One of the more recent cinematic forays into the fantasy realm is “Jack the Giant Slayer.” It is, basically, Jack and the Beanstalk adapted to the big screen. There aren’t any really big names in the cast … the only one I really recognized was Ewan McGregor who plays Elmont, the captain of the King’s Guard. The lead role (Jack) is played by Nicholas Hoult.
The backdrop of the story is an ancient war between giants and man. Many years ago, in a foolish attempt to reach God, a group of monks enchanted some regular beans to build a bridge to heaven. They were partially successful, building a bridge via beanstalk to the cloudy realms where the giants dwelled. The giants, however, were hardly benevolent; they descended upon the human world bringing death and destruction until a magical crown allowed the great King Erik to banish them back to their lofty dwellings.
Fast forward, many years later. Jack is a poor farm boy who, through happenstance, comes into possession of the magical beans. He doesn’t believe in their power—at least not fully—although he is familiar with the legend of Erik and the giants. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, one of the beans falls beneath the floorboards of his house. Meanwhile, Princess Isabelle, upset with her father for forcing her to marry, takes to the countryside and comes upon Jack in his home. It begins to rain. This is not their first meeting—Jack actually stood up for her in a typical gallant-hero-rescues-damsel type of situation. They talk, share a moment, and then, the water from the rain reaches the bean causing it to grow. The end result is that the whole house, with the princess inside, is whisked away up into the clouds, and although Jack tries to save her, he fails and winds up on the ground.
The king discovers Jack lying unconscious on the ground and a rescue party for the princess is formed. They ascend the beanstalk into the heights. That’s the genesis of the plot; I’ll leave the rest for the reader to discover when they watch the movie.
Strengths: well, I always like a good fantasy, even if it is a well-used yarn like Jack and the Beanstalk. This was an adequate movie; I mean, it wasn’t fantastic by any stretch of the imagination, but that may be because I was familiar with the Jack and the Beanstalk myth going in (as many people are). Still, it was a decent story. I wouldn’t recommend it for the too too young, because the giants are kind of grim and scary looking and there are several deaths, although they are not very graphic. Parents will have to make that determination on their own. Its weaknesses: well, I can’t think of anything specific that really leaps out. Overall, I found the movie entertaining, but lacking some indefinable something that held the movie back. However, that lack, I’m sure, would only be recognized by an adult. Kids would probably eat this up.
I’ll give it four stars out of five for a children’s audience (provided they can handle the implied deaths), and probably only three and half out of five for adults.