From X-Men director, Bryan Singer, comes yet another reimagining of a classic children’s story. Jack the Giant Slayer, starring Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor, tells the tale of a rekindled war on Earth between the Giants and the humans. Is this film worth all the magic beans in the world or is it a giant disappointment?
A long time ago in a kingdom in England, the monks that ran the church wanted to reach heaven. So, with the power of the dark arts they created magic seedlings to grow a stalk to the heavens. Unbeknownst to them, halfway between Heaven and Earth lies a different realm, the land of immortal giants. The giants are a savage clan who, once they met man, had a taste for their flesh. A brutal war was started and the kingdom was devastated. After killing one of the giants, the monks melted its heart and forged its power into a crown that their king, Erik the Great, could wear and have control over the giants. Erik sent the giants back up the bean stalk and ordered it cut down so as to sever the any ties between Earth and the giants. Feeling they were improperly defeated, the giants vowed for revenge. As his final dying wish, Erik ordered that the remaining beans and the crown would be buried with him and protected forever. This is the story many children are told at bedtime.
Centuries pass and the Kingdom of Cloister is peaceful. It is ruled by King Brahmwell. He is a widow, but is training his beautiful daughter, Princess Isabelle, to one day rule as Queen, but first she is being prepped to marry the King’s advisor, Roderick. Isabelle is young and full of spirit, she doesn’t want anything to do with the arranged marriage. She feels that if she can experience adventure, it will help her in being a proper monarch.
Roderick has a back up plan to rule the kingdom if the marriage is cancelled. He has raided the royal tombs and found the remaining magic beans and the crown of Erik the Great, but they are stolen by a monk who learned of Roderick’s plan and is sworn to keep the power out of dark hands. The monk who is now on the run, bumps into Jack, an orphaned farmer boy who lives with his uncle. Jack was given the task of selling a horse in the market for food and supplies to repair the roof of their house. The monk offers to buy the horse, but is without money. He offers to trade the beans and Jack can take them for payment to the monastery. Upset how irresponsible Jack is, his uncle scolds Jack and knocks the beans out of his hand. He takes all of Jack’s parents’ mementos to sell for food and leaves.
That night, the princess takes off for an adventure, but gets caught in a terrible thunderstorm that scares her horse. She sees a light coming from Jack’s house so she humbly asks for shelter to wait out the storm. This isn’t the first time the two had met, they ran into each other when Jack protected the her from some thugs in the village earlier that day. Jack, who is completely smitten, is unaware that one of the beans fell through one of the floorboards of his house. The torrential downpour is causing the roof to leak, which in turn gets the magic bean wet. Suddenly Jack’s house is lifted off the ground with the princess trapped in it. Jack tries to rescue Isabelle, but falls to the ground as the beanstalk grows to the heavens. With the help of the King’s Royal Guard and the dastardly Roderick, can Jack rescue Isabelle while attempting to stop the giants from the destroying the kingdom they’ve vowed revenge upon?
If you’ve read my review of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, you’ll know that Hollywood has been flooding theaters with lackadaisical movies that skew classic mythology of fables and not really update them to modern times, but instead tell the stories from either certain points of view or explain background. This lead me to have pretty low expectations of Jack the Giant Slayer. I’m relieved to tell you that It was a fun movie. It had parts that dragged down the pacing, but it is visually stunning, had great CGI effects,and two pleasant main characters. What Jack the Giant Slayer did was create a family friendly film with hints of Brave, West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet.
Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class/Warm Bodies) is our reluctant hero, Jack. He is a poor farmer kid who is thrown into royalty spotlight after he initially saves the princess. With Hoult having been born in England, I think this is the first movie I’ve seen that he actually gets to use his English accent. I really like Hoult, so much that I’d love to see him in one of the upcoming Star Wars movies. He was shy and awkward, yet brave and charismatic. Jack’s muse for chivalry is Princess Isabelle portrayed by Eleanor Tomlinson. Tomlinson is a bit of an unknown when it comes to feature films, but I could not help but comment on how beautiful she was on screen. She looked like a princess. Her character really reminded me of Merida from Disney/Pixar’s Brave. Isabelle had a thirst for adventure and hated tradition. She even rode a black stallion like Merida. The only thing she was missing was a bow and arrow. Together, Hoult and Tomlinson had really good on screen chemistry.
Being a big nerd, I couldn’t help but notice all the geeky character references in Jack the Giant Slayer. I never thought I would see Wicket, Spud, Obi-Wan, Tai Lung, Davy Jones and Dr. Erskine in a movie by the guy who directed X-Men and Superman Returns. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, the cast included Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi), Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting), Ewan McGreggor (Star Wars Prequels), Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda), Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Carribean) and Stanley Tucci (Captain America: The First Avenger). The cast were all completely supportive of Jack and Isabelle. The most rememberable of the supportive cast was McGregor as Elmont, the captain of the Royal Guard and Bill Nighy, the voice of General Fallon, the head of the giants. Fallon is a two-headed giant. His smaller head, voiced by John Kassir (the Crypt Keeper from Tales from the Crypt), was quite hilarious.
Directing Jack the Giant Slayer is Bryan Singer. He has experience in grandiose battles from his work in the X-Men franchise and story telling/character development from The Usual Suspects. He did en effective job getting all the characters to work well among the stunts and CGI while adding humor in all the right places. I loved how the story switched from Jack selling a horse instead of a cow so it made sense that Jack would interact with the monk to get the magic beans. I won’t ruin it, but I liked how the movie explains what exactly Fee Fye Foe Fumm actually means. The landscape and sets were spectacular.
The only things I can complain about Jack the Giant Slayer was the pacing and Giants. There were times in the movie that it just sort of dragged. I guess I was expecting a bit more action, but there was just a lot of talking. While these times may be necessary to develop the characters, I felt it took away from the action that the audience was expecting. The final battle somewhat makes up for it. The only fault I found with the CGI was that at times the giants look a bit fake. You could see skin texture, sweat and drool, but when they interacted with the humans, they looked a bit out of place. I may be a bit critical, but I think this may not be the movie’s fault, but rather that modern projection technology has made films too crystal clear. This was my biggest complaint to The Hobbit: An Unexpected journey.
My screening of Jack the Giant Slayer was in 3D. There were moments that really utilized the full effect of 3D, especially when the beanstalk burst through the ground and during the finale. It created a depth when Jack and the King’s men climbed to save the princess. If you love 3D, then I recommend seeing in that dimension, but if you don’t then you won’t really miss out on the experience.
Jack the Giant Slayer was a fun experience for me and my nine year old daughter who accompanied me to the screening. The movie does have some intense moments, but there are no blood and guts to scare away younger audiences. If anything was too violent, the camera would pan or cut away. The giants were a bit grotesque, but weren’t overly monstrous to be overly frightening. If you are looking to see a pretty epic tale with or without kids, I recommend checking out Jack the Giant Slayer this weekend. I’m still waiting for The Three Little Pigs: Swine Commandos.
Rating: PG-13 (for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language)
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Bill Nighy, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McShane, John Kassir
Genre: Adaptation, Action/Adventure, Fantasy
Distributor: Warner Bros., New Line, Legendary
Official Site: http://jackthegiantslayer.com