In recent years we have seen somewhat of a trend towards rebooting, retelling or reimagining of beloved characters such as Batman, Spider-Man and, current flavour of the month, Superman. We’ve seen this in comic books, in movies, and on television.
What you will also be aware of is movie studios have also been pointing their scriptwriters towards the humble fairy tale. Disney, for example, has been at it for closing in on almost a century, granted they do some excellent work (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast to name some of their finest works). Chinese studios have been endlessly redoing Chinese tales such as Journey to the West.
However, in more recent times we have seen reworked fairy tales in the guise of TV’s Once Upon a Time, Neverland, and Grimm, comic’s fantastic Fables, spin-off Jack of Fables, and, for the dirty old man in you, Grimm Fairy Tales, and, of course, the cinema with the likes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Comic book legend J Scott Campbell also has a series of FairyTale Fantasies Limited Edition Prints, featuring Fairy Tale characters drawn in his own inimitable style. – I managed to bag one of his The Little Mermaid prints, all signed and lovely.
Basically, Fairy Tales are in and they are BIG, none more so than Jack The Giant Slayer.
I Smell the Blood of an X-Man (Spoilers Ahead)
Jack The Giant Slayer, is the latest offering by director/producer/writer Bryan Singer, who, of course brought the X-Men to the big screen in fine fashion.
In a world where we have movies that bring dinosaurs to life, show us epic hour long battles pitting humans and elves against orcs, and give us thundering great building sized starships, watching a boy climb a beanstalk (regardless of size) seems a little tame in comparison. However, Jack The Giant Slayer is actually more fun than it has any right of being.
Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies) stars as Jack who is inadvertently the recipient of some beans, given to him by a monk who stole them from the horrible and conniving Prince Roderick (played by a marvellously pantomimey Stanley Tucci), who, incidentally is set to marry the Princess Isabelle (a rather comely Eleanor Tomlinson), as her father, King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) seeks to unite kingdoms or some such typical fantasy plot point.
Jack’s uncle is not best pleased at losing the horse that Jack was supposed to sell in exchange for these beans (the monk isn’t very monkly and took Jack’s horse after offloading the beans to him, asking him to take them to the monks of his order, before attempting to escape from Roderick’s men.
Throwing the beans aside in anger, Jack’s uncle take off in a huff, probably to drink moonshine, and we are treated to the surprisingly fortunate arrival of the princess to Jack’s house, after she makes a bid for freedom from the castle, as she doesn’t wish to marry Roderick and craving adventure, as she clearly hadn’t learnt anything from earlier when Jack had to rescue her from a rowdy group of men.
Just like in the fairy tale, a bean that had escaped under the floor boards and into the dirt begins to sprout in the driving rain. In a scene that is pretty cool, the bean grows into a giant beanstalk taking with it the house, the princess and Jack, who manages to avoid being taken upwards and skywards.
Of course a giant beanstalk isn’t going to go unnoticed, CGI or otherwise, and the King sends some of his men, including chief of his elite guard Elmont (Ewan McGregor, sporting the most British of accents since The Carry On Films were doing the rounds) up it to rescue the princess and bring her back safely. Throwing caution to the wind, and thinking with his loins, Jack joins them, along with Roderick (who is up to no good) and his assistant Wicke (Ewen Bremner, who you may recognise from the movie Trainspotting, which also starred McGregor)
The beanstalk is quite an awesome sight, especially when the camera sweeps back to show you the sheer size of it.
Here Be Monsters
Once up the beanstalk, it turns out that the legends of old are true, there is a kingdom in the skies and it is, indeed, populated by giants.
The giants, like the beanstalk are brilliantly conceived, however, the actual effects range from very artificial looking to, well, awesome. This may be due to the fact that several different effects houses were brought in for the effects and included Digital Domain, Giant Studios, The Third Floor, MPC, Soho VFX, Rodeo FX and Hatch Productions. Perhaps a case of too many cooks..? Not to mention the need to keep the movie’s kid friendly rating.
Unlike the original fairy tale, this film fleshes out a relationship between man and giant. Once upon a time (see what I did there?) giants tried to invade Earth but they were beaten back by some dude with a magic crown that controlled giants. That’s right, One Crown to rule them all, One Crown to find them, One Crown to bring them all and in the darkness coronate them, or something to that effect.
The location of this crown? Why Roderick has it… That weasley little…
As it turns out, the no good that Roderick was up to was to ascend the beanstalk, gain an army of giants and claim all the kingdoms on Earth as his own. As plans go, it’s big on scale, small on the fine detail.
So is this film any good? It’s a difficult one for me. I like the character Jack and I was quite partial to the old beanstalk. The need to appease the younglings with watered down CGI and scenes doesn’t do the movie any huge favours, in fact it didn’t do overly well at the box office any way. Having said that, it is a good solid bit of mindless entertainment, and it is more enjoyable than you would expect.
Young children will probably enjoy it while those who are older can relax with it running in the background whilst they are using their iPads or laptops.
We give Jack The giant Slayer 2.5 Nerds out of 5