Growing up, you probably heard the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack sells his cow for some beans (but only a few, so apparently the cow wasn’t worth a hill of beans), plants them in the ground, and grows a beanstalk reaching to the heavens. He climbs the stalk and discovers a giant’s house in the clouds. Like the hero he is, he steals a few golden trinkets, and the giant comes lumbering after him. But somehow, Jack can climb faster than a giant, so he slips down the beanstalk and chops it down before the giant is even halfway down, thus causing the big guy to fall to his death. That’s what we’ve been told for years. But now, Hollywood has released a movie that tells the true story. It seems Jack wasn’t just a starving thief stealing from a guy fifty times his size. Actually, he sparked a war for the preservation of mankind against the invading forces of really big people.
Jack the Giant Slayer is a PG-13 retelling of the classic tale which features daring action, a damsel in distress, and an oversized pig in a blanket (hey, giants have to eat something). In this film, Jack must rescue a princess from a kingdom of giants and stop the big meanies from attacking his homeland.
The cast for this movie looks promising. Our hero, Jack, is played by Nicholas Hoult, who starred in such movies as X-Men First Class and Warm Bodies. Ewan McGregor co-stars; he was one of the few good things about the Star Wars prequels, and he also appeared in The Island and Moulin Rouge! The princess is portrayed by Eleanor Tomlinson. I’m not familiar with her work, but she was in The Illusionist as well as the Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures. The film has an award-winning supporting cast, including Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci, and Bill Nighy. Oh, and we also have 3’2” tall Warwick Davis, who I really hope is playing one of the giants.
Let’s not forget our director, Bryan Singer, of X-Men fame before the franchise’s two-film dip. From films under his direction, I have come to expect fast-paced action, interesting and relatable characters, and smart humor. Does that translate into Jack the Giant Slayer? Well, let’s look at what the trailer has to say.
We open to Ian McShane (I think) reading a poem about giants. And yes, it is as amazing as it sounds. Of course, from there things get a little on the cliché side. Princess Eleanor runs away from the castle in search of an adventure? How original! I mean, we’ve only seen that plot point in every Disney movie since the late 80s.
Anyway, on her adventure, she meets our hero, Jack. Apparently, Jack is Sherlock Holmes, because it only takes him two seconds to figure out that the strange woman in commoner’s clothes is actually a princess. He loves reading, which is a plus, but he talks to his cat, which is just … well, insert your own crazy cat lady joke here.
Somehow, magic beans get planted beneath Jack’s house, and the giant beanstalk sprouting from them carry off the whole building with the princess in tow. The king shows up and sends Ewan and a rescue squad after her. Naturally, Jack volunteers, and naturally, they let him tag along. Sure, take the book-loving cat-crazy farm boy with no experience in combat. What could possibly go wrong?
So our brave heroes climb up the beanstalk (ever wonder how anyone could survive a multi-mile climb into a thinning atmosphere with arms worn out after the last few hours of exertion?) to save Princess Peach, I mean Zelda, I mean whatever her name is. Along the way, Jack asks what Ewan thinks is waiting for them up top. Ewan replies that he never supposes; he just prepares for everything. How much do you want to bet he didn’t prepare for poorly rendered CGI giants?
Sure enough, one of them has the princess. He hoists her high in a cage, declaring, “At last, mankind have returned!” I know I’m being a Grammar Nazi about this, but it’s “Mankind HAS returned.” Get it right, giant! But hey, what am I expecting from someone who decorates in skull deco, Shakespearian English? They’ve got to be smarter than Stanley Tucci, who decides he’s going to lead the giants against his own people in order to become their king. You’re trying to rule a race whose feet are bigger than your whole body? What could possibly go wrong? (Seriously, what’s with all the poor decision-making in this film? Is everyone trying to advance the plot into the most dangerous territory possible?) But hey, I can’t complain, because we do get one funny line at the end of it: the princess asks if he is mad, and Stanley shushes her, saying, “I’m talking to giants at the moment.”
From here, the action really picks up. In a reverse Don Quixote moment, giant-thrown windmills go tilting at our fleeing heroes. Ewan McGregor is turned into a pig in a blanket and is nearly skewered, yet still claims to have everything under control (yeah, this is the guy I’d trust to save my daughter). Giants invade on beanstalks growing down from their floating kingdom and away from the sun because, you know, that’s how plants grow. Of course, it doesn’t look like we have much to fear from these giants; one of them gets shoved off a cliff by a fly. Jack gets manhandled by a two-headed giant and retaliates by shouting his name at it. And to round out the trailer, Jack and the princess fall from a tremendous height, smash through a haystack, slide for yards along the hard ground, and nearly impale their heads on a metal spike—and of course, they’re completely uninjured. Don’t you just love convenient scriptwriting like that?
So do I recommend Jack the Giant Slayer? Eh, sort of. People looking for something new or unique (other than Ewan McGregor playing a pig in a blanket) should look elsewhere; this movie doesn’t seem to have anything we haven’t seen before. But it does fill its role really well; it knows it’s nothing special and it doesn’t try to be. The characters are enjoyable, the action is pretty awesome, and there are even several funny moments. Based on the trailer, Jack looks like a harmless, fast-paced popcorn flick for teens and adults. If that’s the basis for your expectations when you see the movie, you won’t be disappointed. Will I see it? Not in theaters, but I’ll probably check it out once it becomes available to rent. At the very least, I’ll be glad to have seen it once.
What do you think? Was I fair to the movie, or was there something I missed? Did this review get you interested in the movie or put you off of it? Let me know in the comments, and if you see the movie, please tell me how it was!
Jack the Giant Slayer is owned by New Line Cinema.