Jack the Giant Slayer: ***/*****, or 7/10
Bryan Singer's reimagining of the story about the farmboy Jack who fought savage giants mixes the cheerful British fairy tale Jack and the Bean Stalk with the darker and more violent related tale of Jack the Giant Killer, resulting in a hybrid which incorporates the key narrative elements of both for its own plot purposes. The result is an entertaining adventure flick which sadly looses some of its pleasuring punch by trusting in overly trite but true fairy tale signifiers too much. Simple country boy Jack (Nicholas Hoult, X-Men: First Class) meets gorgeous princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), who prefers adventure over the boring life of royalty. She gets more than she bargained for when she seeks shelter at Jack's home during a stormy night, just when alleged magic beans he spilled take root and quickly form a giant bean stalk, rising to a strange land above the clouds and sweeping the girl along. The King sends a rescue party to retrieve his daughter, and Jack volunteers to save this girl that's oh so out of his league despite their mutual attractions. Unfortunately for their young love, the land in the skies is inhabited by a race of brutal giants, who were exiled there in ages past so their taste for human flesh would no longer plague mankind. Of course, upon learning a new connection between their two worlds has been established, the monsters soon plan to make use of it to return to Earth and scour the land for human snack food. Thrown in the mix is a subplot regarding a treacherous count (Stanley Tucci) set to marry Isabelle, who only wants to use her to become king himself, and eagerly turns towards controlling the giants via a magic crown to achieve his goal. A solid and simple plot, devoid of surprises, and regrettably hindered by cliché character building, clearly delineating the good guys from the bad, while centered around a fairly boring love affair that all too typically rises above class dinstinctions. It's all a tad too 'Disney' for a capable director like Singer, but there's still a few things to enjoy here. For one thing, there's the abundance of good character actors the likes of Ian McShane and Ewan McGregor (with intriguing facial hair!) that take good care of the supporting roles, but unfortunately can't make the bland performances by the main couple more lively. For another, there's the impressive array of nasty giants that make for a formidable enemy and fun action scenes galore, as well as a bunch of morbidly gory instances of suspense. It's clear the huge budget went first and foremost to the FX departments, who did a hell of a job with the overall design of the vicious creatures – the grotesque two headed giant leader particularly – and their grandiose final battle against their favorite food. If only Singer had spent more time finetuning the story to make it feel a little less old-fashioned and predictable, this movie might have done more slaying at the box office.