While talking my dog on a stroll through Hollywood, my gaze fell upon a sufficiently giant billboard for the upcoming failure that will be Jack the Giant Slayer. Having previously seen a trailer, I knew it to be some sort of live action film, despite the billboard featuring some very cartoony looking giants. Taking them in, I was taken aback by one particular giant – one with a giant, orange, twiggy afro.
“That’s silly,” I thought to myself, because that giant looked goddamn silly. A few giants over there was a two-headed fellow, with one head mostly normal and the other looking like it was quite possibly retarded. Seeing these two silly monsters together would have destroyed any hopes I had for the film if I, you know, had any hopes for the film.
It reminded me of seeing the poster for The Hobbit, the one that made you think, somewhat accurately, that the film should have been called The Silly Dwarfs. The potent combination got me wondering when the fantasy genre got so goofy.That particular Hobbit poster featured the full compliment of thirteen dwarfs who were pretty equally divided between being cool and being fucking stupid. On the fucking stupid side there was the Amish looking one, who is vaguely cross-eyed, the pedophile, the starfish head, and, of course, the fat one eating a cupcake. Look at the poster below, and I’m sure you’ll easily be able to tell which is which, although when it comes to the pedophile there are probably several candidates.
Having not seen Jack the Giant Slayer, a statement that may be true my entire life, I can only assume that the two giants I’ve singled out are likely comic relief. Either that or they’re just stupidly designed since seeing them inspires shamed giggles more than pants-wetting fear.
The Hobbit, which was on a whole underwhelming, was pretty accurately teased by the poster – there were a lot of dwarfs in it and some of them were far too aggressively silly. Where is the serious fantasy? Why does everything need comedic relief? Who made those cupcakes?
Not everything has to be grim-dark like The Return of the King, and there is plenty of room to have fun in the movies, but there is a fine line between having some appropriate humor or a little comedic relief and getting outright silly. Unfortunately, the goofiness has infected genres beyond fantasy. If you watch Die Hard, there are some funny moments from Al. If you watch anything after Die Hard With a Vengeance there are some downright silly moments. Throw Lethal Weapon into your player and you’ve got a good film. Throw Joe Pesci into your Lethal Weapon and you’ve got a mockery of the franchise.
Shit crosses the line from humor and appropriate comedic relief when you try to hard to be overtly funny. Having a few fun lines is one thing, but having a character that is nothing but jokes is another. Two hobbits always being hungry is a cool trait, having 50% of your dwarfs being a joke is stupid.
Genre bending is also a tricky proposition. Mixing comedy with anything is tricky. Mixing danger with family entertainment can fail quite easily too. Recall the awesome Conan the Barbarian which was followed up by the PG-Rated and much maligned Conan the Destroyer. All that got destroyed was the franchises credibility.
So check it out – all I want is a serious approach to what you’re doing, filmmakers. If you’re making an action film, approach it seriously. If you’re making a fantasy film, approach it seriously. If you’re making a comedy, approach it seriously. When you lazily throw Three Stooges material at the screen, you’re diluting your entire story by going for cheap laughs that are beneath you.
I think it’s probably too late for Jack the Giant Slayer, but only time will tell if fantasy gets a solid, serious treatment again. For now, I am most definitely past my boiling point with daffy dwarfs, goofy giants, and out of place comedic elements.