PlotDirected by Bryan Singer of The Usual Suspects and X-Men, Jack the Giant Slayer is the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” done as an action film. It follows in the questionable footsteps of Red Riding Hood and Snow White and the Huntsman, and it probably draws its roots back to Van Helsing. Unlike these other films, however, it is neither dark nor cynical nor anachronistic.
As Jack continues through town, he runs into a monk who appears to be fleeing the authorities. The monk offers Jack some magic beans in exchange for his horse. He tells Jack that Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci) would pay handsomely for their return. The monk then takes Jack’s horse and flees.
Back on the ground, King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) sends a team up the stalk to rescue his daughter. This team includes Elmont, Jack, Roderick and some others. When they reach the top, they find an entirely different world. This is a world of giants. Soon enough, most of the team is dead or captured. Elmont and Jack find themselves in the kitchen where they are being baked into snacks for the giants. Roderick, however, has gone a different route. He has stolen the magical crown which lets him control the giants and he intends to lead them back down the beanstalk to take over the kingdom. He has also been responsible for killing most of the team.
I won’t spoil the rest.
Why I Liked ThisLet’s get this out of the way: this isn’t a great film by any stretch. The effects are good, but nothing special. The acting is what you expect, but nothing memorable. The dialog is not clever – even the clever bits are obvious. The story is very, very simple. There are no unforeseen twists. There is nothing that isn’t predictable. In short, there’s nothing really to commend this film.
What this film does have though, is a sense of earnestness that makes this fun. There is no cynicism in this film. The bad guy wears a black hat and twirls a mustache, the good guys are pure and chocked full of noble traits, no good guy is secretly bad or must overcome some prior act of evil. The King isn’t stupid or an ass. He loves his daughter. Jack is heroic. Elmont is heroic. And they all rise to the occasion. And not a single character rolls his eye to the audience telling them they view the film as a joke.
It’s too bad this film was let down by its script, and I mean this in two ways. First, it seems clear that with the lack of cynicism, the writer was at a bit of a loss for how to come up with conflict to keep the film moving. Indeed, understanding the structure of modern scripts, you can see the points where the various negative parts usually sit, and in their place here you get characters lamenting that they are incapable of doing anything except waiting, i.e. the writer didn’t fill those parts with non-cynical plot points or conflict. The writer also struggled a bit with how to have Jack earn the respect of others around him; it happens far too quickly and too easily. I think these points are related. Had the writer focused the script more on Jack’s journey from good but stupid farm boy to hero of the Kingdom and stretched this out over the course of the movie, then I think this could have been quite a rousing film. But he didn’t. So instead, you end up with a film that is about moving between set pieces.
So I feel mixed about recommending this film. This is a fun movie, but don’t expect anything that will make an impression on you... but it’s not going to insult you or turn you off either. It is a decent movie and I respect what it was trying to do and I think it’s worth your time if you’re just looking to be entertained, but it never moves beyond that, and that's too bad.