Based on the old English folk-tale, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Jack the Giant Slayer pretty much follows the general story-line, until some twists and turns are added. In case you didn’t have a child hood, the Bean Stalk tale goes something like: Jack’s family is poor so he must sell his cow. He sells it to someone for magic beans instead of money and returns home. His mother is furious and throws the beans outside. The beans grow into a beanstalk that Jack climbs to find a Giant living at the top.
This is generally what happens in the film, except the cow is a horse and the mother is his uncle. Plus instead of one Giant living at the top of the bean stalk, there’s a whole slew of them. Jack the Giant Slayer takes places in a kingdom, the King’s daughter is pretty hot and the same age as Jack, and the scenery is mostly pastures except for the castle. Now that you’re pretty much caught up with the gist, here’s the review.
The best part about this film is that it’s actually suspenseful. At just under 2 hours running time, the pace is excellent and something is always happening. There’s twists on the original story, new characters, and overall it creates an original story for the film itself. Jack the Giant Slayer doesn’t create edge of your seat suspense, but it does make you want to keep watching to find out just how the events will unfold, and is worth watching for that sentiment alone.
The Way the Story was Told + The Wrap Up
The story itself was told in a cutesy, cool way, especially in the beginning of the film. It introduces Jack as a young boy, reading about the legends of Giants in bed with his father, while at the same time, paralleling the princess’ life as a young girl, reading the same story in bed with her mother. The scenes flash back and forth from both kids lives as they grow, continuing to parallel the things they do, despite Jack’s life as a humble farm boy, and the Princess’ life as a princess. Even the script itself has both characters or their parents dialogue, switching back and forth, finishing each other’s sentences. The way it’s done sets up the two kids as though they are on a path destined to meet, and it’s pretty clever how they finally do. It’s fun, fast paced and a clever way to bring us into the lives of both characters.
The end of the movie is done in a sort of similar fashion, showing many people telling the story of Jack the Giant Slayer throughout time, eventually catching up to our 21st century world. The script shows how stories change over time, and eventually become legend, paralleling the way the kids heard the story in the beginning of the film. The film is tied up in a neat little bow and everything is resolved, which I very much appreciated.
The computer generated images in this film were hit or miss, but the bean stalk itself was actually pretty cool. I had sort of imagined it to be one straight up stalk, not many intertwined vines, which it was. The sound effects and camera angles to show scale helped to provide reference for just how massive the epic stalk was. There’s a pretty lengthy scene of the King’s men climbing up the stalk which proved to be a difficult task, much like climbing a mountain. I appreciated the successful attempt at realism for the jungle-like stalk.
As mentioned, the CGI for the film was neither here nor there, as some elements were more successful than others. As an animation student, I’m pretty concerned with lighting, textures, rendering and motion. As a regular person, I’m concerned with everything looking cool and real. In both aspects, the CGI of the Giant’s was on the more blah side. Their color was weird, and didn’t fit in the scenery and it seemed like the creators were undecided on how human-like or neanderthal-like they wanted the creatures to be. The Giant’s were not terrible, and for some people may be acceptable (yet no one will be blown away), but in comparison with the likes of Dreamworks or Pixar developed characters, Jack the Giant Slayer was lacking.
Inconsistencies: The Beans, Strength of the Giants, and The Crown’s Power
There were some parts of the film that were clearly swept under the rug, yet weren’t detrimental to the film overall. Sometimes it took a while for the beans to grow into a beanstalk, and other times it was instantaneous. Sometimes the Giants had unlimited physical power, and other times there were 20 of them who couldn’t pull down a wooden door from humans. The only way to control the Giants was for a human to wear this special crown which would give the wearer complete control, but they way it worked was unclear. Sometimes the Giants would simply kneel at the crown as though they were hypnotized, and other times, the wearer had to announce for them to kneel yet the Giants still were able to speak freely. These elements seemed unresolved but not movie-ruining.
The Script & Intended Audience
Probably the most detrimental element of the film was the script. There were some moments when the film seemed like it wanted to be intended for a more mature audience like a superhero film, and other times when it wanted to be for little kids who like fables. The film is rated PG-13 so that could have to do with the confusion, but I felt it should’ve leaned more in one direction. It was really the cheesy one liners that brought the film down, they were unnecessary for the rest of the vibe the action film provided. I understand wanting to provide humor for younger people to enjoy, but decide what you’re going to do with your script and stick to it. Campiness can obviously work, but not when the same script is also trying to provide overly genuine moments as well.
The leader of the Giants had two heads. One head was perfectly normal, for a Giant at least, and could speak in the same way the other Giants could. But the second head was smaller and could only make weird pig squeaky sounds with some murmured speech and it was beyond unbearable. I literally began to cringe at the sounds the second head would make. It was way too much, extremely unnecessary, and mostly just plain uncomfortable. There’s no nice way to describe the mannerisms of the second head, so if you see this movie, just be aware of what you’re in for.
Despite my general dislike for 3D films, I actually opted for the 3D for this film, since director Bryan Singer seemed so stoked about it. He mentioned on the RedUser Forum that he’d be using the EPIC Red camera’s.
“The camera’s incredibly compact size and extraordinary resolution are ideal for the 3D format. But more importantly Jack the Giant Killer is my first movie set in a time before electricity. The EPIC’s extraordinary exposure latitude will allow me to more effectively explore the use of natural light.”
Despite his valiant efforts, I was quickly reminded why I don’t like 3D films. It sort of just gives me a headache, and didn’t really add anything to the film. Until the technology is really solidified, I can say with high certainty I won’t be seeing anymore 3D films anytime soon. If you decide to see this film in theaters, there’s really no need to spend the extra $4 on glasses you have to give back anyway.
In general, the film is good at best and OK at worst. It’s not amazing or terrible, but delivers a story we’re all familiar with in a fresh new way. Despite some cheesy lines and sub-par graphics, you’ll likely enjoy Jack the Giant Slayer as a fun adventure film. If you’re looking for an epic film adaptation like Lord of the Rings, you won’t find it here, but if you just want to be entertained and satisfied, then Jack the Giant Slayer is for you.