Jack the Giant Slayer – spoilers! –

To sum up the plot, we have The Princess Bride meets Lord of the Rings… but with giants.

The movie opens with Jack’s father reading him the fairy tale with a twist: According to the legend, monks made magic beans in order to climb a stalk to heaven (I guess they don’t know their scripture all that well). Instead, they come to the threshold of Gantua, city of Giants in the foothills of the clouds. The Giants chase the monks down the magic beanstalk to the land of men, where they “acquire a taste for acquiring things” – and a taste for human flesh. How did men save themselves? They killed just one of the giants and smelted his heart into a crown (seems obvious now, doesn’t it?).

The crown-bearer has magical power to rule over all the giants. Legend goes that King Eric, sporting his giant-heart-smelted crown commands the giants to leave (seems wasteful), and has the beanstalk cut down. Years pass in peace and King Eric eventually dies and is buried with his crown and the magic beans. The story passes into legend, and some things that should be forgotten were made into a feature film.

The opening sequence cuts back and forth between young Jack and a young princess, each having the story read to them. Ten years after the opening sequence, Jack and the princess meet via token chivalrous moment, the two quickly fall into class-forbidden-love.

The movie starts with a children’s book narrative… and ends with bouts of horror. It was nothing that would give an adult nightmares, but children might just test the water-resistance of the upholstery on their seats. The camera pans away from most of the violence, or it’s seen through some obstruction to stop just short of a Tarantino fairy tale. Still, some scenes can be brutal, even for a film with Slayer in the title.

There is one scene in particular in which a giant swallows a magic bean that literally tears a him to pieces. We see every high-definition detail. I thought it was pretty great, but there were at least a half dozen children in the audience (out of a mere 50 total) who will probably never ingest anything resembling a legume. On the other hand, those same kids will constantly be feeding beans to their younger siblings.

Hopefully that gives you parents an idea of what your kids are in for.

With that in mind, I’m recommending this one for a rental. The animation was pretty amazing, and there were some fun scenes; but these were the only saving graces. The filmmakers just couldn’t decide what the genre should be. I think Pixar should have gotten this contract. They’re good at this story-telling stuff and it might have been better told from the perspective of the giants.

When we’re introduced to Gantua, the fun finally begins. Picture crusty, old men with a penchant for communal grumbling and you’ve got the idea. You might think you’ve stepped into your grandpa’s lodge. I really enjoyed this part as well; something about their mannerisms made the giants’ crotchety nature affable.
…Then Jack stabs one of the giants in the back of his neck with a kitchen knife that would give Rambo goosebumps.

As if the audience wasn’t charged with enough suspension of disbelief, the costume department ran the fashion faux paux gamut with everything from gilded, popped collars to mustache extensions. King Brahmwell, Freddie Mercury wants his armor back.
And, as I often suggest, it needs to pick a moral to get behind.

In the original fairy tale I recently re-read (it was research!) I found a few similarities between Jack and the youth of today. Jack was careless with the responsibilities given him, rationalized theft and had horrible taste in music. Sound familiar?


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