The trailers for JACK THE GIANT SLAYER haven’t really worked and yet the film is a ton of fun. Why the disconnect? Well, this film is based upon the fairy tale regarding JACK AND THE BEANSTALK. They’ve beefed it up a bit, made it a story that pretends to be a bit of undetailed ancient history. And if that’s too ridiculous for you, perhaps you’ve grown up far too much. Let’s see if this will help put you in the right mindset. Ludwig Von Drake will get you fired up:
Like many of us, that’s how I was introduced to this tale. That was a part of FUN & FANCY FREE, a Disney feature length piece of entertainment made up of many short subjects. However, quite quickly after that my father showed me JACK THE GIANT KILLER, he’d already shown me 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, but when I realized that the story of JACK THE GIANT KILLER was going to be told with Kerwin Mathews as Jack and Torin Thatcher as the bad guy. I was very excited. Sadly, the effects on that film were not up to the standards that Harryhausen had provided in his films, but I didn’t care. It was fun. Favorite part of that movie was the scary witch with the trident that made those very cool animated flames, this is the trailer for that film:
Like most of you, I’ve been watching the trailers for JACK THE GIANT SLAYER with a degree of trepidation. The trailers didn’t seem to have the first clue in selling me the movie. The film seemed to have a strong supporting cast, but the romantic leads aren’t necessarily people that folks would get excited about. I think the hope of Bryan Singer was to cast folks that you could get to know through the movie.
The film begins with a Father telling his son, Jack, the story about King Eric and the land that lives above our heads between us and God. It’s where the giants lived. This story is an ancient fairy tale that parents tell their children. In fact, as the story is being told to us – we also see it being told to the young Princess Isabelle as a child. Intercutting these two stories, combined with the stage play that Nicholas Hoult’s Jack watches when he should have been focused on selling his Uncle’s horse. That play is performed on stage and told by Warwick Davis.
I have to say, this world’s story of the ancient legends of the land of the giants is pretty damn cool. It is illustrated in an animated story that recalls the DEATHLY HALLOWS fable in that final Harry Potter.
Jack as a boy, dreams of defending the crown and having adventures. He’s a young Luke Skywalker type. When Jack goes to the kingdom to sell that horse, he inadvertently saves the princess’ honor, and coming into possession of the magic beans in lieu of his horse. He never agrees to this deal, btw, it just sort of happens before he knows what has happened. Like a farm boy in New York, he’s traded his most valuable worldly possession for essentially ownership of the Brooklyn Bridge.
When he brings the beans and his tale back home to his Uncle, his Uncle is rightly pissed and throws a hissyfit which sets this whole story into motion. For one of the beans that fell off the table went between the floorboards and a storm is coming.
Meanwhile, when we’re not focused upon Jack, we’re learning that Princess Isabelle is frustrated with her lot in life. She’s been promised to marry the dentally challenged Stanley Tucci, who has a mad dream to enslave the Giants to his will and to conquer the world with them. Isn’t it always the case? Tucci’s Roderick has raided King Erik’s tomb and taken the magic beans and crown. The beans were taken by the friar that traded them to Jack, but at this point, Roderick is unawares.
The Princess flees the castle and whilst caught in a storm, she spies a lonely lantern hanging upon a domicile. This is, of course, Jack’s place… with a bean time bomb beneath his floorboards. The chemistry between Jack and Isabelle is solidly established here – and gets even better as the film goes on.
You need to know that this film is made with an eye for the younger kids. In fact, this is easily the silliest film that Bryan Singer has made… but in a good way. When the beanstalk tears the princess away in Jack’s little hovel, the story begins in earnest.
The Giant’s land is very cool. Very. The initial encounter with a giant is very spooky. In fact, when we see Eddie Marsan running for his life – and just how easily that the giant captures him, you realize. You don’t want to be in Giantland. They eat people. It’s their favorite food. And for centuries they’ve had to eat sheep and pig. Poor giants. Marsan and Ewan McGregor play a pair of the King’s men that defend the kingdom and the royals. Their specific mission is to rescue the princess. Luckily, Jack came along – because Ewan wasn’t prepared for this adventure.
I won’t go into what occurs in the kingdom & I won’t go into plot specifics from here on out – mainly because… you should discover the twists and turns as the film lays them out for you.
The giants are disgusting and ill-mannered beasts. The leader of these critters is a two-headed beastie voiced by Bill Nighy – with the parasitic twin head being a tad inarticulate & voiced by the Cryptkeeper, John Kassir.
Now I will say that I love the Giant’s motivation. They just love the taste of human. It’s something they’ve come to cherish as a rare delicacy. When the Beanstalk gives them a way to get to the all you can eat buffet, they’re crazy excited. They’ve waited centuries for this.
Once the Giants reach Earth, things move very quickly and dynamically. John Ottman’s deft control of editing and music serves this film greatly. The action and the romance are handled nicely.
The audience I saw this with today had a lot of parents with kids. And kids were eating this up. Everytime a giant did something “EWWWW” worthy, the kids would “EWWWW” and the adults would laugh. But I don’t feel like the movie pandered to that audience, it definitely works on kids, but it also worked on me and my dad. Sadly the film critic sitting behind Yoko brought her 2-3 year old, who was quite chatty – and the critic kept kicking the back of Yoko’s chair – so she was in a terrible mood, which she admits to being the fault of the person behind her. Yeah, I love it when “critics” ruin films with bad behavior.
It definitely bothered me, the noise from the little kid, but I dismissed it as being part of the price one pays for enjoying and loving “Family Films” – and make no bones about it, this is a great big family fantasy film.
If you wanted Bryan Singer to make a badass gnarly JACK THE GIANT SLAYER, with entrails and watching Giants feasting upon the humans. That isn’t this film – and shouldn’t be a Jack kind of story. This is one of those flicks that you take kids to and then have them plant their own seeds, those won’t be nearly as destructive or life threatening as the damned magic beans of this movie.
Tonally, I don’t really have a film I could point ya towards that matches this. It’s light hearted adventure & fantasy, but when the action kicks in… It’s pretty spectacular.
As for the 3D – I’m a 3D junkie at this point. Since getting my own home 3D HD Projection set up – it just feels like magic. I wore my TOP GUN Real D Aviators – and loved how the Real D looked, even if the Highland Galaxy 10’s bulb seemed a bit dark to me. That’s the theater’s fault, not the filmmakers.
The only real complaint I had with the film comes with the very end of the film, where they’ve placed a modern day ending device that I just don’t feel was necessary or needed. For me, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is a piece of pure childhood mythology. Something that all little boys and girls should be exposed to. It doesn’t have to pretend to be in our world in any form other than as a story we tell children.
Also, I totally would have had that Harp come to life. I wanted that magic to happen. Sigh.
So, to wrap up. Good news. It works. The film is delightful and silly and a whole lot of fun! Interesting that Singer had this kind of film in him. I thought he was a bit more serious than this film.
Ewan MacGregor is kind of hilarious throughout this flick. At one point Tucci taunts him with a line about him thinking that he was the hero of this tale – and I laughed because that’s exactly how Ewan is playing it. Not like Han Solo, but more like Obi Wan, but more jovial. He’s a bit like Flynn in THE PRINCE & THE PAUPER. If that helps.
The main thing though is to go in wanting to have fun with the movie. This is a pure fantasy flick made for families. Dark & Gritty need not apply. Watch GAME OF THRONES for that.