In a land filled with tales of ancient magic and gigantic villains, a young man finds himself in possession of some magic beans which will change his fate forever.
Based on the English folk tales of the 18th and 19th centuries (which themselves appear to have been cobbled together from various sources) Jack the Giant Slayer is a big budget blockbuster that never quite decides what it wants to be about.
There’s the boy (a drippy Nicholas Hoult) who feels like he’s made for something more, the fairytale princess, an ambitious courtier and a frustrated king/father (Ian McShane). And that’s before those magic beans cause a tectonic ruckus which brings our characters into contact with their ginormous enemies.
X-Men and The Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer knows his way around a set piece, and delivers the goods in the early encounters with the giants, emphasising their terrible size and speed and bringing Jack and his small crew into a world of massive proportions and people pastry.
Dodging giants is a fun distraction for a time but soon the conflict is grounded, literally, ramping up to strangely tiresome castle assault. It just feels like a sequence too indebted to the sprawl of the Lord of the Rings, but with that kind of scale or investment in the characters.
The giants themselves certainly seem to have been designed with much care – each featuring unique features and a suggestion of society in their clothing and surroundings. But few are given the chance to develop any character, despite the fact that we spend a good deal of time listening to them talking when they should be eating someone.
At least Bill Nighy gives his all as one CG head of the giant king Fallon. The performance captured features don’t look much like the man himself and he adopts a Northern Irish drawl which further tortures his distinctive tones but at least he’s trying. Quite why the generally disgusting and villainous giants all had to be Irish is perhaps a question for another time.
Hoult can’t command a role like this just yet in his career and young Eleanor Tomlinson just fine as his female counterpart. And while Stanley Tucci is as watchable as ever he’s not really given enough to do, leaving Ewan McGregor to steal the show as a pompous-voiced royal guard.
Even just a few days on from watching Jack the Giant Slayer, I can’t remember a single particularly thrilling or memorable moment, bar an ending that you may find preposterous. Forgettable – not a word you want associated with a gigantic giant-filled blockbuster.