Movie Review: Jack the Giant Slayer
By Matthew Huntley
March 11, 2013
Despite its violent and often grotesque imagery, there’s an underlying innocence and sweetness to Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer, a well-intentioned fantasy adventure that’s refreshingly aware of the deep-rooted appeal of fairy tales in the first place. This isn’t some hyperkinetic, incoherent action movie that’s all brawn and no brains - unlike the reprehensible Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters from earlier this year. Rather, “Jack” knows about and recreates the excitement, giddiness and romanticism of being a young child, tucked in under the covers at night, who’s about to hear his parents read him a bedtime story, and those indelible feelings of warmth and pleasure that go along with it.
With that in mind, the movie is probably best reserved for younger viewers. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend it to anyone over the age of, say, 13, because the material, or the way it’s executed, just isn’t all that inspiring or original. Don’t get me wrong; if I was a kid, I’d feel like Jack the Giant Slayer is a near perfect adaptation of what I was reading in grade school. But from an adult perspective, its allurement is limited and unfortunately doesn’t transcend the ages.
The movie is a big budget adaptation of the English folktale Jack and the Beanstalk, about a humble farm boy named Jack who trades his cow for a sack full beans, which, unbeknownst to him, are magical and have the ability to sprout into a gigantic beanstalk that links Earth with the castle of a man-eating giant. The same premise is more or less kept intact with Jack the Giant Slayer, which finds the 18-year-old Jack (Nicholas Hoult) exchanging his horse for the beans from a desperate monk (Simon Lowe), who is one of few who knows the beans’ true power and therefore wants to protect it.
We’re aware of the beans’ potency, too, since the movie opens with a young Jack hearing the tale about how they were created by dark magic, even though his father (Tim Foley) tells him it’s just a story. But Jack knows better. In flashback, we see them sprout into a beanstalk that leads up to the murky world between Heaven and Earth, where a whole race of ugly giants lives. Years ago, the mammoth beings climbed down from their land and wreaked havoc on the Kingdom of Cloister, but Erik the Great (Craig Salisbury) was able to forge an enchanted crown out of the hearts of one of the fallen giants and used it to control them and send them back from where they came. For many years, peace and harmony were maintained.
Jack isn’t the only one aware of this legend. Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) is told the same story by her mother, the Queen (Tandi Wright), who thinks it’s right that her daughter seeks out adventure so she’ll be better informed of how the world works. But King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) is naturally overprotective of his daughter and believes in tradition and propriety, which is why he arranges for Isabelle to marry the much older Roderick (Stanley Tucci), not knowing Roderick has uncovered the remaining beans as well Erik’s crown. He has evil intentions to command the giants and rule over all the land.