Bryan Singer's take on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale in Jack the Giant Slayer aims to tap into recent financial successes in re-working classic stories such as Alice In Wonderland and Snow White and the Huntsman. Whilst the film suffers from similar flaws, especially a rather rocky first half, once the film found its footing, Jack the Giant Slayer turns out to be a competent and entertaining experience - albeit an unmemorable one, not befitting such a huge budget.
In an unnamed medieval kingdom, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) whilst in the town square to sell his horse, is made an offer by a harried Monk; a promise that the beans in his possession, stolen from Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci), can be on-sold for a reasonable sum. Jack agrees and is unsurprisingly admonished by his uncle upon returning home, who throws the beans on the ground. Unbeknownst to him, the beans begin to germinate in the soil under the floorboards, causing an immense beanstalk which sprouts into the sky and into another world above the clouds. Unfortunately, the beanstalk takes Jack's home with it, along with the King's Daughter Isabelle, who was sheltering from the deluge.
King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) assembles a fellowship (no, not that Fellowship) including the brave Elmont (Ewan McGregor) to retrieve his daughter, but when she's held captive by a band of vicious giants, they'll need to fight a force of strength well beyond their own, not least one assisted by a turncoat of their own.
I'm a big fan of director Bryan Singer and especially loved his romantic love-letter to the iconic DC superhero in 2006's Superman Returns. Whilst Zach Snyder gets to pick up the mantle to the character later this summer, Singer has floated between projects, including the aborted attempt to remake the 1970's sci-fi film Logan's Run, eventually boarding the project that eventually became Jack the Giant Slayer.
Over seven years in development, the film fell victim to multiple re-writes by some six scribes in order to rectify issues with demographics and budget. Sadly, this has taken a toll on the film itself - the tone swings substantially and the initial half of the film plods along somewhat listlessly. Whilst the film does admittedly pick up some slack in the latter half, clearly the damage has already been inflicted. Amongst other issues, characters have already been established as bland and generic, so it's hard to rekindle the audience's interest in their plight. The cast uniformly do the best they can, including Ewan McGregor who has had significant blue screen experience under director George Lucas, and despite some solid special effects and all the intent in the world, ultimately, this is either a film that you'll like or hate - I can't see many loving it, nor wanting to return to it.
Jack the Giant Slayer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1, encoded with AVC MPEG-4 compression.
Warner have given Jack a superb 2K transfer, which accurately reflects the 2K digital intermediate and digital theatrical presentation. It's somewhat ironic that 70mm feature films from four decades ago are being scanned in 6k for posterity, but modern films are being produced at 2K, but I digress.
This is a sumptuous presentation, with every frame color corrected and CG enhanced within an inch of its life. This is a great example of the level of detail that can be displayed in a 1080p image - every stitch in a costume and every flaw in a visual effect is on full display. I didn't notice any digital nasties, nor any film or film to video artifacts.
This is a splendid transfer, and although I have reservations about whether you'd want to return to the film over and over again, you may feel inclined to do so from a demonstration point of view.
Jack the Giant Slayer is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, at 24 bits.
Fittingly, a reference quality video transfer joins a reference quality audio transfer. This is a completely non-subtle and wholly bombastic track which utilizes the totality of whatever speaker system you have.
Dialogue is crystal clear and sync-locked, and no intelligibility issues were noted. The original sound mix is one that I would describe as aggressive and this is reflected in the DTS encode. The surrounds are kept quite active throughout and for a mostly family-friendly feature, it's a little surprising that the subwoofer output is cooked, and over the top and will likely bottom out less performing subwoofer units.
Overall, pretty impressive stuff and one more bullet point on why you could be convinced to return to the film.
Whilst there's a reasonable amount of extra features to be found here (emphasis on 'found'), Warner have taken the head scratching decision to force Blu-ray fans to navigate a novel, but confusing menu system in order to access the extra features in an example if any was necessary that the format has gone mainstream.
First up, we have around six minutes of Deleted Scenes which are in rough and unfinished state, none of which would have added anything of note to the film proper. Next we have a sanitized and family friendly Gag Reel which is smirk worthy, but ultimately superfluous.
Now, to the aforementioned controversial Become a Giant Slayer Feature which forces users to navigate an on-screen game to access around 40 minutes of assorted making of featurettes. The game, which can be lost, forces the user to start from the beginning to continue on. Unfortunately, there is no standard way of accessing featurettes, nor can any override menu be found. Yeah, umm, great...