It's only been a matter of weeks since Nicholas Hoult was last seen as the all-American zombie in the horror/romance Warm Bodies. Now he’s back on his home turf as Jack, the English country boy in a retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale, Jack the Giant Slayer. Evidently, market research showed the word ‘Slayer’ to be more family-friendly than ‘Killer.'
Jack the Giant Slayer initially follows the same route as the children’s tale: impoverished Jack takes the family cow (in this case, a horse) to town to sell, but instead if returning with much needed money, he’s been handed a bagful of beans – magic, of course.
From that point, the
When Jack is handed the beans, he’s warned by the monk who takes the boy’s horse, “Son, those beans have the power to change everything,” then adds as if appearing in a remake of Gremlins, “Whatever you do, don’t get them wet!”
Of course, a bean accidentally falls out of Jack’s bag into the ground just at the time when it’s raining, and there you have it: a giant beanstalk that stretches up, up and even further up into the clouds to another kingdom populated by killer giants who have a taste for eating humans.
There’s a strange subplot concerning a metal crown made from the blood of the hearts of the giants. Whoever wears it becomes their leader. When Tucci wears the crown and makes the giants kneel before him he states, “To deny the crown is to deny your existence.” As far as I could tell, the crown had no particular magical power, so I was never quite sure why the giants couldn’t simply pluck the headgear from Tucci’s wig instead of obeying him.
In fairness, despite lapses in logical storytelling – I know, it’s a fairy tale – Jack the Giant
Slayer is a lot of fun with an involving plot, colorful characters, a lot of good humor, and action scenes that actually thrill. The image of a slew of giants charging out of a forest is particularly impressive.
The film goes on for twenty minutes longer than it should. The real story ends the moment
Jack and the princess start climbing back down the beanstalk, but huge and hugely expensive films like this have to have an even bigger finish, so we have scenes where all the giants climb down from their kingdom and cause chaos back on terra firma. It’s a spectacular
conclusion, but it’s more a case of going through the motions and not half as much fun as the first two thirds of the film.
As for the 3D, it adds little to the enjoyment, and with the lack of actual 3D tricks, such as pointy things poking out of the screen, there seems little need for the gimmick. Studios often talk about 3D being total immersion – audiences are supposed to get lost in the artificially created reality - but real cinematic immersion comes from being lost in a good story. Once you’re genuinely involved with characters you care for you forget the decoration, all you’re interested in is the plot. Jack the Giant Slayer is good enough on its own terms without the
need for making it the movie house equivalent of a theme park thrill ride. Studios may see it as extra revenue at the box-office, but when you leave the theatre and all you’re thinking is how you’d like to see it again, only in 2D, something’s still not working.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 114 minutes Overall Rating: 7 (out of 10)
David Appleford is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society and the American Theatre Critics Association
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