Bryan Singer and New Line Cinema take an ancient fairy tale and use it as a jumping-off point for a modern, CGI loaded action movie. Unfortunately, it suffers from a lot of the same issues that other modern, CGI loaded action movies do. Namely, it has a weak script, occasionally sketchy visuals, and plenty of “green screen acting”.
It will most likely appeal to children, but for discerning adults, “Jack” won’t have much to offer.
When Jack (Nicholas Hoult) as Jack is tasked with selling the family horse, he winds up selling it to a fugitive monk for ten coppers… and accepts a handful of magic beans as collateral.
Legends say that in ancient times, the giant beanstalks that grew from beans like these connected the kingdom to a land of giants who lived in the clouds above. War between men and giants raged until the king, Erik, forged a magic crown that controlled the giants and sent them back into the clouds. When Erik passed away, his crown and the remaining beans were buried with him. Now, however, they’ve been unearthed and have fallen into the hands of a farm boy.
Jack takes the beans home to his leaky-roofed farmhouse, and accidentally lets one fall through the cracks in the floorboards. It doesn’t sprout, however, until the kingdom’s Princess, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), stops by seeking shelter from the storm. When it does grow, it grows rapidly, rocketing the farmhouse and the Princess into the sky. Jack, who was tossed out during the sprouting, is left on the ground.
When the King (Ian McShane), his advisor (Stanley Tucci), and the Captain of his guard (Ewan McGregor) come by, seeking the princess, Jack joins them in a climb up the beanstalk… to a land where evil, man-eating Giants await.
The Giants, sadly, are one of my biggest gripes with “Jack the Giant Slayer”. I think they’re designed poorly. They all look to be some sort of giant Mongoloid… all of their faces are misshapen and odd. The leader (voiced by Bill Nighy) has two heads. I understand that centuries of inbreeding may genetically result in unattractive creatures, but from a movie watching perspective, I found them unappealing. Worse, they were also unbelievable. The CGI work here left the creatures mildly cartoonish. Perhaps that’s intentional in order not to frighten younger viewers, but there was never a moment where I felt I was seeing something real, not one. I was constantly struggling with the “Uncanny Valley”.
Meanwhile, the story is children’s movie level at best. Things are over simplified, and there’s scant attention paid to the characters. The actual action sequences are rather tame, with the exception of the final standoff. For every time they did something cool with the effects or the action, it traded it back a minute later by doing something childish. I think the best portions of the film involved scaling the beanstalk… because they were giant free.
Families may find something of value here. I imagine that children between 7 and 10 or so would probably think that this movie was awesome. Its easy enough for them to follow, the creatures are mildly scary, but not too scary, and the violence is sanitized enough so that parents wont regret taking them.
For the rest of us though, Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, Jack the Giant Slayer is really dumb.