For as long I can remember, Hollywood has been making movies based on fairy tales. In the last few years, they’ve really gotten on the fairy tale bandwagon again. And I’m talking big budget CGIfests. It was around the release of Red Riding Hood (2011) that this new slate of films kicked off. Since then we’ve seen a couple of Snow White based movies, one about Hansel and Gretel, and one about Jack And The Beanstalk. I have only seen two of them (normally this sub-genre of Fantasy movies doesn’t really interest me). I only took in Red Riding Hood because they turned it into a werewolf movie. It was a good-looking film, with a good-looking CGI wolf, but the story itself didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. It wasn’t until Paramount’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) and Warner Brothers’ Jack The Giant Slayer (2013) that this sub-genre suddenly started to pique my interest.
I like Fantasy movies in general, and after being teased by the man-eating 50 foot tall Cyclops in Wrath Of The Titan (2012), I was hoping Hollywood would do something else along the lines of the ‘marauding Giants’ plot-line in some near future movie. This may explain why I latched onto Jack The Giant Slayer the moment I saw the first trailer.
The movie opens up with a prologue of two fathers, from two different families, telling their respective son and daughter the bedtime story of the Giants that used to menace human kind. Of course, later on, we learn that bedtime story was all true and destined to repeat itself thanks to Jack (Nicholas Hoult). As the story goes, Jack heads off to the market to sell his horse and some belongings, but ends up coming home with a handful of beans. He and his uncle are poor and beans just don’t cut it.
We also learn more about that daughter we saw in the prologue. Her name is Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) and she’s a princess fated to marry a man she does not love. On occasions she also gets cabin fever in her huge castle. What results is her disguising herself as a commoner and sneaking out to see the world. Isabelle and Jack’s worlds collide one night when she gets caught in a rainstorm and heads off to seek shelter at his home. Earlier he and his father argued and the beans were swept off the table. One of them was missed as it rolled under the floorboards and into the watery mud underneath. The monk that gave him the beans at the market that afternoon warned Jack to never get them wet.
During their conversation where you can tell they are both getting smitten with each other, the infamous beanstalk takes route and grows like wildfire, ripping up through the cabin, and taking it up into the sky with Isabelle trapped inside.
The next morning King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) puts together a band of men to climb the beanstalk and get his daughter back. It goes without saying that Jack accompanies them. Unfortunately, not all the men the King has sent are loyal do-gooders. We know from the start that, perhaps, Ewan McGregor’s character, Elmont, is. At least, we hope he is. And, yes, he does turn out to be one, but Isabelle’s future husband, Roderick (Stanley Tucci), and Roderick’s “buddy,” Wicke, (Ewan Bremmer) are pretty much traitorous scum.
Even the journey up the beanstalk is fraught with peril. If an accidental fall doesn’t kill you, then Roderick and Wicke will, as evidenced by a thunderstorm that strikes during the night. Three of the men lose their footing and slip, but the rope they are all tied to keeps them secured as they dangle precariously above the blackness that will soon be their death. Roderick and Wicke are also lashed to this rope and instead of trying to pull them up, they decide to save their own skins instead and cut them loose.
For some reason when they all finally reach the “Land Of The Giants,” the terrain they initially land on had me thinking about the movie The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958). There’s a scene where these Cyclops’ terrorize Sinbad and his crew on similar terrain.
The eventual introductions of the Giants was memorable and the CGI for them was expertly done. They were also well integrated into the scenes where they had to handle the live actors. There is no gore whatsoever in this movie, but the Giants are portrayed as they should be and that’s as the cannibalistic monsters the fairy tale hints to us they are. People are eaten and stepped on and have gruesome things happen to them, but the camera cuts away at that crucial moment leaving our imaginations to fill in the bloody blanks. It helps immensely that the actors who are witness to the carnage react with just the right amount of convincing horror to make the imagined cannibalism horrifying to envision.
The story didn’t go exactly where I anticipated it would, which was good thing, and certain characters had their arcs wrapped up at intervals I wasn’t expecting. A pleasant surprise indeed. The ending itself was something I wasn’t expecting either, making the events you’ve just seen the origin of how we got the Jack And The Beanstalk tale.
A sequel of sorts is teased, but I don’t think I’d want to see that version. Can’t explain why without giving anymore away.
The movie comes in three versions: DVD/Ultraviolet Digital Copy, Blu-Ray 3D/Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Digital Copy and a Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Digital Copy. This review is being done on the Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Digital Copy.
The transfer is a 1080p high definition (anamorphic) 2.40:1 and looks stunning. Audio options are English 5.1 DTS-HD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1. For the hearing/language impaired you get English, French and Spanish subtitles.
There’s good news and bad news regarding the extra features. In short, you get six featurettes, some deleted scenes and a gag reel. If you don’t own a blu-ray player, all you get are the deleted scenes and the gag reel. The featurettes have only been included on the 3D and blu-ray discs. Here’s how everything breaks down:
‘Deleted Scenes’ (8:27): An alternate beginning is included, and a majority of Jack’s exploration of the Giants’ lair was cut, not to mention a scene with his father during the ending siege. Aside from the alternate beginning, the rest of the scenes I thought should have been restored.
‘Gag Reel’ (3:09): Not really a laugh riot but amusing nonetheless.
The six featurettes have been integrated into a game called, “Become A Giant Slayer” Interactive Experience. Basically, your objective is to move up the beanstalk and along the way the featuretes are revealed. It’s not hard. Even when you fall to your death from a boulder a giant has hurled down at you beginning again and getting back to where you left off is a piece of cake. Here’s the breakdown of the featurettes:
‘Know Your Enemy’ (4:23)—covers the Giants themselves; mostly appearance and disposition.
‘Suiting Up’ (3:55)—covers the wardrobe the actors and the CGI Giants wore.
‘The Magic Of A Beanstalk’ (3:03)—creation of the stalk itself; practical and CGI.
‘How To Zip’ (2:04)—covers one particular scene where the actors had to “zip-line” over to another part of the beanstalk.
‘Giant’s Kitchen’ (2:57)—this one is all about the creation of the scene where this Giant is prepping two of the characters to cook and eat.
‘Defending Your Kingdom’ (3:05)—this one covers the siege scene at the end where the Giants attack the castle.
Your prize when you reach the top of the beanstalk is a deleted scene, a second alternate opening by the looks of it. Personally, the one that ended up in the film was the best one.
I wish there had been a commentary done with the cast and/director. This was one of those fun “popcorn movies” I really enjoyed.
Own “Jack the Giant Slayer” on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Download, Available Everywhere Tomorrow, 6/18/2013.