Jack the Giant Slayer Blu-ray Review


The Medieval-era fairy tale Jack the Giant Slayer arrives on Blu-ray, but is it worth your hard-earned cash?

When perusing the 2013 Summer movie releases, some enticed and delivered (Man of Steel, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Fast 6), while others (Iron Man 3, Hangover III) disappointed.  But what happens when your film doesn’t even make the cut for Summer; what happens when you’re doomed to the doldrums of February?  This was the fate for the action-fairy tale Jack the Giant Slayer, a film that looked terrific on paper but whose absence from the Summer dance card proved entirely justified.


Jack (Nicholas Hoult, Warm Bodies) is a poor teenage farmhand, a dreamer raised on the fruit of giants and fairy tales in far-away adventures.  But his life has been a series of missteps and missed opportunities, all leading to the near failure of his uncle’s farm.  Yet, Jack still dreams of high adventures and of experiencing the glories he read about as a child.  In many ways, he’s very similar to Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson, Alice in Wonderland), who’s equally spellbound as she receives the same stories in her father’s opulent castle.  But neither can be prepared for the truth: these tall tales actually happened, receiving the king’s treatment as they became the fables for many a child’s imagination.  In reality, giants did roam the Earth long ago, engaging mankind in a war made possible by huge magic bean stalks that linked the human world to those located in the clouds above.  After losing to the humans, the giants were forced to retreat to their prison in the sky, but always mindful of the people who put them there.

The giants’ return is made possible only via an evil deception by the king’s adviser Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci, Captain America: TFA), who sees himself the next great leader who has the means to control the giants – long-lost magic crown that can control their minds, which led to their first defeat all those years ago.  Once the betrayal occurs, mankind must again team up against an enemy it cannot defeat by strength alone.  Their only hope is to control that very same crown which Roderick now owns.  Meanwhile, Jack accidentally comes across a bag of these magic beans, which produce a stalk though his uncle’s home, trapping him and Isbaelle inside it.  Left with few options, King Brahmwell (Ian McShane, Snow White and The Huntsman) summons the great warrior Elmont (Ewan McGregor, Star Wars: Episode III) and his elite team to find Isabelle.  Unaware of Roderick’s betrayal and plans to usurp Brahmwell once he controls the giants, Elmont enlists Jack’s help to free Isabelle and warn the kingdom before it falls to the impending attack.

On paper, Jack looked poised for a slot in the summer line-up, a dominating opening weekend, and a long run through the Spring.  It was directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men 2), written by The Usual Suspect‘s Christopher McQuarrie, and sported an all-star cast.  But movies are huge undertakings, with the potential for disastrous missteps unless everything is checked and re-checked.  It appears that somewhere along the way, Jack got lost under several avoidable inhibitors.  McQuarrie, usually a masterful writer, takes on too many liberties with the original story, trading the cow for a horse and placing Jack in the middle of a theft-gone-awry as a monk tries to steal the beans from the castle keep.  But the worst crime committed in Jack is the appearance of the two-headed giant Fallon (voiced by Bill Nighy and John Kassir).  What’s absolutely unforgivable here is that the smaller head sounds and looks just like LOTR‘s Gollum; frankly, I’m shocked that the studio wasn’t sued for its illegal use of the likeness.  I thought perhaps I had overreacted the first time I had seen Jack in theaters; I can tell you now that my opinion of Fallon is completely accurate.  Every time he appeared, I wanted to start belting out LOTR and Hobbit lines.

McGregor and Hoult have good chemistry, but never have time to dramatically gel on-screen, instead constantly reacting to imagined action (and not very convincingly) in front of a green screen.  Hoult is a rising young star with a good career ahead of him, but he needs to take a page out of McGregor’s book if he wants to secure better roles.  Ditto for the the beautiful Tomlinson, who turns in a throw-away performance; but that’s partially to blame on McQuarrie’s paper-thin character development.  She needs to separate herself from the growing crowd of 20-year-old hottie actresses, which won’t be easy, especially when we’re left knowing almost as little about her after Jack than before we dimmed the lights.  McGregor is his usual post-Obi Wan badness, but Tucci is strangely out of place here, with a performance that quickly fades from memory.  All of this builds up to a final action piece that’s fun but nothing we haven’t seen done better by Peter Jackson or even Singer himself.  In fact, it’s entirely possible that nothing about Jack will stick with you once you eject the disc.  Singer’s action feels like a diet version of LOTR, but his lack of command of basic human emotions turns the movie into an over-stuffed re-imagined fairy tale that’s full of action but little else.

