Jack the Giant Slayer
Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack who lived on a modest farm with his mother near a small town. Times were difficult and hid mother announced that their only asset of value, their cow, Jack is sent off to sell the animal obtaining the best deal possible. Jack is oft referred to as naive which in story time parlance means he’s a brick or too short of a full load. The simple boy is deceived by a trope present through mythology and folktales, the trickster. This stranger pulls a fast one obtaining the cow for a few ‘magic beans’. He plants them. A huge bean stalk grows jack climbs it. On top he discovers a richly appointed home full of fabulous treasures. A giant appears; Jack grabs all the loot he can and escapes down the beanstalk. The giant pursues to rightfully regain his rightful belongings. Jack chops down the bean stalk killing the giant in the process. Normally the recanting of this bedtime story requires ten to fifteen munities depending on the inherent patience of the parent. The latest film version required 114 minutes and an estimated budget of about $195 million. This is part of a trend currently embraced to turn simple fairy tales and bed time stories into box office smash action movies. Some may complain that filmmakers are taking the innocent fables of childhood and running them into gory horror stories. The fact is most of the fairy tales we blithely tell our children here horror story where originally written by the Brothers Grimm and several; of their contemporaries. The original stories are full of child abuse, murder, torture and child abuse.
In the above example we fundamentally have juvenile delinquent conducting burglary resulting in an action tantamount to felony murder. One incarnation of this interpretation of these mythical events came closer to the horrifying truth can be found in Steven Sondheim hit Broadway musical ‘Into the Woods’. These fractured fairy tales showed the lying abuse criminal activity is pretested as well as the repercussions that follow these activities; Mrs. Giant coming to avenger the brutal murder of her husband of or love stories whose happy endings are destroyed by infidelity. This play was significantly before this current trend of the anti-fairy tale but is certain at least partially responsible for it.
Initially I held this new usage in some distain, not because they were destroying fond childhood memories, they weren’t. My folks didn’t fit into the bedtime story motif and I did grow up with Fractured Fairy Tales’ on ‘Bullwinkle’. It was just many of the initial forays into this new use of the genre were not well done. The purpose appeared to be cramming the Teutonic roughness of the original fairy tales into the modern sadism oriented horror movies. ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ is part of a movement to refine these stories to attract the sensibilities of a modern audience. While still subject the overuse of mindless violence therein a far away kingdom a young man, ‘Jack’ an honest attempt at storytelling, particularly the venerable remolding a classic through the eyes of another generation. I recently reviewed a similar attempt to remold ‘Hansel and Gretel’ but that movie seem to contrive where it should have retro fit the distinctive elements of the story. at least the screen writers in this instance, Darren Lemke and Christopher McQuarrie found a way to retain the basics while providing sufficient modernization to enhance the enjoy ability of the film. Of course, as in many cases, it does come down to the ability of the director properly pull the revised aspects of the story together and sell it. Filmmaker Bryan Singer was the proper choice for the task. His career has been bolstered by an innate ability to reinvent a story created for one media presenting in in a modern means of presentation. He successfully reignited the comic book mutant super power trope with the ‘X-Men’ franchise and completely remolded the world’s most famous detective, ‘Sherlock Holmes’ as a highly unorthodox diagnostician, Gregory House in the TV series ‘House, M.D.’. With this seasoned knack for adaption his view of Jack and the Beanstalk was significantly more cohesive that other modern fairy tale attempts. Singer and McQuarrie collaborated previously in what is arguably one of cinema’s best crime thrillers, ‘The Usual Suspects’ so I had an unusually high level of anticipation for this movie.
Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a young man living in a faraway kingdom infatuated with the legend King Erik, a ruler responsible for defeating an invading army of giants that descended from their homeland in the sky. The means to accomplishing this was through employing a magically imbued with the ability to control the invaders. The Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) is also intrigued by the legend. and the couple hit it off. Years later Jack is back in town to sell a horse from his uncle’s farm. In the town square Jack defends the princess from a group of local ruffians. Jack is offered a handsome price from the house by a monk (Simon Lowe, who uses some magic beans as collateral. It turns out that he had just robbed the study of Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci). Back in the castle an argument erupts between King Brahmwell (Ian McCain) and his daughter; she wants to explore the world but the king has promised her in marriage to the much older Roderick. Of course Jack’s uncle is certain Jack was conned and tosses the beans outside their window. We can pretty much write the remainder of the script on auto pilot at this point but there are some notable twists yet to be revealed.
The tale is understandably darker and more emotionally intense than any variation of the root story, an understandable sign of the times. In the exceptionally talented hands of Bryan Singer, once again has fund away to completely reinvigorate something comfortably familiar. The country boy Jack has been reimagined as strongly dedicated young man with a natural gift for action. Some details are lost to time, the cow now a horse, the beans collateral not payment and tied to a legacy of a grand war with a giant species. This too is part of this filmmaker’s intrinsic style. The film was created for presentation in 3D, itself a revised trend and is generally still in the phase of a marketing gimmick for the majority of directors. Singer is among the meager handful of filmmakers that realize the potential this illusion of depth provides. Men like this have gone beyond 3D for another arrow in the special effects quiver and understand that like audio and color before it, 3 D is in integral part of the artistic use of cinema for relating a story from one human being to another.