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Jack the Giant Slayer
Jack, not yet Jack the Giant Slayer, is a poor peasant boy who starts out (in true fairy tale fashion) in a happy life situation with his dad, who reads to him about the mythical giants that are supposed to live in the sky between earth and heaven. Of course, even though his dad says that he doesn’t know whether giants are real or not, Jack will eventually find out that they are. Jack’s dad dies, and he ends up living with his less than pleasant uncle. Jack’s uncle sends him to the city sell their horse and cart to survive. Jack takes the horse and cart into the city, and he meets princess Isabella, who keeps running away from the safety of the palace to find adventure.
This might be the first time Jack’s met the princess, but the audience watched her grow up and learn the myths of the giants just like Jack did. So it seems less contrived than a usual romantic first meeting when they finally end up together and their eyes meet for the first time.
Although the movie is named after Jack, princess Isabella is just as much a main character as he is, which means she’s more developed than the usual love interest, and we care if Jack actually rescues her or not.
One of the problems with this movie was the pacing. We spend a lot of time learning about Jack and Isabella and what’s going on in the kingdom, but I’m sitting there waiting to see the dang giants! Eventually the beanstalk grows, taking his house and the princess Isabella into the sky and the giant kingdom.
The beanstalk is an important part of the film, and it looks amazing. It’s not your stereotypical one vine that stretches into the sky. This beanstalk has buttresses like a medieval cathedral and its many vines wind together as thick as a castle tower. It’s definitely something that you would look at and say ‘hell no I’m not climbing that!’ whether you knew there were giants up there or not.
The giants themselves are extremely well done. I really like them a lot because they’re not just humans on a larger scale. They share some basic features, but the giants have rougher skin and always seem to be filthy, with nasty cracked and infected nails. Each one has a unique feature, and Fee, Fye, Foe and Fumm are the best looking of the one-headed giants. General Fallon, the main giant villain, has two heads. The smart head is played by Bill Nighy (Viktor from the Underworld series) and the dumb head is played by John Kassir (The Cryptkeeper from Tales from the Crypt.) He has the most back story of the giants and the most screen time too, which is understandable because he’s an awesome villain. He menaces Isabelle more than Jack for most of the film, but that’s because Jack’s rival for Isabelle’s affection is a man named Roderick, played by Stanley Tucci.
The human cast does a great job as well. Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a good hero even if he’s not the most well-trained. For me, the one character who needed more screen time was Ewan McGregor as Elmont, the leader of the team sent to rescue Isabelle. He was more light-hearted and cheerful than Jack, even in the most dangerous situations. I loved that he lived for the adventure. Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) spends part of her time playing plot device to get Jack and company up into the land at the top of the beanstalk, but she’s also a lively character who wants adventure as much as Jack does, even though I think she gets more than she bargained for with all the giants.
The end is an epic battle that makes all the waiting for the giants to do something cool worth it. What happens to General Fallon is an awesome thing, but I won’t give any details about it away. Jack the Giant Slayer is a hell of a lot of fun, and it looks especially good in the Imax format, as you expect giants would.