In an era of visual effects extravaganzas, Jack The Giant Slayer delivers what’s expected of it, by moviegoers who want to have their brains numbed by blisteringly quick action and very little intelligent dialogue or character development. Yes I know that it’s based on a couple of grisly fairytales about Jack and his beanstalk (no dirty pun intended), and that it will inevitably fall into the cliched, but after seeing it, I am convinced that none of the human characters are remotely interesting, or even necessary.
The story is about Jack, yes? His name is in the title. Why, then, is he such a dull little boy who ends up saving the day without really doing anything at all? The title claims that he is a slayer of giants, and yet throughout the film, he kills no more than two (one is pretty debatable). Can he still be called a slayer?
Jack The Giant Slayer makes no effort to address such a question. It doesn’t even stop to address the issue of thinning oxygen in an altitude that I’m assuming is up where the planes fly. How any of our characters survive the arduous climb up the beanstalk — which is thick and tall beyond measure — beats me. Oh yes, it’s a fairytale. I keep forgetting. But no, this is a fairytale that has been brought to the big screen with characters played by real people. Instinct tells us that there is a certain level of believability required to fully appreciate it. So allow Man to survive without oxygen, and already some believability is removed.
Anyway, here’s what the story is about. Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a lowly farm boy who is tasked by his uncle to sell the horse in exchange for material to patch up their leaking roof. While wandering the Kingdom of Cloister looking for a buyer, he stumbles upon a frantic friar who offers to take the horse in exchange for a bunch of useless beans. Jack takes it. Meanwhile, the princess of the kingdom, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), is desperate to leave the castle walls and explore the vast land beyond the drawbridge, much to the disapproval of her stumpy father, King Brahmwell (Ian McShane). Of course, she disobeys him and flees on horseback in the middle of the night, in a downpour no less. Lost, she sees the light of Jack’s house and heads towards it.
To cut a long story short, one of Jack’s beans falls through the wooden floor of his house and is soaked in the soil by the rain water. It grows into the massive beanstalk and carries the entire house — along with Isabelle — up to the land of the giants (which is between Heaven and Earth). Jack then accompanies Elmont (Ewan McGregor), Crawe (Eddie Marsan), and Roderick (Stanley Tucci) on a quest to rescue the princess.
If all this doesn’t sound original, it’s because it isn’t. I am still struggling to comprehend what Richard Roeper considers, in his review, to be original about the film. Isabelle is a damsel in distress and nothing more. Are we meant to hold her hand and sympathize with her when she tells Jack “If I hadn’t run away, none of this would have happened”? Roderick is the treacherous little runt who wants all power to himself and makes the foolish mistake of thinking that he can be a god among brainless oafs who are a hundred times his size. Even Ian McShane’s king does absolutely nothing, and he looks ridonkulous in his suit of armour, which I am sure belongs to some 12 year old.
Apart from all the visual effects — the giants, in particular, are incredibly well done, and Bryan Singer actually manages to make a few of their scenes menacing — Jack The Giant Slayer has nothing to offer. Its opening sequence is one of the worst opening sequences I have ever seen — complete with horrendous acting from both the kids and the adults, and its story is not nearly strong enough to support its numerous characters, all of whom deserve so much more attention, but end up hanging on for dear life from a beanstalk that is ever-ready to collapse right on top of them, without so much as an “Oops!”.
Best Moment | The giants bursting through the trees after they crash land on Earth and begin chasing down Brahmwell and his merry men.
Worst Moment | The opening string of scenes.