based on a theme park attraction was tantamount to insanity. Then in 2003 Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl arrived, got Johnny Depp an Oscar nomination and scared up a huge amount of money. Unsurprisingly, two sequels followed, which raked in even more pirate booty, but there was an inescapable feeling of quality, well, escaping. The third film especially, which starts with child hangings and then proceeds to kill of most of its peripheral characters as an afterthought, really should have killed the franchise stone dead, but it seems that people can’t get enough of Captain Jack Sparrow, so other characters have been cast aside and Captain Jack gets to take centre stage.
He’s not quite on his own; returning alongside Cap’n Jack are Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), now a little legless and in the Royal Navy; Kevin McNally as loyal sidekick Gibbs, chugging along in much the same manner as the first three films; and Captain Teague (Keith Richards), repeating his cameo as Sparrow Sr. from the last, ill-advised entry. But never fear, there’s a whole host of new characters to make up for the loss of Orlando, Keira et al, including Penélope Cruz as blast from Jack’s past Angelica and Ian McShane as pirate legend Blackbeard. Those paying attention at the end of the last movie will remember some nonsense being spouted about the Fountain of Youth, and that’s where we’re setting sail for this time, picking up more waifs and strays along the way, including a young priest and a feisty mermaid that will make you wonder quite why, salary considerations aside, they got rid of Orlando and Keira in the first place.
Director Rob Marshall replaces Gore Verbinski this time out, and it’s another change that leaves you pining for the original. While the third Pirates might have been offensively bad in places, it was at least never offensively dull, which is more than can be said for this entry. Sparrow, Barbossa, Blackbeard and even some random Spaniards all trek around the high seas looking for a couple of MacGuffins in addition to finding the Fountain of Youth, but since Jack’s been there before there never feels like a significant obstacle to overcome. On top of that, everyone else’s motivations are murky and no one really seems that interested in finding what they’re supposed to be looking for anyway; if the characters can’t invest in the quest at hand, it doesn’t leave much hope for the audience. If this film has achieved anything, it’s that despite lopping over half an hour off the bloated length of At World’s End, this still feels about forty minutes too long.
There’s also a problem with Captain Jack himself. Being odd on the periphery while others drove the plot worked well, but now Jack’s the driving force somehow everything else feels just a little off kilter. It’s not helped by the writers forgetting what made Jack so appealing in the first place, but the joy of lines from the first film such as “I think we’ve all arrived at a very special place. Spiritually, ecumenically, gramatically…” have been replaced by general oddness which might raise the odd chuckle at the time but fails to linger any longer than a few seconds. Suggestions of romantic tension with Cruz fall flat through a lack of both romance and tension and very few others seem to have their heart in it, certainly not McShane or Rush on this occasion. There’s some interest early on before the plot wheels start to grind to a halt, and a couple of the set pieces entertain briefly, but On Stranger Tides is just a little too strange to have lasting appeal. Remember that rule that there’s no good pirate movies? It seems that Curse Of The Black Pearl was just the exception to that rule.
Why see it at the cinema: The mermaid sequence is pretty reasonable and there’s as much impressive scenery as ever, but this feels oddly small in scale compared to previous entries.
Why see it in 3D: My wife watched large parts of the film without the 3D glasses, and other than appearing brighter it made very little difference. Apart from the occasional thrust of a cutlass there’s very little here to justify the higher ticket price.
The Score: 4/10