Synopsis: The ancient war between humans and a race of giants is reignited when Jack, a young farmhand fighting for a kingdom and the love of a princess, opens a gateway between the two worlds.
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner
Director: Bryan Singer
Running Length: 114 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Even though the efforts thus far haven’t proven wholly satisfying, Hollywood is still in love with revisionist special effects laden films based on popular fairy tales. In the last few years we’ve had new takes on Alice in Wonderland, Little Red Riding Hood, and two tales about Snow White (Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror, Mirror) yet none have captured the kind of magic that would make them memorable classics.
Now along comes the much delayed (and twice retitled) Jack the Giant Slayer with its magic beans and scary giants and y’know what…it’s not half bad. Director Singer (The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns) wisely makes this a darker/more violent picture and this works wonders in setting a tone quite different than you might have originally expected.
Get ready for a lot of “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum”-ing as the tale of the land of giants is relayed several times before the magic beans smuggled out of a kings tomb have sprouted a giant beanstalk up to the heavens. Launched into the sky with it is a king’s daughter (Tomlinson) running from an arranged marriage to an arrogant knob (Tucci, who never met an arrogant knob he couldn’t turn with verve) and it’s up to a band of king’s men plus our title hero to save her.
The film does take a little too long to get moving but the time taken for some often-ignored character development turns out to be a value add later in the picture. Once the beanstalk has put down roots and the men start the climb upwards, the movie takes off with a nice zip and doesn’t stop until the credits roll. In between you have loads of complicated effects-heavy action sequences (the supposed cause of the film being delayed from its planned June 2012 opening) and plenty of bloodless but surprisingly scary violence.
Heading the cast is Hoult as young Jack and it’s thanks in part to Hoult’s nicely colored performance that the movie succeeds. After playing a love-sick teen zombie in February’s modest hit Warm Bodies, Hoult has started 2013 off with a bang and I’m hoping that these two performances get him more noticed in Hollywood because he’s truly someone to watch. Agreeable performances from McGregor and Tucci add some class to the joint and though Tomlinson’s princess isn’t the toughest girl on the block, she makes a believable love interest for Hoult. Only Bremner as Tucci’s goofball assistant seems to have ventured in from a Benny Hill sketch so it’s a blessing when he makes an early exit after losing his head (whoops, spoiler alert).
Saying that Jack the Giant Slayer is probably the best of the fairy-tale-askew bunch isn’t really saying a whole lot because the rest have been so lousy — but thanks to strong visual effects and fresh performances it climbs its way to the top of the modest heap with ease.