Review: Jack the Giant Slayer
PLOT: Jack (Nicholas Hoult), a naive young farmer, ends up with some magical beans- that soon sprout into a beanstalk that leads to a land populated by giants with a taste for human flesh. When his kingdom's princess, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) ends up in the kingdom of the giants, the amorous Jack volunteers to rescue her. Leading the King's Guard- headed by Elmont (Ewan McGregor) to the giants lair- they must not only contend with the hungry giants, but also the King's power mad adviser, Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who wants to use the giants to usurp the throne for himself.
REVIEW: For some reason or another, the buzz on JACK THE GIANT SLAYER has been mostly negative. This is surprising, as director Bryan Singer's filmography is particularly strong, as is that of the film's co-screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (lets not forget these two are responsible for THE USUAL SUSPECTS). Most of the blame probably has to go to the underwhelming trailers, which , I can assure readers, don't do the film justice.
The thing is- JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is very light entertainment, and it never tries to be otherwise This is not GAME OF THRONES. It's fantasy on a very broad, family friendly level. Based on the classic “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairy tale, GIANT SLAYER is aimed at the same crowd that made the recent CLASH OF THE TITANS remake a hit (although this is much better). The stakes in GIANT SLAYER are low. This is one of those film that you walk into knowing exactly how it's going to play out. It's a ride- no more, no less. And no one can deny Bryan Singer knows how to take an audience on a ride.
Running a lean 115 minutes, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER wastes no time putting the plot in motion, with Jack already on his quest to save the princess within twenty minutes of the film starting. Singer shows an economy in his storytelling here- with all of the characters being presented as either broadly heroic- as in Nicholas Hoult's Jack, or Ewan McGregor's swashbuckling Elmont, or cartoonishly evil- like Stanley Tucci's Roderick. This isn't complicated storytelling, but it doesn't have to be- as long as it's fun.
Luckily, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is a lot of fun. Hoult- who recently broke out in WARM BODIES, makes an extremely charismatic, likable hero. If you liked him in WARM BODIES, you'll like him here (even if his medieval hoodie is a bit much)- and he has really nice (albeit very chaste) chemistry with the cute-as-a-button Eleanor Tomlinson. McGregor , while taking a backseat to Hoult, is his usual, engaging self as the heroic Elmont- and for his fans worried about him getting short-shifted in favour of of Hoult, I can tell you that he gets the best action scene (although it happens too early in the film- and should have been saved for the climax).
Even better is Stanley Tucci- who chews the scenery as the villainous Roderick. Tucci seems to have gone back to old Errol Flynn swashbucklers for inspiration here, with his hilariously evil villain being the perfect modern day equivalent to Basil Rathbone in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, or Henry Daniell in THE SEA HAWK. He's deliciously bad, and seems to be having a grand old time in an uncharacteristically dastardly part. Of the cast, only Ian McShane seems a bit wasted as the noble old king. McShane's a lot more fun when he's bad.
But how about the giants? Well, they do look cartoonish- just as they did in the trailers. JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is heavily reliant on CGI- maybe to it's detriment, and the giants never look too menacing. If anything, they're mostly played for laughs, which makes them hard to accept as threatening. Still, Bill Nighy does some great voice work as their leader- complete with a second, “slower” head sitting in his right shoulder.
Whether or not you enjoy JACK THE GIANT SLAYER really depends on what you walk into the film expecting. This is not a gritty, heavy-duty adventure film. Rather, it's light and playful- right down to the adventurous score by John Ottman. To me, it was a whole lot of fun (although like most 3D movies, this is one I probably would have preferred in 2D). Even if the trailers rubbed you the wrong way, give it a shot. It's good fun, and very amusing.
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