Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mockbusted #15: Jack The Giant Killer

I started reviewing mockbusters as a separate feature on this blog as a reaction to a particular example of one that I actually thought was better than the more successful film upon whose coattails it was designed to ride. Since then I have highlighted a few examples of similar mad genius, but for the most part, the results have been less pleasant. The fact is, most mockbusters are not very good, in general or in comparison to the movies they are mockbusting, and I have yet to have a mockbuster be better than a movie I actually liked in the first place. So, when I found Jack The Giant Slayer to be surprisingly not terrible, I didn't hold out much hope for Jack The Giant Killer. When I found out it was directed by the same guy who did Alien Origin, perhaps my least favorite mockbuster ever, my hopes sank even lower.

Jack The Giant Killer follows the titular young hero in search of his long lost father who disappeared up a beanstalk before he was born, sending him on what I suppose is technically a magical adventure, if one expands their definition of magical to some very plodding and mundane activities. I'm burying the lead a bit, as I gather the first thing I should probably mention about this movie called Jack The Giant Killer is the fact that there aren't actually any Giants in it, and the ones that are referenced as having existed in the past were not in fact killed by Jack. There are monsters resembling dinosaurs of sufficient size that you would call them giant, but they are specifically referenced as not being the Giants of the title, as they were apparently all killed off by Jack's father before our promised Giant Killer ever sets foot on the land in the clouds. If I didn't unironically love Troll 2, I might make the obligatory reference to Nilbog here.

The absence of Giants is inexcusable even in light of the film's low budget, as the bad CGI monsters on display could have just as easily been made humanoid and just been referred to as Giants. The disconnect between the never seen race of Giants and this army of monsters has no real bearing on the plot, and the result would not have been nearly as convoluted as what we get. Its possible that the monsters we have, all identical looking, are a re-used CGI model from another Asylum movie that I've either not seen or have forgotten about, as this is something the studio will often do to save even more money, but then I'm forced to ask why they didn't just re-use Bigfoot or any of their other bipedal monsters here. Or better yet, they could have just gone old school and used forced perspective like the old Land of the Giants TV show.

Anything would be better than what we get, which is a messy, poorly plotted hodge podge of disparate elements wedged together seemingly at random just to fill running time and give a bunch of unknown actors a platform to vamp in increasingly goofy British accents. Jane Marsh returns from Grimm's Snow White, and while I enjoyed her performance just as much here as I did in that film, she has even less dimension as an antagonist and her motivation for wanting to invade the Earth is very badly explained, and just sort of forgotten about before the end. Our Jack is perhaps the weakest character in the movie, always overshadowed by the others on his adventure, most notably his father and his girlfriend, who are both generally charming and should have been given much more to do. The rest of the cast are either too minor to matter, or the kind of bad actors that give straight to DVD movies such a negative reputation.

When this movie started, I had the meekest reason to hope that it might turn out to be one of those rare gems in the mockbuster canon that understands the insanity inherent to its existence and embraces it for all its worth. Specifically, the movie starts with Jack riding a giant mech robot and fighting a dinosaur. The problem is, this element is both an incredibly minor part of the overall story, and is wedged in with no context or explanation whatsoever for its inclusion. In the beginning we just see him building this thing out of junk for no reason for like five minutes, and then in the last five minutes, he just suddenly remembers that he has a giant robot made of junk that might help in their hour of need. It never comes up at all throughout the story and in its lazy execution almost feels like an insulting jab at the over the top craziness of these movies. I can't begin to express just how much I would have preferred this movie to be all about fairy tale giants fighting regular sized humans in mech robots. This obvious missed opportunity to transcend the bounds of crappy knockoffs into blissful madness is perhaps the film's greatest flaw.

Oh, and this probably isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but its the kind of poor attention to detail that I always notice and instantly dislike. At one point, when Jack finds his father, he finds out that from his father's perspective, he's only been there 19 days, even though on Earth he's been gone for 19 years. They establish this time discrepancy only to then completely ignore it throughout the rest of the movie, as the characters in the land of the clouds easily spend at least a day away from Earth, and yet when they go back down, time has been moving at the same rate, rather than advancing forward a year as it should have. On the one hand, I understand why they did this just to avoid confusion, but then the time shift thing is completely arbitrary anyway, and I almost think playing with time and jumping forward a year would have been an interesting twist to the plot. Also, it is implied that Jack's father killed all the Giants while he was there, rendering an entire species of magical and presumably super powered monsters the size of Godzilla extinct in less than a month with no real resources to draw from. Yeah, I'll bet.

Out of screenshots. Boom, Nome King.

Anyway, overall, Jack The Giant Killer is not worth your time. Weirdly enough, this film's title is actually the original title of the film it is based on, which changed its name to Jack The Giant Slayer in order to appear more family friendly. I personally think Killer is a more gripping title than Slayer, and wish the mainstream film had embraced it, as its also more fitting. This movie doesn't even try to live up to the cooler name. In the end, Jack The Giant Killer, without Giants or Giant Killers named Jack, is just one big giant piece of shit.

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