Jack the Giant Slayer: A Giant Disappointment

This movie was going to be made, eventually.  In the midst of this fairytale craze Hollywood is experiencing, it was only a matter of time before a revamp of Jack and the Beanstalk was green lit.  However, trendy films aren’t inherently doomed to fail (consider The Avengers). In fact, the most disappointing aspect of Jack the Giant Slayer is how close it comes to succeeding as an enjoyable, child-friendly action film and how, like the giant in the original English folktale, it falls from a great height in utter, utter failure.

The first 90 minutes of Jack the Giant Slayer are genuinely enjoyable.  Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a peasant who wants to be a knight and volunteers to climb the beanstalk to rescue Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), a princess who just wants an adventure. Their characters are cliché but likable and, in any case, their blandness is countered by Elmont (Ewan McGregor), the leader of the king’s guard, and Roderick (Stanley Tucci), the king’s delightfully, 2-dimensionally eeeeevil adviser who is easily the best thing about this film.

It’s around the 90-minute mark that this film goes sour. Without disclosing spoilers, prior to this point, the film seemed to understand that man vs. man is a more interesting conflict than man vs. monster, or, in this case, giant.  The film appeared to be building towards a climax in which Jack and Isabelle would face Roderick and in which the giants would be the tools of villainy, not the villains themselves. Suffice to say that this does not happen and the third act features an incredibly long battle between humans and giants that is bereft of any interesting conflict.

Furthermore, Isabelle is a truly useless character. She is built up as a future queen who wants to prove herself to be a capable adventuress who doesn’t need saving, yet at no point in the film does she do so. She is present in the climax but she doesn’t need to be. Her sole function in this film is to get repeatedly rescued by Jack.

One thing that Jack the Giant Slayer gets right is tone.  While it’s never as moronic as Mirror Mirror, it’s not a self-indulgent, Tolkien rip-off like Snow White and the Huntsman, either.  It seems to understand that the best approach for this story is adventurous and fun.  Other than that, though, it’s an absolute mess.

Also available at the Hofstra Chronicle

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