Following the trail that has been blazed by Snow White and the Huntsman
and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
, Jack and the Beanstalk is the newest children's story to get a big-budget makeover and mainstream release as a feature film. With a big-name cast and some slick visual effects, Jack and the Beanstalk becomes Jack the Giant Slayer
For those unfamiliar with the story, Jack (Nicholas Hoult from Warm Bodies
) is a young farm boy who is sent to town by his uncle to sell a horse and cart. Jack runs into a monk who has no money but gives him a bag of magic beans for the horse, telling Jack that he can take them to the Abbey and exchange them for money. Jack's uncle is furious and throws the beans across their small cabin. Jack gathers them back up - all except for one that he did not notice had fallen underneath the floorboards. Meanwhile, the Princess Isabelle (Alice in Wonderland
's Eleanor Tomlinson), craving adventure, runs away from the castle and, seeking shelter from a sudden storm, ends up at Jack's home. The water from the rain makes the bean under the floorboards sprout and Jack's cabin is taken skyward on a huge beanstalk. Jack is thrown from the house, but Isabelle is trapped and goes up with it. When King Brahmwell (Ian McShane from "Deadwood") asks his first knight, Elmont (Ewan McGregor, the young Obi Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars
movies) to form a rescue party, Jack volunteers: but so does Roderick (Stanley Tucci from The Hunger Games
), Isabelle's arranged suitor. When the group reaches the top of the stalk, they find themselves in the land of the giants. The giants are not the only threat, however; Roderick has a shifty ulterior motive for wanting to climb up the stalk.
Over four years in the making, Jack the Giant Slayer
was directed by Bryan Singer (the X-Men
franchise) from a script by Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After
), Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects
), and Dan Studney (Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical
). As can be gathered from the resumes of the writers, Jack the Giant Slayer
is a strange mix of styles. Although not quite as brutal as Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
, Jack the Giant Slayer
is incredibly violent, with a flurry of people-eating giants and head-chopping heroes. However, it is still a fable, and the combination of the familiar story and the fun giants helps it appeal to children. With the ambiguity between storyline and visual content, it may be difficult for Jack the Giant Slayer
to find an audience.
Like any good fairy tale, Jack the Giant Slayer
is a story of good vs. evil. The twist is that there are two battles going on. The first and most obvious is Jack against the giants, and that is the conflict that garners most of the attention. However, once Roderick's plans come to light, there is tension between him and Elmont, and that plays out simultaneously with the Jack/Giant war. The dueling storylines do intersect early and often, so they do make sense together. However, the complexities of the narrative make the film about half an hour too long. Jack the Giant Slayer
would benefit from a little tightening up in the editing room, giving a snip to the bits that drag.
The most remarkable aspect of Jack the Giant Slayer
is the giants themselves. Simply put, they're just cool. Although the giant effects were done with motion capture technology in a green-screen environment, each giant has his own actor performing his movements. Because of this, each giant has his own unique identity. The king of the giants, General Fallon, is played by Bill Nighy (who also is Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean
movies), and his movements and attitudes are markedly different from the giant cook, who is played by Philip Philmar (who was a Thern in John Carter
), or any of the other giants (who have names like Fee, Fye, Foe and Fumm). Fallon himself looks like a cross between Shrek and Bull from "Night Court" with a second smaller head that is seemingly just along for the ride (although, the smaller head is played by the Cryptkeeper, John Kassir from "Tales from the Crypt"), making him the most memorable character in the film. In Jack the Giant Slayer
, Jack may get top billing, but the giants are the stars.