Title: Jack the Giant Slayer
Heh, for a Second That Looked Like Giant "Slater." Such a fate Elizabeth Berkley doesn't even deserve. Or maybe she does.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three sheep out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: A young farmer named Jack aquires magic beans, meets giants, slays them.
Tagline: "Prepare for a giant adventure."
Better Tagline: "It's not the size of the wand..."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Legend has it the evil giants were defeated generations ago by the noble King Eric and banished to their realm high in the clouds, basic laws of gravity and meteorology notwithstanding. Young Jack (Nicholas Hoult), tasked with selling his uncle's horse in the town of Cloister, ends up trading the beast to a desperate monk for magic beans and the promise of future payment. Unbeknownst to Jack (but known to everyone who's seen Beanstalk Bunny), the beans turn into ginormous vines. Worse, they've carried Jack's house -- and the wayward princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) -- into the sky. Worse than that, the legendary giants are real, and Jack just gave them their way back to our realm.
"Critical" Analysis: About the most flattering thing you can say about Jack the Giant Slayer is, "Man, that's a lot of acting talent up there."
I mean, it's a little disconcerting seeing the likes of Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci and Ewan McGregor in this. All those respected thespians sharing the screen in a largely kid-friendly CGI movie; add some thinly veiled racism and a bunch of pseudo-mystical hooey and you'd have a Star Wars prequel.
But seriously, folks, I can't be the only person left cold by flicks that are 90 percent green screen, can I? I'm not saying Hoult and Tomlinson don't make a convincing argument that they really believe that the ping-pong ball array they're shrieking at is about to kill them, but the exercise itself tends to remove any tension from the proceedings. In Ye Olde Days of Hollywood, even the artifice of the film itself was leavened by the possibility a stuntman died screaming while plunging off a waterfall. Now we just have the "uncanny valley" and wire harness fatigue. Vic Morrow is shaking his fist at us from the afterlife.
Though perhaps that's the point.
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If it seems as if I'm dancing around talking much about the movie itself, it's because there isn't much to put out there aside from saying -- when it works -- the movie recalls a more swashbuckling era, with cardboard bad guys, goofy yet entertaining combat sequences and a mostly chaste romance. In short, it'd work a lot better as a Harryhausen flick.
I like Hoult, who has a sort of "Cumberbatch lite" thing going. Tomlinson wears a suit of armor well, but as long as we're reimagining the classics, why not give the Princess more to do than run away from home and await rescue? And the ending (before the pointlessly tacked-on modern-day epilogue, that is) felt completely off, given that Isabelle was a direct descendant of the King who deposed the giants in the first place.
Director Bryan (X2) Singer does an okay job, and there's enough relative brevity here to separate the action here from, say, The Hobbit. But "okay" is about the most enthusiasm I can muster for Jack the Giant Slayer.