Movie Review: Jack the Giant Slayer
By Matthew Huntley
March 11, 2013
After Jack trades his uncle’s horse for the beans, the monk strongly advises him not to get them wet, but there wouldn’t be a movie if he didn’t, and so a beanstalk sprouts from underneath Jack’s house, sending it high up into the sky. Isabelle happens to find herself there after running away and she’s kidnapped by the giants, leaving Jack, Roderick and the king’s knights, led by Elmont (Ewan McGregor), to rescue her. Eventually, the story leads up to one of those grandiose battle sequences in which the giants charge onto the castle, the likes of which we’ve seen in countless other fantasy movies.
That’s really the problem with Jack the Giant Slayer: despite the fidelity it pays to the spirit of the source material, Singer allows the modern fantasy conventions and warfare to overshadow it. Part of me wondered why there wasn’t just one giant versus a whole herd of them. Perhaps having a single enemy might have given the movie’s three screenwriters the opportunity to come up with some spunky, battle-of-wits dialogue between Jack and the Giant. That approach would have been bolder and probably more interesting.
But then, the audience would have been denied the climactic battle sequence and many other digitally rendered giants. That would have been okay by me since it’s been done before, and better (see the latter two Lord of the Rings pictures). I’m not necessarily asking for a straight-up adaptation of the folktale, but why not distinguish it from the norms of the genre? And if you’re going to have a whole slew of giants, why make them all evil and power hungry? As individual characters, they’re hardly developed beyond elephantine goons with insatiable appetites and disgusting hygiene.
The movie reportedly cost between $150-$200 million to produce, which isn’t all that surprising given the number of special effects, but I was sadly underwhelmed by the visuals. Perhaps if the story had allowed the filmmakers to utilize them in a more meaningful way, they might not have come across as so dry, flat and clunky. Perhaps I bring a personal bias to the table because of the impression the graceful, elegant illustrations from fairy tale books have left on my mind.
Like I said, I can see kids getting a much bigger kick out of Jack the Giant Slayer than I did, and I’m pretty sure I would have liked it a lot more at a younger age. However, as an adult, I wouldn’t categorize it as a good family movie, because a good family movie is one that appeals to all members of the family. But it is a good kids’ movie - charming, romantic, tastefully done, with strong, positive messages. Kids, with their limited experience, also have the luxury of not knowing it’s derivative of so many other fantasy movies. Adults unfortunately do not, which is why we’re more apt to brush it off. Oh, to be a kid again, when not knowing certain things made life that much sweeter and easier.