Jack the Giant Slayer is the latest entry in Hollywood’s most irritating current trend: suped up fantasy epic renditions of fairy tales. It comes within 12 months of both Snow White and the Huntsman and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and offers the same lackluster experience. The childish joy of the stories is replaced by brooding drama and epic CGI violence with neither element bringing anything to the source material. The weird thing is that all three films must have been made simultaneously, so none of the competing productions got a chance to see how disappointing the concept was in practice before limping their version to the screen. On the plus side, that means the trend will probably die off just as quickly as it arrived.
In this version of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a peasant boy in search of adventure who is given a bag of magic beans from a monk in the midst of a medieval heist. Apparently his land has an evil world of human-munching giants floating above who have been kept at bay by religious leaders, only to be awakened when the king’s advisor (Stanley Tucci) decides to use the giants to take over the kingdom. A princess (Eleanor Tomilson) is kidnapped and the smitten Jack is assigned to bring her back with the king’s finest men (Ewan McGregor and Eddie Marsan) and Tucci in tow. Of course, this is all going to lead to the massive human/giant war that was always glossed over the in the fairy tale as well as a star-crossed love story and all that jazz.
There are some amusing moments found in watching Tucci mug as a villain, McGregor bust out some hero posturing, and Ian McShane play a hilariously over-the-top king. However, it’s not a character piece, so those are but a few fleeting moments of entertainment amidst aCGI giant brawl that proves a $100 million budget does not guarantee thrills. The battles feel like cheap cartoons ensuring the climax offers about as much excitement as a Shrek sequel without the jokes. It’s a new low for director Bryan Singer who once seemed like a promising filmmaker while cranking out X-Men movies and The Usual Suspects, but now acts like a hack for hire. Singer promises us adventure and delivered a useless bag of CGI beans.
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Eddie Marsan, Nicholas Hoult
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Top image: A scene from Jack the Giant Slayer. Courtesy Warner Bros.