‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ Movie Review – For Children or Not?
Balancing the inherent childish qualities of stories, particularly fairy tales, can be a difficult thing. Some stories (and movies) are supposed to be more child-like. However, the earlier Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters had barely a shred of the juvenile roots. Jack the Giant Slayer felt like it couldn’t decide whether it wanted to appeal to one group or another, and it ultimately missed the middle ground. Luckily, this flaw is partially overshadowed by the final action sequences.
It starts like apparently all fairy tale movies, showing the younger versions of our main characters. It seems like a staple of this genre because screenwriters and filmmakers can’t find a way to show a character’s past without a 5-minute prologue and a sudden flash forward.
The main characters are a young, poor farmhand, Jack (Nicholas Hoult), and a princess, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). When the King (Ian McShane) sets his daughter up with Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci), she runs away from home eventually ending up lost and at Jack’s doorstep.
Leading up to this, Jack had obtained some magic beans (originally in the possession of Lord Roderick) and things go haywire.
The pacing up to and following this point is a reason for concern because the “Giant Slayer” part of the title doesn’t come into play for far too long. Especially when Jack, Lord Roderick, and Elmont (Ewan McGregor) spend more than 20 minutes scaling a giant beanstalk.
Bryan Singer, the director, does do a good job introducing us to the giants, though. When we finally meet them, the tone completely changes. Up to that point, the story seemed very childish. It obviously turns a lot darker when the giants start decimating the humans.
The story gets even better when the giants – who originally lived in a mythical land high above the humans – start to threaten King Brahmwell’s kingdom. Despite how artificial the entire thing looked (yes, I understand it’s a fairy tale about giants and huge beanstalks), Jack the Giant Slayer was a whole lot more entertaining towards the end than the 20 minutes of aforementioned beanstalk climbing.
Even after the giants were introduced, the plot held on to some childish parts. For me personally, this was not a good thing. Tucci’s Lord Roderick character is the easiest one to point to because of his annoyingly over-the-top performance. I’m not sure if it was his fault or the writer’s. I point to the writers because they tried really hard to make as many villains as possible, over saturating the story. Generalizing to the entire thing, there were way too many cheesy moments to justify the script.
To my surprise, the story does ultimately get better. For that, Jack the Giant Slayer deserves at least a little credit. I’m not going to rush out to see it again, but I can also promise it’s better than other fairy tale imaginations. It could’ve used a better tonal balance and script. And it definitely could’ve gone without Lord Roderick (at least his caricature). The performances may not have blown anyone away, but watching the humongous giants try to decimate an entire kingdom was about as great as it could’ve been despite the previous misfires. If this sounds in your wheelhouse, maybe you’ll have an even better experience than me.
Jack the Giant Slayer is open in wide release now. You can see it in both 2D (like me) or 3D.
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