Parents be warned, Jack the Giant Slayer is not as kid-friendly as you might expect. Although it’s based on the Jack and the Beanstalk fable, it’s no cute fairy tale. This is a loud, violent action fantasy that’s closer to Robert Zemeckis’ intense reimaging of Beowulf than any fairy story and may traumatise children under 12.
The violence begins in the film’s prologue where we learn of an ancient conflict between humans and vile, bloodthirsty giants that only ended when a King, wielding a magical crown (thanks Monarchists), forced the giants back up a gargantuan beanstalk to their homeland in the sky. The two worlds seem forever separated until years later when poor, callow farmer’s son Jack (Skins’ Nicholas Hoult) innocently purchases a magical bean which sprouts a massive beanstalk connecting the human world to the murderous giants’ homeland giving the monsters the chance to once again wreak havoc on Earth. The film bears more than a passing resemblance to King Kong as the giants swipe a princess (Elanour Tomlinson) and a rescue team is sent to the dangerous giant world to recover her.
For those who simply want violent, video game-style action this is probably the film for you. There’s some impressive CGI works and the action is almost non-stop once it gets going. Other viewers, however, may find the film’s nerve-shatteringly loud soundtrack, grotesque monsters and violence – which includes axes embedded in heads, dismemberments, giants munching on humans and an extraordinary number of people falling to their deaths – an endurance test.
The relentless and gruelling sensory pummelling this film unleashes just about pulverises any semblance of fun, comedy, romance or meaningful drama. There are quieter moments such as the attempted romantic sub-plot involving Jack and the Princess but these just make the gear change to the violent scenes all the more jarring.
The inclusion of some fine A-list actors, however, such as Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane and Ewen McGregor manages to give the film just enough dramatic credibility to make it watchable. McGregor’s dashing hero Elmont and Tucci’s ruthless villain Roderick, almost give the film a Princes Bride– like post- modern fairy-tale appeal but the film only lets them utter a few words in each scene before whisking them away and having computer generated monsters smash things.
Teenagers will probably love the elaborately constructed action set pieces and cutting edge CGI but anyone wanting subtlety, wit or character development may feel that instead of having just watched a film they’ve instead been beaten about the head with a baseball bat.
Nick’s rating: Two and a half stars.
Director(s): Bryan Singer
Release date: 21st March 2013
Running time: 114 mins.
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