Michelle Douvris ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Fairy-tale adaptations have been everywhere lately. Two Snow White movies graced the silver screen last year, along with Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters that hit theaters earlier this year. The hit TV show Once Upon A Time has gained a huge following, and a stage revival of Cinderella just recently opened up on Broadway. So where does Jack the Giant Slayer fit into all of this?
It’s purely popcorn entertainment. Expanding upon the widely known tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Slayer is a purely escapist film that features colorful characters, large amounts of CGI, and a familiar premise. But the movie’s deepest flaws lie in its hesitance to fully commit. Is it an adventurous family film or a fanboy action flick? The opening scene opens up with younger versions of Jack and Princess Isabelle reading bedtime stories with their parents, and it seems innocent enough. The cheesy (yet occasionally witty) one-liners throughout the film also contribute to the family-friendly feel. But then you also have bouts of violence that seem tonally out of place. Would a typical light-hearted children’s movie feature a slain giant falling from the sky, crushing a group of praying monks to their deaths? Moments like these are a little startling considering the overall fluffiness of the film. It seems like Jack the Giant Slayer is struggling with an identity crisis.
The romantic subplot is another area where commitment seems to be lacking. Nicholas Hoult is a charismatic and capable leading man, but the sparks don’t fly between him and Eleanor Tomlinson. They have a few sweet moments but their relationship fails to evolve beyond what seems like an awkward high school romance.
The movie does have some strong points, though. The supporting cast, including Ewan McGregor and the brilliant Stanley Tucci, add considerable depth to the story. And that depth is further developed by some impressive CGI and 3D effects. Director Bryan Singer (X-Men) has transformed the infamous beanstalk into a character all on its own. And the best use of CGI? The giants. Singer has generated a slew of grimy, cantankerous creatures who serve as an advertisement for the importance of dental work. The giants’ grumbling personalities are responsible for much of the comic relief in the film, and Singer does a pretty good job of integrating them with the live actors’ performances. Perhaps the most surprising part of the film, however, is the ending. It puts a spin on the traditional story of Jack and the Beanstalk by bringing it briefly into the present day with interesting results. The story ties together quite nicely.
If you’ve grown tired of the heavy Oscar-nominated films that have taken up most of the screens at your local multiplex lately and want some lighter fare, Jack The Giant Slayer is an enjoyable ride. It’s certainly not a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s a whole lot of fun.