The concept of originality is taking a beating in the first half of 2013. There was a Die Hard 5, there is an Iron Man 3 on the way, there is a new Wizard of Oz story next week, there was a Hansel and Gretel grown-up fairy tale last month, and today there is another look at Jack and the Beanstalk. It is 2013 though, cut out the mundane beanstalk and make it Jack the Giant Slayer in IMAX 3D.
Calling Jack a Giant Slayer feels like it gives up the golden goose before the movie starts. There will be no diplomacy, no reasoning, no alliances; awkward farm boy Jack is going to climb himself a mighty plant and grill him some giant meat. Unlike the bloody R-rated Hansel and Gretel, Jack is saddled with a watered down PG-13 affair which means no blood, no harsh words, and no intimate moments with the kingdom’s errant princess.
Why do fairy tale princesses always want to sneak out of the castle for adventure? Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) lives amongst the finest luxury in her father’s castle. She wears jewelry that the local serfs could never buy with a few lifetimes’ worth of savings. Is Jack a serf? Well, he is dirt poor and most of his output probably ends up in the enormous castle as taxes. Anyone who lays eyes on a royal is also expected to get down on one’s knee and lower their unworthy eyes. You can see why it is odd that the Princess is itching to mix it up with the lower caste outside the castle walls.
Jack (Nicholas Hoult), the poor businessman that he is, inevitably winds up with the magic beans, the beanstalk sprouts up and up taking the wayward Princess with it to the land of the giants and boom, we’ve got ourselves a reimagined fairy tale. The beanstalk is very impressive. It has multiple gargantuan, entangled knots which have noticeable weight and structure to them. The screenwriters may have been lazy, but the CGI technicians labored overtime on the most impressive beanstalk you will ever see.
Surprisingly, watching the beanstalk in 3D is worth the extra few coins. Director Brian Singer weaves in frequent 3D sequences, in fact he shows off a little bit doing it, but unlike many action films where the effects become a gimmick, or worse, a nuisance, the 3D is well employed here. The giants are thick, dirty, have atrocious hygiene, and are accompanied by a few dozen thumping sub-woofers wherever they tread. They incorporate needless fart and booger jokes for the wee ones who I doubt will find them funny either as the adults roll their eyes looking for anything a bit more mature to latch on to.
The villains, led by Stanley Tucci, are child-like and buffoonish. The soldiers, led by the wasted talent of Ewan McGregor, are one-dimensional plastic toys. The giants are just there to be menacing giants. Jack and Isabelle don’t get anything to work with either, they just get run through the motions of going up the beanstalk, coming down the beanstalk, and trying to keep their roaming hands from going anywhere beyond first base.
Any movie with Giant Slayer in the title is probably a bit too scary for the kindergarten crowd and teenagers are not going to like this either because it is far too tame for their edgier tastes. I suppose eight and nine year olds will slurp this stuff up like their Saturday morning cereal. Everyone else, you are warned.