Insert bean pun here.
Jack the Giant Slayer is an entertaining, if meaningless, fairytale adaptation that embellishes the source material without completely choking the life out of it.
Jack (Nicolas Hoult) is a lowly farmhand who, dressed in a hilariously anachronistic leather hoody, dreams of greatness and revels in the stories of giants told to him by his now deceased parents. While attempting to sell his uncle’s horse in the nearby capital city, he encounters the disguised princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) and saves her from some thugs, becoming quite besotted in the process. After she’s whisked away by the royal guards, he trades the nag for some magic beans stolen by a fugitive monk and gets a bit of a telling-off when he returns home for making what seems like a moronic bargain.
Isabelle appears at Jack’s farm unannounced that night, and an errant bean spews forth its fronds from beneath the floorboards, whisking her up towards where giants genuinely live in a cloud-shrouded stronghold. Jack is joined by various noble knights and the king’s advisor Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci) to ascend the big green stalk and rescue the princess. Roderick’s evil intentions quickly become apparent and an army of giants threatens to destroy not just a single royal maiden, but the entire kingdom.
The film is satisfyingly plotted, but the characterisation lacks depth and Jack in particular is a bit of a blank slate. That might help some people project themselves into his everyman boots, but you’d think this kind of kid-oriented project would give you a little more direction.
As long as you are happy to sit back and allow the expensive, if not entirely convincing, digital effects to wash over you, there’s uncomplicated enjoyment to be found in Jack the Giant Slayer. It doesn’t attempt to put a dark twist on a legend like some of its recent contemporaries, nor make its central romance between Jack and Isabelle particularly angsty, which is a treat. But on the other hand it’s difficult to imagine that anyone will become particularly infatuated with its world. It deserves, at best, a conditional recommendation.