Jack the Giant Slayer is decent, meaningless fun, but the Gollum-wanna-be is inexcusable, while the flat, replaceable performances by Tomlinson and Tucci weigh things down. It’s the perfect example of a film that looks great on paper but misses in its execution.


If Jack the Giant Slayer disappoints as a film, one cannot pile on blame to Warner Bros’ video transfer.  The studio does a fine job bringing the MPEG-4/AVC source to the home market, presenting an impressive level of color and detail.  Browns and other earth tones shine here, making the bright yellow of King Brahmwell’s uniform stand out even more.  Balance is also pitch-perfect, giving each of these contrasting their moments to shine.  Blacks play with shadows very well here, particularly in darker scenes such as those in Jack’s cabin before the stalks begin their ascent.  Detail is also extraordinary, whether it’s shown on Elmont’s pompadour-ish hair, or Jack and Isabell’s facial features.   Clothing, such as buttons and distressed leather, also feature a high amount of detail, as do the many forest and castle scenes which look terrific.  Leaves, grass, and even bubbles in mud can be viewed fairly easily.  CG giants and environment look good as well.  Finally, there’s zero evidence of aliasing, banding, or other shortcomings that would affect my score.


Jack the Giant Slayer is presented in a booming and pulsing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that doesn’t skip a beat, reminding us just how much audio has benefited from the high-def age.  The soundfield cracks with broken branches, screams from fallen heroes, and gurgling from water in rainstorms and waterfalls.  Dialogue, a problem in the theatrical release, has been cleaned up here, making every conversation easy to follow.  Also, I noticed quite a bit of stereo shifting in the front speakers, allowing us to hear sounds like horse hooves moving across the landscape.  But it’s the subwoofer and surround which deliver the knockout punches.  There’s a lot things falling and smashing here, and Warner Bros. reminds us of this every chance it gets with an aggressive an LFE as we’ve seen this year.  It was on so often that I could barely distinguish when it wasn’t doing something.   While those horse hooves I mentioned were moving effortlessly from left speaker to right, the LFE pounded and thundered as well, and the smashing of stone and bodies brought a welcomed layer to the experience.  Finally, the surround track excels by immersing the listener in a perfect mixture of forest and other atmospheric effects, such as conversational chatter.  Regardless of my disappointment with the plot, Warner Bros. elevates the lossless track of Jack the Giant Slayer to near folkloric proportions.


Just because you try something unique, it doesn’t mean you should be rewarded if the effort fails.  Such is the case with the bewildering selection of HD supplements in Jack the Giant Slayer.  Simply put, these must have sounded good when the film’s creators sat down to discuss the home release; but in the end, it’s more blah than bang:

  • Become a Giant Slayer: This interactive element requires viewers to ascend a CGI beanstalk in order to find the various behind-the-scenes features.  It’s a neat concept, except that the process is terribly frustrating if all you want to do is watch some background information on the making of the film.  And you have to ascend the beanstalk from the beginning each time to see another feature.  All the while, you’re wondering what genius in marketing came up with this one.  It’s way too time-consuming to get through them, and nearly none of them are unique or even particularly well done.  Segments include Know Your Enemy, Suiting Up, Attack Tactics, The Magic of a Beanstalk, How to Zip, Giants’ Kitchen, Saving the Princess, and Defending Your Kingdom.
  • Deleted Scenes (8 minutes): Five alternate and deleted scenes, which really don’t give much insight with their addition.
  • Gag Reel (3 minutes): Usually these things make me laugh – not here.

Our evaluation copy arrived with a Blu-ray Combo Pack, surrounded by a colorful yet debossed slipcase.  There is an Ultraviolet version but no Digital Copy.  Walmart was the only US retailer to offer anything close to a special edition, which included VUDU streaming.  Lame.


Exciting in parts but full of blah malaise in many others, Jack the Giant Slayer is disappointing in its totality and nearly offensive in its willingness to rip off other films.  While its supplements are a total bore, WB’s audio and video transfers are top notch.  I’m not sure I can recommend it for purchase, so try it as a rental before committing the challenge.  Jack the Giant Slayer is rated PG-13 and has a runtime of 114 minutes.

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About the author

Besides being an ardent burrito eater and an exceptional sleeper, Matt shares in your passion for all things movies and Blu-ray. He also loves special editions and is known to triple-dip on command.