Taking its inspiration from the classic fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Slayer is set in a fictional English kingdom during the middle ages. As in the fairy tale, the main character is Jack, a tenant farmer trying his best to make ends meet.
Needing money to repair their room, Jack’s uncle tells him to go to the market and sell their horse. While there, Jack meets a mysterious monk desperate to purchase a horse and give him a handful of “magic beans.” Hesitant at first, Jack is moved by the man of God and, being a trusting sort of lad, makes the exchange.
His significantly more cynical uncle, however, doesn’t care about what the monk told Jack. All he cares about is the desperately needed money that the horse and cart were supposed to fetch so that he could sleep under a newly thatched roof without fear of drowning from the ensuing rain!!!
Shortly thereafter, a storm descends upon the kingdom, water spilling through all those unthatched holes in Jack’s roof, as well as the dirt bellow the floorboards of the house where a magic bean just happened to find its way. Before Jack knows what hit him, a beanstalk sprouts up in his living room, carrying away not only his house, but the princess within it, also.
Jack is a likeable hero, both because he is rather down to earth, and also become he has some good character qualities. Despite his fear of heights, Jack volunteers to accompany the king’s rescue party up the beanstalk (and we aren’t talking a little twiggy stalk here). In the scenes that follow, we see this poverty stricken farm boy showcase traits such as humility, boldness, bravery, and resourcefulness. He saves Elmont (the brave leader of the royal guard and the man who really stole the show, in my opinion), the princess, and ultimately the whole kingdom. And there is just something very unassuming about Jack that made him a hero I could like, instead of roll my eyes at.
Jack’s not the only courageous character here, either. Elmont has pledged his life to King and Country, and we see him stand fast beside both. He often risks life and limb to protect not only the Princess and the King, but also his men and the low-born Jack.
The King won many brownie points when he chose to lead from the front (a trait that I greatly admire) when other men of power might be inclined to rush to safety. In addition, we see that he is a wise man, and one who knows his place as a true leader. In one seen we see him make the decision to cut down the beanstalk (the only hope he has of ever seeing his daughter again) in order to save his kingdom. While it is a heart wrenching call for him to make, and we see him tearfully whispers for Isabel (his daughter) to forgive him for what he must do, we feel like it is the right call for him to make.
Also, Isabel gets points for being just the right mixture of plucky and princessish. Often I am turned off by female characters, but this princess was one I could like. She lives with a desire to be the kind of queen her mother, a kind and wise woman, was, and she sees the value in learning about the people she is going to rule in order to be the best sovereign she can be.
Violence is obviously everyone’s big concern. With a title like Jack the Giant Slayer, you just get a violent vibe, which is perhaps why I was shocked that the movie really wasn’t that violent. I mean, we do have lots of giants eating lots of people, but the actual act is never shown, and blood is pretty much none existent.
In Jack the Giant Slayer, there are several war scenes reminiscent of Lord of the Rings styled fighting (flaming trees get flung over the castle walls and giant boulders get slung in sling-shot fashion at the castle walls), just one a much tamer level. Also, it is safe to say that the giants are… well, man eating giants, and thus, humans get stepped on, grabbed from atop horses, and so forth, but as I said above, the action is never a focus of any shot and most of the time you only see the giants spit out someone armor, letting you know that they are now deceased.
To be fair, though, the humans do a good bit of infliction as well, on each other and the giants. The villain and his obnoxious side-kick kill multiple people (it should be noted the death is always off screen). Sword fights commence, one giant is stabbed, another skewered in the tongue with an arrow, but all in all, it’s very tame and bloodless.
Perhaps the movie’s most grotesque moment comes when someone is torn apart by a rapidly growing beanstalk coming from inside their body, eventually blowing them to pieces (the camera does focus in on a head while this happens).
A smattering of language is also included in this tale, which was, to be quite honest, the worst part of the film, and even that was shockingly few. The words “b –rd,” “p ,” two uses of “h “, and one misuse of the Lord’s name were it for the entire film.
It should also be noted that in the beginning of the film, the princess falls into a rough crowd who eyes her lecherously, but nothing comes of this and she is very quickly rescued from them. She and Jack also share a tame kiss.
Worth concluding with is the fact that the whole beanstalk mess was created by monks who, in their sinful quest to reach heaven before their time (sound like the tower of Babel?…), create beans from dark magic. We’re told that the land of the giants is located halfway between earth and heaven, and God is acknowledged by both humankind and the giants.
Despite the fact that this is a fairytale (albeit a more adult version of the retelling), in the end we see that fairy tale endings don’t just come about. Jack didn’t get to just live happily ever after because some magic bean came his way. No, he had to make sacrifices and put the needs of others before his own in order to get that happy ending.
I really enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t the most brilliant script, it had a few plot holes, and the villain could have been a bit more… well, less ridiculous, but all that said, it was a fun movie with likeable characters and surprisingly clean content. That, added with the stunning visual effects, and the fact that the giants were fierce warriors instead of bumbling brutes, I felt the film was worth a re-watch, which I did with my family in tow. It may not be able to contend with The Avengers, but Jack the Giant Slayer is well worth the watch, if you are as into fairytales and fantasy as I am.