Fee-fi-fo-fum, Jack the Giant Slayer is the exception this once

Daniel Woodhouse

What is it with this trend of “adult-themed” movie adaptations of classic fairy tales? There was Snow White and the Huntsman, which looked like it was trying too hard to be Lord of the Rings, then there was the god-awful Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. And now we have an “adult” Jack the Giant Slayer. Surprisingly, Jack the Giant Slayer has turned out to be the best.

Before getting into the story, I have to mention this was my first time seeing a film in 3D. It felt like the visual effects were assaulting my eyes. I began to develop a headache and had to take the 3D glasses off at times. Wouldn’t you, if you sensed the risk of going blind?

The 3D effects were honestly quite boring and only reinforced my view of 3D as nothing more than a gimmick to charge extra for tickets.

Taking its inspiration from the classic fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Slayer is set in a fictional English kingdom during the middle ages. As in the fairy tale, the main character is Jack (Nicholas Hoult), a tenant farmer trying his best to make ends meet.

Needing money to repair their room, Jack’s uncle tells him to go to the market and sell their horse. While there, Jack attempts to defend a girl being harassed by drunks, but gets laid out in the process. Unbeknownst to him, said girl is Princess Isabella (Eleanor Thomson), the daughter of King Brahmwell (Ian McShane).

Jack then meets a mysterious monk who asks to buy his horse in exchange for “magic beans.” Desperate to sell the horse, Jack agrees and returns home to his uncle’s disdain at his failure.

Later that evening, Isabella visits Jack at his farm. Their meeting is cut short when one of the beans gets wet and a giant beanstalk grows into the sky, taking Jack’s house and Isabella with it.

In the morning, Jack finds himself surrounded by the King and his men, who have come looking for Isabella. Jack volunteers to accompany the King’s men in climbing the beanstalk to rescue Isabella. Little do they know, in the sky lives a race of giants that are hungry for revenge after losing a war against mankind long ago.

Courtesy of "Jack The Giant Slayer" Facebook page
Courtesy of “Jack The Giant Slayer” Facebook page

Unlike the aforementioned fairytale-based movies, Jack the Giant Slayer takes a more light-hearted and comical tone. It has some very humorous moments, like when King Brammell is using a hollowed wooden body frame to make himself look bigger for a self-portrait.

As compared to the fairy tale, the level of violence in Jack the Giant Slayer has been significantly toned down in an effort to make it kid-friendly. Some people are stepped on and a few get eaten, but the camera is usually out of focus or too far away to see any gore. This is sharply contrasted by the Cornish fairy tale Jack the Giant Killer in which Jack decapitates multiple giants and even kills one by stabbing it in the anus.

Nicholas Hoult, hot off the set of Warm Bodies, shows his acting range by giving a convincing portrayal of Jack — a courageous, determined and flawed hero who has a fear of heights. Like the Jack from the movie’s source material, he is clever and has a need to satisfy his sense of adventure.

Eleanor Thompson as Princess Isabella is likeable and similar to Jack in that she too wants to explore the world. Stanley Tucci looks like he’s always having fun playing Lord Roderick, who is the story’s main antagonist. Roderick is secretly trying to use a special crown that will give him the power of mind control over the giants. He intends to then use them to conquer the world. Seems like a lot of work when he could just poison the King’s food, marry his daughter and crown himself king.

Ian McShane does a good job as King Brammell, who is having trouble balancing his duties as both a father and a king. The only character that will probably get on your nerves is the annoying Wicke played by Ewen Bremner — Luckily, he gets gobbled up by a giant early on.

The giants themselves are cartoonish, especially a giant who has a red afro — but their appearances fit with the look and tone of the story. The special effects unfortunately do look a bit cheap at times, due mostly to the fact that the movie was shot almost entirely in 3D.

Director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie, who are best known for creating the excellent crime drama The Usual Suspects, have crafted a fun filled and epic adaptation of the timeless tale. Do your eyes and your wallet a favor though, and watch this in standard 2D.

3.5 out of 5
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie