‘Slaying’ the Disney Fairytale

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

An interesting trend has developed in Hollywood. The movie industry seems to think that by taking classic fairytales and stripping them of Disney-like characteristics, people will flock see these “repackaged” stories as something new and original.

Gearing these new “Grimm” fairytales toward an adult audience, Hollywood uses special effects and violence, and casts well-known actors and actresses to hook viewers as seen in movie titles such as “Snow White and the Huntsman” and, more recently, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.” This trend seems to be profitable, because on March 1, New Line Cinema unveiled a PG-13 version of Jack and the Beanstalk, premiering under the thrilling title, “Jack the Giant Slayer.”

“Jack the Giant Slayer” follows the farmer boy Jack and the princess Isabelle in the kingdom of Cloister. Director Bryan Singer allowed the writer Darren Lemke to add twists and turns to the classic fairytale. Added to the story was a legendary story about giants that acted as a preface. A magical crown with the power to control the giants coincides with magical beans that create sporadic destructive beanstalks that connect the giant realm with the human realm.

Jack, played by Nicolas Hoult, is a naive, hopeful hero who is afraid of heights and has a crush on the princess. His giant slaying is more pure luck and common sense than actual gladiator-style slaying, but he is tolerable with his noble attitude and attractive face.

The princess, played by Eleanor Tomlinson, is one-dimensional in her acting and plays an important role throughout the movie as your average lady in distress, but the fact that she puts herself into those situations makes her character somewhat confusing. I appreciated that Hollywood did not try to take an overused approach of creating a “femme fatale” princess, but throughout the movie, the princess is trying to “find an adventure,” but remains completely helpless when she falls into peril.

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

The most developed character is Ewan McGregor, who plays a witty, well-trained captain who could have been on the short side of a love triangle between Jack and the princess, but the writers chose not to develop this.

I found the script of the movie very lacking. The script had me in the mindset that I was watching a Disney film, with shallow dialogue such as “Princesses are so useless,” to which was replied, “Princesses are the most useful.” There were also the couple of “bean” one-liners that peppered, but not overwhelmed, the script. As a viewer, I felt the plot was easy to follow. A stereotypical power-hungry second-in-command is the antagonist, and with his death, a false feeling of security and closure eventually leads to a climactic giant invasion.

The true conclusion was easy to guess and the movie ended in a perfect Disney-like happily ever after. As the film unfolded, I felt that too much time was focused on the introduction, with the middle and ending portions being rushed. The time in the giants’ kingdom was hurried and not very well developed, while the time below was drawn out.

“Jack the Giant Slayer” could have easily been named “Jack and the Beanstalk” and rated PG if not for the grotesque giants, who were unsanitary and revolting, biting characters’ heads off or swallowing them whole. The film showed these horrific giants living in a land similar to the colorful utopia humanity lives in below except for the huge stone giant heads. I felt that the film fell short in the creation of the giant realm, but I approved of the creativity in developing the unique giants themselves and their repulsing portrayal.

Leaving the theatre, I was left with the question: Did they mean for this to be a kids’ movie or an adult movie?  I felt neither the director nor the writers could commit to a clear vision for this movie and certain special effects exposed a strained pocketbook.

The movie is fairly decent, and while it does somewhat succeed in creating a refreshing story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” it falls short in its portrayal, writing and at times special effects.

Only recommended if: You can part with the Disney portrayal, and deal with sub-par effects.