I recently went and saw Jack the Giant Slayer, just one of the latest installments to a fairy tale turned action movie. I got to the theater just in time to check out the previews:Olympus Has Fallen, GI Joe 2, Jurassic Park 3D, Oblivion, Iron Man 3, and Man of Steel. I smirked as I noticed the common theme, watching these five previews I was ready for an action flick. [Spoilers Ahead]
The beginning opened up with Monks and magic; these Monks wanted to find a way to their way to God. They are able to procure magic beans that climb to the heavens, but instead of finding God they found the giants. The two races set out to destroy each other and after a terrible battle and much bloodshed the king, King Eric, melts down one of the giant’s hearts and mixes it with metal and forms a crown, a crown that can control the giants when worn. He sends them back to their domain in the sky and cuts down the beanstalk where once again in their castle the plot the return to the world of the humans to seek their revenge.
The opening sequence was weird. The creators set out to tell the story of King Eric and the Giants but was done in weird CGI; it automatically made me nervous for the rest of the film. It was a combination between what was supposed to be wooden puppets and cartoons. What I did find interesting about the story was the Monks desire to find God, combing spiritual with mystical – questioning God’s interaction with mankind and mankind’s desire for a connection with God.
Once the CGI stops the story starts years after the Giants’ war (which has turned into a myth) with a mother and a father reading to their children, the mother reads to her daughter and the father reads to his son. Ten year progress and the young children are now eighteen and like most fairy tales they families have been broken apart by death. The young boy, Jack, is being raised by his cantankerous uncle. While the young woman, the princess Isabelle, has lost her mother and is left to be raised by the overprotective King. She often escapes from the castle and catches eyes with Jack who saves her from being assaulted by some older men (Jack’s already saving the princess? Does this movie stray away from the stereotypical fairy tale at all?).
The princess is bound to marry Roderick one of the king’s advisers, who reminded me far too much of this Disney scenario. Roderick is a complete jerk and has his own agenda. He wants to find the beans and rule the giants, conquering not only the giants realm but also the earthly realm as well. He has kept the beans and the crown safe but they are stolen by a monk who is trying to protect the English realm from this evil man. But, before he is able to escape the city he hands off the the beans to Jack in exchange for the horse he was sent to town to sell with the promise that the when he returned them to the monastery they would pay him well.
Jack returns home to face his uncle who is supremely disappointed in Jack’s return investment, knocks the beans out of his hands and one falls between the cracks of the floor underneath the house. Meanwhile the princess has an argument with her father and ends up running away from home (seriously way more connections to this movie than I thought about in theaters). It starts to storm and the young princess seeks shelter at Jack’s house. Things escalate quickly when the bean is underneath the house is hit by some of the running water from the rain, literally the beanstalk grows at hyper-speed and the vines start to lift up the house bringing it to the sky but not before the Jack and Princess Isabelle are separated from each other. Jack falls to the ground while Princess Isabelle is locked inside the house.
The king has sent out a search party and they find Jack at the bottom of the beanstalk. When he hears what has happened to his daughter he sends his best men up the beanstalk to rescue her and take her back home. Jack is allowed to go up with them along with the evil Roderick. He cons the beans away from Jack while also putting the crown on his head to control the giants. Jack and the rest of the King’s Guard is able to save Isabelle and are ready to bring her back down to earth just as Roderick is about to head down to earth with his legion of giants. Down below the king has started to cut down the beanstalk knowing that he is sacrificing the life of his daughter in order to save the rest of the population. A fight ensues between one of the King’s Guard and Roderick and Roderick dies but before the King’s Guard can grab the crown one of the giant’s takes it – he is now in charge of his fellow giants. But, before they can head back to earth the beanstalk is cut down. The giant is infuriated but not for long; he sees the beans the Roderick conned away from Jack and throws them into the water and the giants descend with the vines to the earth the exact their revenge.
The fight seen finally shows up for the last twenty minutes of the movie bringing burning moats, fully grown trees being lit by fire and tossed around like frisbees by the giants, and some weaponry that looked far too ahead of its time for that time period. To make a long story short, or in this case just less long, Jack kills the giant that had the crown and sends the giants back to their home in the sky. After his victory Jack and Isabelle marry and it the story ends with their children asking to hear about the tale of the giants.
I had many mixed feelings about this film. Every time I thought it was going to redeem itself, whether with the plot or its messages I was always a little disappointed. From the previews that I saw I knew this would be a male driven story, I mean it should be all about Jack but when they threw in a princess I was intrigued. Isabelle has a great adventurous spirit but usually ends up way over her head. Even in her first meeting with Jack she needs to he protected; she doesn’t know how to handle herself but longs to be something more than just her father’s caged bird. One of my favorite moments in the movie happened between Jack and Isabelle when she was questioning her lie and how useless she felt, “A princess is such a useless thing.” Jack was appalled by her statement telling her that no one was useless and asking her to imagine all the good things she could do when she was queen.
What I did admire about this movie is it’s strong message to follow one’s dreams. Okay, maybe I’m a sucker for positive messages aimed at those in their teens; it’s such a rough age and a time of great transition and society is hard on those who aren’t sure where they fit in. This movie reinforces that everybody has a place within society even if your family is poor or you feel trapped by your parent’s ideas.
Overall I enjoyed it; there were parts that made me giggle, good action, even though some of the plot was fairly predictable (which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, it’s a popular fairy tale, most people know the story). It’s always fun to see the what Hollywood does to their renditions of fairy tales and this was no exception. When you do watch it make sure you have the right Jack in mind because there’s a couple different versions, the watered down version told to young children and the original with lines like, ” Then having tantalised the giant for a while, he [Jack] gave him a most weighty knock with his pickaxe on the very crown of his head, and killed him on the spot.” Happy giant hunting!