Yet another reworking of a well-known fairytale, Jack the Giant Slayer gives Jack and the Beanstalk an impressive array of CGI and a fraction more depth to create a 2-hour story fleshed out with a collection of mainly British talent.
The ‘unlikely’ hero of this tale is farmer’s boy Jack, played convincingly but not charismatically by Nicholas Hoult, who is desperate for some money and so tries to sell his horse. However, an even more desperate monk persuades Jack to sell the horse in exchange for a bag of mysterious beans. Soon a bean has been dropped, a huge beanstalk has grown and there is suddenly a link between this world and a magical place in the sky. Cue a princess that needs rescuing, a race of giants that are controlled by a villain who wants to take over the world, a magical crown and a few trusty, or not so trusty, sidekicks who provide the one-liners along the way.
Still set in ye olde times, at least the filmmakers have resisted updating this tale to the present day, but in terms of computer-generated imagery, nothing has been spared. The CGI beginning, which introduces us to the familiar folktale, is really unfortunate and would have felt much more charming if it had have been traditional animation. As for the giants, they are pretty impressive and convincing but certainly not perfect. Having seen Trollhunter, which created such believable creatures, the giants in this seem pale in comparison. That said, the two-headed leader, General Fallon (voiced superbly by Bill Nighy) is a memorable creation.
The film does have a strong supporting cast but they do not save the film as a whole. Ian McShane is the proud King, Stanley Tucci is the princess’ potential suitor Roderick, Ewen Bremner superbly plays his foolish sidekick and Eddie Marsan and Ewan McGregor are the King’s trusty hands. Despite managing to attract an impressive list of British acting talent, the film feels like it really doesn’t make the most of these people and McGregor’s hammy approach is a little cringe inducing, with him weirdly feeling like a caricature of himself. The princess, played by Eleanor Tomlinson, is competent but unmemorable.
Director Bryan Singer does little to leave his mark on this film, but adequately provides a popcorn journey that is watchable but frustratingly not remarkable. There are some nice underwater shots, believable fantastical landscapes and enough characters and narrative devices to keep the film flowing but nowhere near enough to make the near two-hour runtime feel necessary. The underdeveloped characters leave the journey feeling rather unemotional and the film as a whole feels very impersonal.
The ending, which gives the story a context in contemporary London, is a nice addition but also acts as a reminder that the film could have been a lot more ‘British’ in its style and substance, rather than being yet another shallow Hollywood blockbuster.
Jack the Giant Slayer is an average reworking of a familiar tale and will probably please younger audiences due to its action driven quest with the addition of plenty of fantastical special effects. Unfortunately, anybody requiring an unpredictable storyline and complex characters will be left feeling rather underwhelmed and disappointed.
The extras on the Blu-ray are also rather average and include the feature Become a Giant Slayer, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
Jack the Giant Slayer is out on Blu-ray and DVD now.
Director: Bryan Singer
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci
Runtime: 114 mins