Jack the Giant Slayer

Thursday 28th March 2013 | Adam


In a Metro interview, X-Men director Bryan Singer boldly declared fairy tale adaptations as the new superhero franchise. Unlike the superhero genre (beginning respectfully but slowly trickling into mediocrity) the fairy tale genre has yet to yield anything particularly memorable: two terrible Snow White films in the same year, a Twilight version of Red Riding Hood, and a barely concealed remake of The Brothers Grimm starring Hansel and Gretel. Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer is no exception to this disappointing trend of blockbuster films based on children’s stories, yet still manages to best previous attempts...though perhaps not in the way it wanted to.

The film begins with a father telling his son the story of an ancient hero who banished the giants from the realm with the help of a magic crown and late 90s CGI. The boy grows up to be Jack (Nicholas Hoult) who, as we all know, goes to market and trades his horse for magic beans. However, instead of this being the groundwork for Jack climbing the beanstalk and making his fortune, it serves as the basis for a regicidal plot by Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci) to climb the beanstalk, gain control of the giants and murder the King (Ian McShane). And instead of seeking treasure, there is another kind of booty on Jack’s mind in the form of useless Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson).

In between the rescue, the slapstick and the sterilised game of thrones, it is no wonder that so much of this film is unintentionally funny. One character solemnly hams “these beans have the power to change the world,” and a jump cut involving a plummeting giant almost had me choking to death on my Haribo. The actor's performances don’t alleviate this problem either. Nicholas Hoult sleepwalks his way through the film, Ewan McGregor reminds us of that terrible Alec Guinness impression, and Ian McShane stares confusedly around him throughout, perhaps wondering where the rest of the cast of Deadwood are.

On the other hand, the animated giants provide the best performances, with the exception of their two-headed leader – General Fallon (voiced by Bill Nighy and John Kassir). If your chief antagonist is meant to be an intimidating monster don’t stick the boggle eyed, nonsense-spouting head of Shane McGowan on his shoulder to ruin every dramatic line. There is also the slightly troubling symbolism of a magical British crown being used to control and fight giants with Northern Irish accents. Oh, but don’t worry, the giant farted: unintentional political subtext over, tell your kids to clap at the pretty colours.

So it's loud, hammy, and muddled...but at least it doesn’t try to be gritty and oh-so-Gothic like others of its ilk. There is no Amanda Seyfried staring forlornly into the woods or Kristen Stewart trying to rally another generic fantasy army. No, Singer knows better than to do that and keeps it safely on the path of being dumber than a bag of hammers, and thus more like an actual fairy tale, not an Evanescence album cover concept of one. So whilst Jack the Giant Slayer is a very dopey, obnoxious piece of cinema, it still manages to be a far more entertaining waste of time than its po-faced predecessors.

by Adam Hofmeister

Jack the Giant Slayer is out in cinemas now.