Once again, what is old has become new, and Hollywood has taken it upon themselves to reap the rewards of our desire for old tales retold. In the way of fairy tales reimagined, ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’, delights and awes as it delivers the familiar tale of a boy who trades for magic beans. Throughout the movie director Bryan Singer weaves new thread into old, and never lets go of what is, and always has been, at the heart of this story–the wonder and delight of a simple farm boy growing and changing as he discovers the much wider world around him–and it is all the better for it. Whether it is a particularly well written script, a fine bit of acting, or director’s vision, the overall direction of the movie, and its underlying story, is a fine one.
At the outset, the movie caters to a bit of back story, and though it could be argued that this tale is all too familiar to be needing back story at all, it does do a fine job of not only introducing the back story itself, but it also introduces Jack as a young lad recounting the tales of Eric the Great, King of Albion, and renowned imprisoner of the giants. Jack asks at the end of this scene, “Father how do you know there are not giants?”–a perfectly apt question from a child who trusts his father’s words–and the father does not disappoint. “I don’t,” he responds.
From here the story never ambles about, and a parallelism between Jack the farm boy, and Isabelle the princess quickly transitions us into the rest of the story as well as giving us reason to believe that these two characters are destined for one another. The inciting incident, as we all know, is of course when Jack obtains the beans, but Bryan Singer and team, don’t deliver this to us on a platter, but instead gives us some rich context, and deepens the world further with details that set the stage for future conflict; this story may be based on Jack and the Beanstalk, but it is more than that, and the sum of its parts adds more and more until, at the end, it is worth more than all its individual components.
I am a big fan of the story’s overall concise structuring and, as a writer, I enjoyed the way the story made it easy to dissect and learn from. Each plot point presents itself with a clarity I have not always seen in other films, and even upon reviewing the movie again, I was able to discern more than I had upon first viewing. The Hero’s Journey is, to a degree, adhered to though I am hard pressed to say anyone was Jack’s mentor–not even Ewan McGregor as the appreciable Elmont.
I much enjoyed the moments of wit offered, and even the giants of the story have their charm. Ralph Brown plays a particularly good General Entin, and he reminds me so much of the acclaimed Bill Nighy that I in fact mistook him right up until doing this review. Even Fee, Fye, Foe, and Fumm make an appearance, giving the giants not only their own unique, and apt, naming system, but also a reason for having what would otherwise feel like a tacked-on line in the movie.
Throughout the entire movie, other than one brief moment in the climax of the story, the giants always feel larger, and more in charge, with an authenticity that must have taken more than a little Hollywood magic considering the giants are digitally created, and even the beanstalk is given its due with a ripping good scene that, though some moments defy belief, is still fun to watch.
I’ll end this review in short by saying that ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’ does more than just take us on a wild ride. It can, at moments, be funny with spot on humor*, raise questions about prejudices**, and even teach us the value of self-reliance. I won’t go so far as to say that everyone will see the movie the same way as I do, but like all good fairy tales it does make you want to believe that there is out there a terrific, and wonderful world beyond our own that is full of possibilities. If you watch ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’, I hope you enjoy it as I did.
* Pigs in a blanket comes to mind, as does the incredulous line “You can choke on my bones!”
** The fountain heads came from somewhere, so there must have been a giant somewhere along the line who favored art over bashing in people’s heads.
–Thanks for joining me, I hope you enjoyed this critique as well. It was fun to do, and I’m sure I will do another one soon.–