Review: Jack the Giant Slayer
Fee, fi, fo, fum. It’s a tale that’s been told many times over, but Jack the Giant Slayer does it well enough that you’ll want to hear it one more time.
Directed by Bryan Singer, the film takes a new spin on the old tale as Jack (Nicholas Hoult), out selling his horse to bring in some money, is given some magic beans in exchange for the mount. Only instead of a peddler, the beans are given to him by a monk, who is part of a monastery that has been protecting them to prevent the return of the giants, beings believed only to exist in legend by the rest of the kingdom.
When Jack accidentally gets one of the beans wet, the stalk rapidly grows towards the sky, taking the kingdom’s princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) along in its vines. Jack joins Elmont (Ewan McGregor), leader of the king’s guard, on a mission to rescue Isabelle, unaware that Isabelle’s intended husband Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci), has more sinister plans in mind. But when they reach the top of the beanstalk, Jack discovers that they have a much BIGGER problem on their hands.
Hoult fills the role of distracted farm boy Jack quite nicely. Though Jack is the reason the giants are able to return to earth, Hoult’s sincerity oozes through the screen and makes it all too easy to root for him. His chemistry with Tomlinson is natural, if a little awkward, but it makes for an endearing romance that takes up just enough screen time. But it is McGregor and Tucci who have stand out performances, as the former shines with charisma in his role of guard captain and the latter giving his villain life with a gleeful snake-like charm. Bill Nighy rounds out the cast as Fallon, the two-headed leader of the giants.
One of the great things about the film is what a clear vision Singer has for the story. It’s easy to get lost in the scale of a fairytale like this – establishing the details of fantasy world and a fictional kingdom is a finite art – but there is not a single moment where Jack the Giant Slayer slows down. Singer knows exactly where he wants to take the audience, and doesn’t waste anytime getting to the meat of the story, with not a single shot wasted along the way. The story is just as tight, with all plot points coming full circle.
However, the film is not without its problems. One of the biggest moments of the film is the appearance and growth of the beanstalk. Yet, when King Brahmwell (played by Ian McShane) arrives at Jack’s house, from which the giant stalk protrudes, the first thing he asks is the whereabouts of his daughter. Granted, any father would be concerned about their child first, but fairytale or not, giant beanstalks are not a common everyday sight, and one would think that upon seeing it, the king might be a little suspicious. Not only does the king simply accept the beanstalk’s sudden appearance, he accepts Jack’s explanation for it right off the bat.
The film hinges on the fact that Jack is the one who, while inadvertently, allows the magic bean to get wet and thus the beanstalk to grow, which eventually leads to the giants’ invasion. Despite this, there is no moment in the film when the king, Elmont, or even Isabelle is angry with Jack or blames him for the problems he has caused. Instead, Jack gets everything he wants: adventure, the girl, and he becomes the fairytale’s hero. But he never learns anything during his journey. His actions wreak havoc on the entire kingdom and he is essentially rewarded for it. Makes for a pretty thin story, and a sweet deal for Jack.
Despite its few misgivings, Jack the Giant Slayer is a great fantasy adventure with enough wit and silly humor for both kids and adults to enjoy.
On the Pretentious Film Majors’ infamous 5 Star Scale,
Jack the Giant Slayer earns 3.5 magic beans out of 5.