Given their timeless nature, fairytales offer a great opportunity for filmmakers. They offer an immediate point of reference for viewers but are also open to interpretation from the filmmakers, allowing for exciting new adventures to be written. These film adaptations are filled with hits and misses. Earlier this year we saw Hansel and Gretel adapted into a gory, adult adaptation of the classic tale but paper-thin plot and extremely poor execution led that film to be something of a disappointment. Director Bryan Singer hopes his latest film, Jack the Giant Slayer, will fare better.
Based on classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Slayer refines the story a touch. Jack still gets some magic beans and gets yelled at for being a fool, but that is where the similarities end. Singer’s version spruces up the tale with Kings and Princesses, knights, a pair of evil doers intent on destroying the kingdom, and more giants than you can shake a fist at. Oh and it is in 3D.
Nicholas Hoult (who?) stars as Jack, the hapless farmboy, and Eleanor Tomlinson stars as Princess Isabelle, heir to the kingdom. Both dream of adventure beyond the lives they have been cast in but neither can find a way to grasp those dreams. That is of course until a chance meeting sees Jack sell his horse for a sack of beans. And we all know what happens next.
Knowing what happens next is the biggest problem of Jack the Giant Slayer. Despite twisting the tale here and stretching it out there, it all feels amazingly familiar. Of course there is a villain (played by Stanley Tucci) scheming in plain site. And of course he is supposed to marry the Princess, making the developing romance between Jack and the Princess one of forbidden love. And of course there are big scary giants that want to eat everyone because nothing satisfies ones hunger quite like wrapping Ewan McGregor in dough.
Despite its predictability though Jack the Giant Slayer manages to be fun for the most part. The acting is campy and over-the-top, all of it fitting perfectly into the world Singer has created for this tale. The giants are effectively menacing, the battles are exciting, and the special effects are mostly top-notch. It’s not award winning cinema by any stretch but as adventurous family friendly fare, it works just fine.