Jack the Giant Slayer Review: Bryan Singer Makes a Welcome Return to the Blockbuster

Photo Credit: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jack-giant-slayer-warner-bros-424755

If you’ve watched any TV lately you knew this update on “Jack and the Bean Stalk” was coming. But if you hadn’t you might not know this film existed. Bryan Singer hasn’t directed a feature film since 2008’s WWII thriller Valkyrie, which many critics dubbed as “good not great”.

Yet the director’s name has been making headlines for another reason, his return to the X-men franchise which reunites him with many cast members from the two films he directed in 2000 and 2003. And that’s a shame really, because this little March release is one of the better fairy tale re-imaginings.

Far superior to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and, dare I mention it, Snow White and the HunstmanJack the Giant Slayer excels because it never takes itself too seriously and doesn’t get muddled up in building mythology on what is, essentially, a bedtime story.

We meet simple farm boy Jack (Nicholas Hoult) as he is trying to help Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) escape the grasp of some bums at a re-enactment of the legend of the giants. We quickly learn that these two lost souls yearn for adventure rather than the simple life of farming/royalty. As is necessary for the romance element of this type of story, Isabelle’s father (Ian McShane) wants her to marry his assistant Roderick (Stanley Tucci).

Meanwhile, Jack has come into the possession of some magic beans. When Isabelle runs away and happens to end up on Jack’s porch in the pouring rain, the bean grows into a massive stalk that leads right up to giant kingdom. Once the king discovers his daughter is missing he sends Elmont (Ewan McGregor), Jack, Roderick and others to get her back.

It’s a very quick and exposition heavy set up, but once the quest begins, the ball gets rolling and the film develops a Star Wars-y tone. By that I mean logic takes a step back for entertainment. It rains a lot above the clouds, and Hoult’s hair never seems wet the following scene, but you’re having way too much fun to really care.

This sense of adventure strikes when McGregor and Hoult begin their quest as these two actors know how to have a good time on screen. McGregor brings the same swashbuckling bravura he brought to the Star Wars prequels (which he was the best thing about), while Hoult brings the same charming tenderness he brought to X-men: First Class. They are worthy heroes for such a grande tale, delivering cheesy one liners and smirking through even the darkest moments.

The one thing that takes us out of all the fun is the clumsy and obvious CGI used to create the giants. Blockbusters made a decade ago look better than this.

But it’s a minor flaw that you’ll just have to get used to. This isn’t a movie you pick apart and see if it all works. In recent years, films in this subgenre have been so wooden and it seems the only people who like their jobs are the special effect technicians. Here you have writers, directors and actors all showing you that they love their jobs. I’ll take that over the best CGI in the world. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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