After seeing Snow White turned into a rebellious warrior (Snow White and the Huntsman), Hansel and Gretel become witch hunters, and Red Riding Hood a Twilight like tale of forbidden love (Red Riding Hood), it makes sense that Hollywood would hit up Jack and the Beanstalk for whatever worthless contemporary reimagining it can. After all, the idea has potential (one small boy against a raging humongous ogre) and we now live in an age where special effects can sell anything. Somewhere between the bedtime story and the big screen, however, something got lost in the translation. Bryan Singer’s sloppy, stodgy Jack the Giant Slayer may think it’s an exciting epic. On the contrary, it’s merely mediocre, commercialized claptrap.
Jack (Nicholas Hoult), who lives with his angry uncle, has to take the family horse and cart to market one day. He’s poor, you see, and needs the cash pronto. Hoping to find a buyer, he instead discovers Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) who is desperate to escape her father, King Brahmwell’s (Ian McShane) plan of marrying her off to his chief advisor, Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci). Jack loses his steed to a monk, but ends up with a pocket full of “ancient artifacts” which, when mixed with a torrential downpour, quickly become a beanstalk. At the top of said mammoth vine is a race of giants who have longed to return to Earth. You see, they love the taste of human flesh and have been exiled because of a magical crown. When Roderick comes into possession of said object, all Colossus Hell breaks loose. Jack, of course, must save the day.
Preplanned and committee formulated, Jack the Giant Slayer is bland, base moviemaking. It lacks panache, invention, and most importantly, a real reason to care. Sure, we get some iffy F/X, many looking like they need a few more weeks in the supercomputer to render properly, and the quotient of fun to forced energy is disturbing. For his part, Singer signs up his cast, contemplates his pointless 3D compositions, and aims the camera in the proper direction. There is nothing here to suggest his status as a first class filmmaker. Instead, he’s an “auteur” for hire, a vague visionary whose lived a bit too long off his X-Men credentials. Outside of those comic book films, and his Usual Suspects debut, he’s done little to warrant his fanboy fame.
His actors don’t help matters much. Hoult is a decent young hero but Tomlinson comes across as too modern to perform her period piece duties. The same can be said about McShane and Tucci. The former finds the proper balance between English accent authenticity and mere boredom, while the latter chews the scenery like he’s a talent termite. And why is Ewan McGregor here as a lax king’s guard? But perhaps the biggest letdown is the tribe of giants. While the leader is saddled with a borderline-hate-crime-handicapped twin head, the others are generic and uninteresting. It says something significant about a film when you really don’t care to see more of the aimless eye candy on display. The beanstalk may be cool. The giants are a joke.
With a hook that’s only half-backed and a delivery that dull and perfunctory, Jack the Giant Slayer continues on the current trend of taking fairy tales and forcing them into otherwise incongruent genres. Had this been a comedy or a thriller, maybe it might work. As an action adventure, it’s below average.