Clipper Movie Correspondent
Rated PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language.
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane , Bill Nighy (voice), John Kassir (voice), Ewan McGregor, Eddie Marsan.
Written by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, Dan Studney, David Dobkin.
Directed by Bryan Singer.
I have long lamented the lack of imaginative, original ideas coming out of mainstream Hollywood over the past few decades. It seems movie executives are content on keeping the money machine going by rehashing the same old stories (i.e. sequels), remakes and film versions of TV series. It won't be long before supply of all the decent comic books and graphic novels runs dry, and even the best of the good comic book movies are already getting remakes. The lack of original material has led to the recent phenomenon of tapping into fairy tales as source material for epic-looking movies (Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters). The latest fairy tale to get the big budget treatment is Jack and the Beanstalk, a.k.a. Jack The Giant Slayer.
Nicholas Hoult stars as Jack, a poor orphan living on his uncle's farm in Cloister, a kingdom ruled by King Brahmwell (Ian McShane). Living in poverty, Jack is assigned the task of selling the farm's only horse in the capitol city. During his visit to pawn off the horse, Jack runs into a monk who is on the run from the king's advisor Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who is trying to collect some magic beans from him (for evil purposes). Jack ends up with the beans and sets off for home, where is uncle is not pleased with the trade.
Meanwhile, the king's daughter Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) longs adventure outside the castle and away from her overprotective father. She sets out one night on horseback during a torrential rainstorm, and eventually ends up at Jack's farm, looking for shelter. One of the beans slips through a crack in the floor and is eventually moistened by the rain, spawning the growth of a huge beanstalk. The beanstalk carries the entire house away with Isabelle inside, as Jack falls to the ground. When Roderick, the King and his army show up looking for Isabelle, the king assigns his most trustworthy knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor) to take a small group of soldiers and shimmy up the beanstalk to rescue the princess. Roderick and Jack tag along, but only a few of the soldiers (including Elmont), Jack and Roderick make it to the top. Once there, the men encounter several giants, who kill off most of the party. Jack manages to slip away, rescuing Elmont and the princess, but not before discovering that Roderick possesses a magic crown that empowers him to rule over the giants. Roderick's plan is to use the giants to overthrow Cloister and move toward eventual world domination.
As Jack escapes with Isabelle, Elmont stays behind, planning to kill Roderick and recover the crown. When Jack and Isabelle head down the beanstalk, they discover that the king has learned of the giant threat and has ordered the beanstalk chopped down, an event which happens just as Jack and Isabelle get close enough to the bottom to have a safe landing.
Meanwhile at the top of the beanstalk, Elmont isn't quite successful at obtaining the magic crown, as an army of giants led by the ruthless two-headed giant General Fallon (one head is voiced by John Kassir, the other by Bill Nighy) gathers to crush the humans. The general discovers the crown, along with the rest of Jack's beans (that he dropped at the top of the beanstalk). He uses one of the beans to grow another beanstalk that will provide a path for the giant army to reach Cloister.
As the giant army rushes down the new beanstalk, Elmont also slips past them and helps prepare the Cloister castle for the giant invasion. A “giant” battle (pun intended) ensues and all seems lost unless Jack can get the crown away from General Fallon and turn the tide in favor of the “little people.”
Jack The Giant Slayer isn't a bad fantasy adventure, despite the liberties taken with such a well-known and beloved fairy tale. The action keeps the story moving along well enough, while talented thespians like McShane, Tucci and especially McGregor provide adequate performances to give the film a little star-quality gravitas.
There are plenty of moments in Jack The Giant Slayer that seem a little over-the-top and silly, but the “giant” special effects and the scope of the production design give the film an epic quality, despite a little disappointment during the climactic battle.
One caution I have for parents who may think that Jack The Giant Slayer is appropriate for small children who are familiar with the fairy tale. Jack The Giant Slayer gets a well-deserved PG-13 rating – just barely. There are scenes of death in the movie, and even though director Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2) holds back on the graphic gore, it isn't hard to figure out that giants are eating some of the characters in an unpleasant fashion. I wouldn't recommend Jack The Giant Slayer for any children under 10 years old.