Jack the Giant Slayer (3D)

What it's about:

The story of an ancient war that is reignited when a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants. Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing the young man, Jack, into the battle of his life to stop them. Fighting for a kingdom, its people, and the love of a brave princess, he comes face-to-face with the unstoppable warriors he thought only existed in legend - and gets the chance to become a legend himself.
What we thought:

Jack the Giant Slayer is a film which combines the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk with the old Arthurian tale of Jack the Giant Killer. Seeing as this film comes out in the wake of Hansel and Gretel and Snow White and The Huntsman, maybe Hollywood has decided that fairytales are the next big thing.

In this story, Jack goes to town to sell a horse, comes back home with what he claims are magic beans, yadda yadda yadda, you know the story. In this version, a princess is trapped far up the beanstalk and when the King sends his guards up to rescue her, Jack offers to aid in the rescue. 

It goes without saying that when they get to the top of the beanstalk, they don't find only giant beans (or any giant beans for that matter, as they are curiously absent).

As played by Nicholas Hoult (who's on something of a roll with another lead performance in Warm Bodies currently on circuit), Jack is a handsome fellow. Jack is true. Jack is brave. Jack always does the right thing. Jack will always come to the rescue of a maiden in distress. Jack has great hair even when climbing a tree to a faraway land and there aren't any decent hair products about (this, by the way, applies to everyone in the film, barring the giants, who care more for eating things than cosmetics).

All this means that, like many heroes, Jack is thoroughly, dependably dull.

Eleanor Tomlinson plays Princess Isabelle, who is headstrong, defiant and thinks for herself, except when she needs rescuing, which is when she leaves the thinking to Jack or any other heroic type. Stanley Tucci plays the villain as if he spent days researching cartoons from the eighties while Ian McShane (as the king) speaks in a kind and noble voice and that's about all the effort he puts in.

The only one who seems to be having any real fun is Ewan McGregor, as Elmont, the leader of the king’s knights, who seems to be halfway a brave and noble hero and halfway an egotistical idiot. One gets the feeling that the performances may have been kicked up a notch by a better script as this one (by Christopher McQarrie, no less) feels somewhat lacking.

Still, Bryan Singer makes up for the lack of colour in his script and leading man by packing the film with incident and spectacle. Giants eat people, trample on them and come the film’s climax, smash their way through castle walls and up through floors. We even get the pleasure of witnessing a giant digging through his nose, which, I’ll admit, isn't seen very often in cinema, and I think the industry will manage a few more years before it's seen again.

Jack the Giant Slayer is an adventure and it has enough spectacle and derring-do that entertains to warrant that label. The special effects do feel a bit wanting and it's hard at times to see the giants past the CGI that invented them. But it does build to an exciting climax and despite its flaws, it never bored me.