Those "retro" Force Awakens posters.
Jack the Giant Slayer
Release Date(s)2013 (June 18, 2013)
Studio(s)Warner Home Video
On the surface, Jack the Giant Slayer has the appearance of something generic and middle of the road that doesn’t try anything more than to entertain a popcorn-friendly audience without much though put into it. And while it certainly does have crowd-pleasing qualities to it, it also harkens back to a time of simple movies. It reminds me of a Ray Harryhausen film wherein the hero sets off on a dangerous quest and along the way there are some big action set pieces involving larger than life creatures or monsters. It has the feel to it. It also harkens back to when movies told simple stories. That is, narrative-driven stories that made sense. Unfortunately, they don’t make many movies like that anymore. Everything moves too fast with hardly any time devoted to characters or servicing a plot both naturally and logically. So it’s with open arms that I embrace a movie like Jack the Giant Slayer.
Despite the last thirty minutes or so of the film, which didn’t feel all that necessary to me, this movie retells the story of Jack and his magic beans, expanding it and making it bigger than life. It’s not about a humdrum leading character with no sense of purpose going out on an pointless adventure. Nor is it about an ass-kicking chick who’s out to save the world without the help of men. It’s instead about a hero attempting to rescue a damsel in distress. Frankly, I miss that kind of storytelling. It’s simple and old-fashioned, but we don’t get enough of these types of movies anymore in the cinema. We’re so embedded with the idea that stories like this are outdated that it’s sort of killed movies in a lot of ways. It’s true that we’ve done them a million times over in the past, but now we don’t do them hardly at all and it’s refreshing when one comes along. It’s also refreshing when a story is told fairly well, without heavy exposition, illogical plot elements or characters with no substance. The only thing holding this movie back is the end of the film, which falls into the trap of most films with fantasy elements nowadays: having a gigantic final battle. It doesn’t kill the movie for me, but it just felt like the film was over and things should have wrapped up sooner than they did. Regardless, I’d still recommend it.
Whatever shortcomings Jack the Giant Slayer may have in the final minutes, there are no flaws to be found with the video and audio on this Blu-ray. The picture quality is amazing with excellent color reproduction, natural skin tones, deep blacks, perfect contrast from scene to scene and crystal-clear picture quality. It’s sharp and gorgeous with no evidence of unnecessary digital tampering. The audio is equally impressive. With the English 5.1 DTS-HD track, as well as French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks, there’s very little to complain about. The DTS track is very aggressive, enveloping and filled with life. Dialogue is perfectly clear and well-balanced amidst the score and sound effects, with window-rattling LFE output. In other words, this is a solid and impressive presentation. Subtitles are also included in English SDH, French and Spanish for those who might need them.
The extras included are pretty sparse, but enough to keep your interest up if you enjoyed the film like I did. There are deleted scenes and a gag reel but the main extra is an interactive segment called Becoming a Giant Slayer. It enables viewers to climb an interactive beanstalk of their own and view featurettes on the making of the film along the way. There are eight in all: Know Your Enemy, Suiting Up, The Magic of a Beanstalk, How to Zip, Giant’s Kitchen, Saving the Princess, Attack Tactics and Defending Your Kingdom. As a reward for climbing to the top, you can view an alternate opening for the film that isn’t included in the deleted scenes. While I enjoyed this little segment, they really should have included an index because the only way to see all of this material is to repeatedly go through the interactive portion. On the DVD, you’ll find five previews that open the disc, plus all of the same audio, subtitle and extras options minus the interactive segment and the English DTS track (with a Dolby Digital track in its place). There are also two inserts with codes included with the set: one for Ultraviolet and another for a 14 day free trial of Xbox Live.
I would have preferred that the extras would have gone in a bit more detail about the making of the film, especially the writing of it, but this’ll all do for the time being. The video and audio presentation itself is worth the price tag alone. The movie isn’t likely to go down in history as anything incredibly noteworthy, but it’s imaginative and well-made enough for anyone to enjoy. So you’re getting a strong recommendation from me on this one. Do check it out.
- Tim Salmons