Bryan Singer’s (Usual Suspects) visually ambitious new take on “Jack and the Beanstalk” comes to Blu-ray and DVD. Years ago, there was a war between the humans and the giants who live on a floating island far above the Earth’s surface. Connected via a magic beanstalk, the giants rained down destruction on the human race until the human king made a crown out of the heart of a giant and was thus able to use it to control their will. He sent them back to their island and cut down the beanstalk to forever separate his people from the savage giant race above. Years passed and stories of the war became legends; considered to be myth by most until a young farm boy named Jack (Nicholas Hoult; Warm Bodies) trades his uncle’s donkey for a handful of beans he is assured are invaluable. During a storm, and an unexpected visit from the Kingdom’s princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), Jack loses one of the beans under the floorboards where it finds water and grows into an enormous beanstalk, taking his uncle’s house and the princess into the sky. The King (Ian McShane; Scoop) sends a team of his bravest men up the stalk to rescue his daughter from the Giant’s island above.
Ok, that was a lot of summary, but necessary I think. I tend to be a fan of Bryan Singer’s movies. Especially his earlier, more independent stuff like The Usual Suspects, and Apt Pupil. When he made the leap to mainstream blockbusters like X-Men and Superman Returns I was right there with him, and found his Superheroic endeavors to be quite enjoyable despite not being as “important” as his early work. Jack The Giant Slayer continues this string of fun fantasy adventures and I wasn’t disappointed. I keep seeing Nicholas Hoult turn up in various things and am always really impressed with his performance as compared to other things I’ve seen. He’s emerging as a very versatile and intriguing actor, and I look forward to seeing what he’s capable of when he starts playing more adult roles.
The rest of the cast is populated by actors I’ve grown to love over the years. Ewan McGregor’s (The Impossible) role as King Brahmwell’s most gallant knight is probably the most fun I’ve seen McGregor have since Big Fish. Stanley Tucci’s (Easy A) turn as the film’s villain is right up his alley as he is able to bring his trademark cunning to an unconventionally vile character.
I really enjoy how the film defies being predictable. Things move in a fairly conventional way, with the hero vanquishing his foes to rescue the princess, but when the conclusion seems to be settling in and everything has about wrapped up nicely, that’s when the audience is treated to brand new, heightened stakes, new conflicts, and a grander climax worthy of Arthurian legend.
The Jack character is really well put together here. Rather than a collection of virtues contributing to a single familiar archetype, Jack is forced to embrace his weaknesses, and call on strengths that those around him fall short on. His ingenuity and intelligence are what he brings to the table besides his infatuation with the princess and the bravery that gives him. Also, it has to be said that Jack is quite lucky, which I actually enjoyed a lot in the film because it was hilarious how Jack’s role as “Giant Slayer” mostly comes out of a series of accidents that results in dead giants. I guess it’s true what they say: History is written by the victors.
Overall, just a very fun endeavor, and well worth your time if you’re at all a fan of the genre, or have kids. A fresh spin on a story we Bryan Singer, history begin?
Special Features include deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a featurette hosted by Nicholas Hoult about becoming a giant slayer. Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Bros Home Video on June 18.