Becca goes up a familiar beanstalk for the latest fairy tale film…
The story begins in the small town of Cloister, where in an attempt to find a way to get closer to God, a group of monks grow some magic beans to create a beanstalk large enough to take them to him. As you do. Sadly, they never get that far, because a horde of giants live in between – and the naive monks have just given them the ability to come down and steal stuff and eat everyone.
Fortunately the King has a crown forged from the heart of a giant that gives him control over them (somehow), and he banishes them back up into their castle forever.
Centuries pass, and that part of Cloister’s history has faded into legend. A young man named Jack (Nicholas Hoult, Warm Bodies) is looking for adventure, like that from the story books his father used to read to him as a child. While wondering the market in a hope to sell his horse to fix his cottage roof, he crosses paths with a monk, who gives Jack some beans in exchange for the horse. He warns him not to get them wet (I’m getting Gremlin flash-backs just writing it), and Jack returns home penniless and a little bit puzzled.
Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson, Alice in Wonderland) is also looking for adventure, and would much rather go off to explore new worlds, than marry the king’s advisor, Roderick (Stanley Tucci, who plays Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games). Jack comes to her rescue when some men give her a spot of bother and then again, when she is looking for shelter from the rain after sneaking out in typical bad-girl fashion. Unfortunately he still has the beans, his house still has a leak, and, well, you can guess what happens next, can’t you?
The film is entertaining at a glance, with enthusiastic acting from everyone involved, particularly from Ewan McGregor as Isabelle’s protector, Elmont who seems to get all the snappy lines and looks dashing with a moustache. Stanley Tucci also plays a fun, brilliantly slimy character, however he doesn’t nearly enough screen time, while Jack plays the hero. Hoult excelled himself in Warm Bodies, but here, his role seems effortless for him, though it is pretty forgetable. Unfortunately the plot feels bland and overused, though you get the impression the writer tried incredibly hard to make it feel original; the twist at the end certainly makes it that, but even by changing the name of the title, it’s still going to be Jack coming up against a giant or two, while some damsel needs de-stressing, which may remind some of David and Goliath, so is hardly new.
Also, though I love Bill Nighy’s performances in everything that he does –from that hilarious cover of ‘Love Is All Around’ in Love Actually that is actually miles better than the original, to that heartfelt speech about Van Gogh in an episode of Doctor Who – he voices proves to be a massive distraction, as bad giant General Fallon, because, he sounds almost exactly like he did in Pirates of the Caribbean, except the CGI isn’t nearly as good (especially when watched stretched across a giant IMAX screen in 3D).
But my biggest peeve? The battle at the end, and the giants’ absolutely ridiculous struggle to open a castle drawbridge. I watched this twice, and I still do not see the logic in it.
So, Jack the Giant Slayer is an almost great fairy-tale-turned-film that mounts the band-wagon, but will certainly make for a fun day out.