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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

IN any other in­dus­try, some­one who blows al­most $US200 mil­lion and the chance of fu­ture on­go­ing re­ceipts would be un­em­ploy­able. But Bryan Singer, who di­rected the new re­lease Jack the Gi­ant Slayer, has moved com­fort­ably on to the se­ries on which he earned his big­bud­get cred­i­bil­ity, X-Men, with the sev­enth film in the se­ries, Days of Fu­ture Past.

Jack the Gi­ant Slayer was a fi­nan­cial disas­ter, cost­ing up­wards of $US180 mil­lion, that barely made that money in world­wide box of­fice, not that the lat­ter fig­ure sug­gests the film has gone any­where near break­ing even.

The film is not that aw­ful, though its main creative choice must be one of the more bone­headed de­ci­sions a stu­dio has ever al­lowed a di­rec­tor to make. Why would you ‘‘con­tem­po­rise’’ a fairy­tale, then turn it into an M-rated film? That locks out, at least the­o­ret­i­cally, the pre­cise au­di­ence that should be lapping it up: kids.

The film was sucked into a cul­tural zeit­geist that proved scheis­senhausen af­ter the suc­cess of Tim Bur­ton’s Alice in Won­der­land, which was a bit of a mess. Look at the ‘‘mod­ernised’’ fairy­tales that fol­lowed: Snow White and the Hunts­man, Mir­ror Mir­ror, Hansel & Gre­tel: Witch Hunters, Red Rid­ing Hood and even Oz: The Great and Pow­er­ful — some of the worst films of the past two years that em­pha­sised that Bur­ton’s suc­cess was due more to his vi­sion than any broader ap­petite for up­dated fairy­tales.

Then Jack’s real de­vel­op­ment is­sues be­gan. Singer re­placed orig­i­nal di­rec­tor DJ Caruso, and his The Usual Sus­pects screen­writer Christopher McQuar­rie re­placed an­other writer be­fore he in turn was re­placed. Ul­ti­mately, Jack the Gi­ant Slayer (M, Warner, 114min, $39.95) didn’t know what it wanted to be. It’s a mash-up of the two fairy­tales, Jack the Gi­ant Killer and Jack and the Beanstalk, which share a pro­tag­o­nist called Jack and Bri­tish ori­gin, al­beit from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods.

It wants to be a block­buster fan­tasy film that ap­peals to kids. It wants to be a PG film that ap­peals to adults. It wants to be a dig­i­tal show­case with big live ac­tion set-pieces too. And it wanted to turn the star of About a Boy, Nicholas Hoult, into an ac­tion star.

It doesn’t achieve any of this. I was ret­i­cent to watch it with our seven-year-old au­teur be­cause of the M rat­ing. And sure enough the ‘‘fan­tasy vi­o­lence’’ was big, loud and ridicu­lous. It seems ev­ery ac­tion film con­cludes with a Lord of the Rings- type bat­tle be­tween massed dig­i­tal armies or Man of Steel- like with a su­per­charged wres­tle that takes out a city. This tries both, al­though with some pretty dodgy ef­fects; the gi­ants just don’t quite look the part though their char­ac­ter­i­sa­tions are rea­son­able.

It’s all a shame. The film is im­bued with a sense of fun and ad­ven­ture be­fore its am­bi­tions and con­fu­sion drown it. Of course, it also con­firmed that our seven-year-old is not yet dis­cern­ing.

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