Moviegoers' interest in fantasy, from superheroes to the supernatural, has prompted a subgenre of films derived from fairy tales. It has not, based on recent evidence, been welcome.
One of the problems with the form has been making it accessible to kids for whom such stories are still new and to older folks who will have to pay for the tickets — and, in some cases, fork over the premium for 3-D showings.
Snow White and the Huntsman in 2012 solved the problem with an unabashedly PG-13 approach that essentially warned kids off but promised thrills for older children and adults.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which came to DVD and Blu-ray a week ago, pushed even further, taking an R rating. The result was bashed by critics and tepidly received by U.S. audiences, but it did do well overseas.
Arriving this week is another addition to the form, the much-discussed dud Jack the Giant Slayer. The director, Bryan Singer, had an impressive pedigree (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, Superman Returns). The ads promised a big, exciting variation on the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.
But reviews were about evenly divided, and even with global revenues added it was a money-loser. Such a bad one, in fact, that it prompted stories like one on Vulture.com asking, "Why did 'Jack the Giant Slayer' bomb?"
The answer, it turns out, goes back to the notion that the makers of a movie should have a clear idea of what they are doing and whom they are doing it for. Fast & Furious 6, for instance, knows exactly what it is, and that its audience expects fast cars and big stunts more than deep themes and subtle performances.
Jack the Giant Slayer, Vulture reported, started out as an R-rated action epic, then was reconsidered as a family film, and ended up PG-13. With a story that is even more kid-focused than the more fundamentally scary Snow White or Hansel & Gretel, the rating probably drove away younger moviegoers while, as one executive told Vulture, "it certainly wasn't a film that an adult would have any interest in seeing."
Jack the Giant Slayer retails for $28.98 on DVD/digital set, $35.99 on Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo and $44.95 for the combo with 3-D Blu-ray added.
These DVDs also were released this week:
New films: Stoker; Quartet; 21 and Over; Movie 43; The Last Exorcism Part II; Summoned; Justin Bieber: Always Believing; Safety Last! (1923, The Criterion Collection); Prank; American Idiots; The Brass Teapot; The Ghost Army (documentary); Heroin King of Baltimore: The Rise and Fall of Melvin Williams; Gibsonburg; The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse (animated); Understanding Art: Hidden Lives of Masterpieces; TCM Greatest Classic Films: Legends (Gene Kelly, John Wayne, Paul Newman, Romantic Affairs; each set includes four films).
TV series: Body of Proof: The Complete Final Season; Wilfred: Season 2; Springhill, Series 1 (1996-1997, four-disc set, U.S. debut of British series); NOVA: Meteor Strike; Rectify; Web Therapy: The Complete Second Season; Call the Midwife: Season Two; The Wild West (2006 miniseries).
THE WASHINGTON POST