Everyone knows the timeless classic, Jack and the Beanstalk, telling the beloved fable of giants descending from the sky via a giant, well beanstalk. Have you ever wished, however, that rather than being a kids folk tale, that instead the movie was about big, ugly, blood-thirsty giants that wanted nothing more than to wipe out humanity all together? Well then enter Jack the Giant Slayer…. kind of. While Jack the Giant Slayer finds itself pitched from the trailers as a action oriented spin, instead turns out to be a tiresome teen heart throb flick that searches desperately for an identity. In a film filled with giants that share as much of the title as any, the disappointing use of such incredible technology is left befuddling. It’s not that the movie is unwatchable, it’s simply unfortunate that the movie never seems to find its true stride and by the end leaves the audience underwhelmed.
The movie follows the main prognosticate Jack, who in the beginning finds a book left by his late mother, that tells the story of the Giants and sets the back-story so as the film moves forward so that you at least understand the tussle that will seemingly will come. Flash forward, and Jack is a young adolescent played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies), who from the start just doesn’t feel like “Jack”, especially in this spin on the film. We see him with the love interest early in the film as he sets to defend the honor of a random lady, played by that of Eleanor Tomlinson (Alice in Wonderland), from some scathing bottom dwellers looking for a good time. Jack thinks that he has the thugs scared, until he realizes that the young woman that he has just defended is Isabelle the Princess of the kingdom, and that they aren’t as scared of Jack but Elmont, Ewan McGregor, and his royal army that stands behind him ready to strike.
This is the first part that the movie lost a bit of luster for me, the quirkiness of the encounter, and the displaced Ewan McGregor as Elmont. While the character and McGregor get better as the film progresses, the first impression set is tough to recover from, the sad part is that the encounter isn’t that long. From this point Jack leaves and comes into contact with a Monk, who is attempting to escape from the persecution of the kingdom because of the magic beans that he has stolen from Royal Palace. The Monk pays Jack for the horse he is attempting to sell with the beans and tells him never to get them wet. He is also told that should he make it to the monastery that the other Monks reside in, they would pay him handsomely for the beans which is what Jack had hoped for in the first place.
We know the Jack doesn’t make it to sell the beans, and that a bean falls and gets wet, but it is the fact that Isabelle is trapped inside Jack’s, and his Uncle’s, home that takes Jack and portions of the Royal Army to the top of the beanstalk. As the men ascend, the movie hits a lull that drags for far to long. Director Brian Singer (X-Men), decided to spend far to long focused on the climbing of the stalk to show how large it truly was, even long enough for a full day to cycle. In this time, the weather changes and ascension of the stalk becomes more of a guessing game of whether your going to see it rain, or shine, in the next scene rather than a tension filled climb to the top. It’s a poorly chosen length of time for something that could have simply been wrapped up in a span of five minutes, even with the content involved.
When reaching the top, the team looks for Isabelle, heading into the depths of the forest to find her whereabouts. Also accompanying Jack, Elmore and the rest of the team is Roderick, Stanley Tucci, who is the chosen one to have Isabelle’s hand in marriage and obtain the thrown when the time has come. Roderick shows his true colors quickly, and shows that his interests lie more in controlling the people and giants then helping find the damsel in distress. The choice to go with Tucci was the lowest point in the film, Roderick is a horrible character and horrendously acted from his inception to the film. While the story doesn’t go in the direction that one might think it is headed from this point forward, which was a welcomed little twist, it unfortunately hits its stride at this point too. Don’t get me wrong, the first time seeing a giant is awesome, and the way they were done was the true shinning point, but the issues arise from the fact that the story lacks depth because it never really finds its identity.
The love story piece, I should have seen coming with the PG-13 rating and Hoult playing the main character. After all he is the main character playing a similar role in Warm Bodies, his other box office release airing within the same time-frame. The issue with the love story is that the true stars, the Giants, take a back seat when they should have been the focal point of the movie. They provide the humor, action, and are simply what most will come to see. Instead, the giants never really seem to get their rightful time in the spotlight. They are amazing CG feats, and it is awesome to see move and interact with the humans. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to hear that the majority of the budget allotted was spent on this portion of the film. Just when you think the true fight will begin and the action is going to start, you realize that the movie has hit it’s last leg to stand on, and the underwhelming fight scene is too short and unfulfilling.
The rest of the movie, because of the CG, suffers in its visuals and the impression that this really is an epic battle. Many of the human warriors are dressed in gear that is telling of its make from plastic and painted poorly so that it looks more like a 9th grade play than a big budget flick. The beanstalk too, other than its time in the computer sector, is also tacky and unbelievable. The sound on the other-hand is not something that suffers from the budget crisis of computer animations as the Giants rumble and booming movements bring the characters further to life and adding more substance to computer-generated celebrities. It’s situations like this that Jack the Giant Slayer shows that it has more of an identity issue than Prince, or the Artist formally known as, or whatever you are supposed to call him now-a-days.
Jack the Giant Slayer has its good moments and does entertain in parts, but its just not enough to save another sub-par film from Singer. It’s unfortunate because not only did Singer fall short of the promise the movie began with, but the screenplay presented to Singer was doomed from the start. The movie has all the pieces that would have brought a fantastic, and welcomed, spin to a age old classic. Instead, the movie just barely finds its legs and falls flat again upon its first step; it’s full of highs and lows and the rollercoaster will make most fans disappointed by its underwhelming peaks. It can be fun at times to see the movie for what it is, but in the end this beanstalk should have never sprouted in the first place.