Jack the Giant Slayer
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci
The X-Men director Bryan Singer turns his attention to fairy tales in this alternative take on Jack and the Beanstalk. The film centres on Jack (Hoult), a humble farmhand who is given a chance of greatness when he unwittingly opens a portal between humankind and a race of giants, intent on taking over their kingdom. He also wishes to win the heart of a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson), captured by the giants and pursued by the deceitful Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci).
Providing a dark twist on popular stories is de rigueur in Hollywood - however, it would be unfair to draw parallels with the modern fairy tale Snow White and the Huntsman, released to great acclaim last year, since this film is far more traditional than that.
There's a princess to be saved (the winsome but ultimately uninteresting Tomlinson), a beanstalk to be climbed and lots of massive, computer-game-like monsters for our hero to face. It's all very good fun, but lacking in any kind of depth.
Indeed, the whole film is an internal battle between the charming human element and a sea of soulless CGI. The performances all have the requisite gusto, but put them in a world more suited to a games console than a cinema, and it's very hard to be too invested in their individual fates.
These performances are what drive the film along (and what prevent it from becoming a glorified children's animation). Hoult has an unassuming air about him that instantly draws you in, while the ever-reliable character actor Tucci steals every scene as Roderick. Ewan McGregor is oddly two dimensional as the professional giant hunter Elmont, seeming like a fantasy version of his Star Wars character, but one can't help feeling this is at least in part due to the director's reluctance to take risks.
With little in the way of scares (unless you count unconvincing CGI giants roaring directly at the screen), and bloodless, PG-rated violence, it's hard to believe the writer-director team that created The Usual Suspects brought us something so generic.
Despite its many flaws, Jack the Giant Slayer is not a bad film, but rather a disappointing one. Younger audience members will be swept up in the 3-D, green-screen-saturated world of adventure, but older patrons expecting a new twist on a well-known story will be surprised to see something very familiar, and rather tame.