I’m always of the opinion that there really isn’t anything new that we can do with classic fairytales, anymore. We can twist them, and reboot them, but in the end they’re really not going to feel fresh or inventive. It’s like that episode of “The Simpsons” where Marge couldn’t afford a new dress for her country club meetings, so she just kept re-designing the same dress over and over. “Jack the Giant Slayer” is exactly like that. Sure, it posits the idea that we’re being given a new tale, but in reality it’s just another take on Jack and the Beanstalk. But this ain’t yo daddy’s Jack and the Beanstalk! No sir! This is the true story of Jack and the Giants before the actual tale was invented.
But the movie is often so scattered and filled with various ideas that the writers handle more than they can chew. Ideas are presented, and then thrown away, sub-plots begin and then end abruptly, and the final scene is so goofy that I shuddered at the implication of a sequel. Which is not to say that “Jack the Giant Slayer” is a bad film by any means. It’s just a very mediocre movie that turns its supporting characters in to more interesting heroes than the eponymous Jack. And they’re also broadly written supporting players, to boot. Ewan McGregor plays valiant knight named Elmont who volunteers to climb the bean stalk to retrieve princess Isabelle, princess Isabelle is a spunky and heroic young woman who dreams of exploring the world and not confining herself to the kingdom yadda yadda.
Meanwhile Ian McShane is the noble king who fights with his men and makes hard decisions, while reacting to literally everything we see. Jack is just…there. He’s a broad hero with noble intent and really nothing more. And he’s not much of a slayer so much as he’s an incidental hero who kind of stumbles in to heroism time and time again. Nicholas Hoult is a very likable and charming actor who does his best to flesh out this vague archetype, but there isn’t much to Jack. And I often worried more for the dilemma involving Elmont and his attempts to re-claim the crown from the giant’s world more than I did about Jack saving the princess. As for the plot, it’s mainly nothing but a scattered mess that feels like two films slapped together. All of which amount to a hill of unanswered questions.
Why did the monk steal the sacred beans again? Was he aware of the plot by the king’s aid Roderick to rule the giants? If so why didn’t he just warn the king of the plot? Why entrust sacred beans to a farm boy who lives around soil and water? If they wanted to protect the crown, why didn’t they have the king wear it on him at all times? Why didn’t they think of that before? Are we really supposed to believe a period filled with superstitions like evil spirits and demons didn’t actually buy that the crown ruled over the giants? And if the giants lived in their own worlds, shouldn’t it all be to scale from the beings? How did they manage to get normal sized sheep in their land? And Jack makes it clear that the only way to really kill a giant is by stabbing one in the back of the head, so why didn’t Elmont think of that in combat?
As for the action, by no means would I suggest this to kids. Animals are tortured and thrown around, humans have their heads bitten off, bodies are crushed and thrashed, it’s kind of intense. But the movie is also much too absurd for anyone over thirteen to enjoy, with the villains mainly one dimensional plot devices meant to give our humans a hard time, and really nothing more. Why do they want Earth again if their land is basically the same except… higher? “Jack the Giant Slayer” is not the worst movie of 2013, it’s just a sub-par footnote in the fantasy genre currently being mined by better storytellers who want to challenge audiences. This all just feels like a stumbling block for director Bryan Singer before he tackles true passion projects. If anything “Jack the Giant Slayer” proves it’s about time we begin inventing new fairytales.
The DVD/Blu-Ray Combo from Warner features “Become a Giant Slayer,” an interactive game of a sorts where one must travail up a giant beanstalk to watch various snippets and features about the making of the film, while fighting off the elements and random giants. There are eight minutes of deleted scenes and alternate scenes, and a three minute gag reel bereft of laughs.