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Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)
The movie's title is inspired by Jack the Giant Killer, the protagonist from The History of Jack and the Giants, a long-lost chapbook reportedly first published in 1708. Its author is unknown, but its origins are believed to come from Norse folklore. The book places wily monster-slaying farm boy Jack's gory heroics "In the reign of King Arthur, near the Lands-end of England, namely the country of Cornwall." As the tale goes, Jack's adventures brutally ridding the countryside of many colossal man-beasts cites him collecting several magical items - a sword of sharpness, coat of darkness, cap of knowledge, shoes of swiftness - and becoming a Knight of the Round Table. No beanstalks are mentioned, magic or otherwise. Giants lived amongst and fed upon us.
"Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman; Be he living or be he dead, Ill grind his bones to mix my bread," is still a well-known quote coined by an evil two-headed giant from that centuries-old story. You've likely heard variations of it said in everything from Bugs Bunny cartoons to Shakespeare's King Lear. The phrase is also found in the significantly different and far more familiar 1820 British children's book, The History of Jack and the Bean Stalk. Its author also remains unknown. In that milder story, country cottage brat Jack sells his poor widowed mother's cow for magic beans that grow a beanstalk to the kingdom in the sky, where Jack steals gold coins, a magic harp, and a hen that lays golden eggs from a giant who subsequently falls to his death when an escaping Jack chops down the beanstalk. Morals? What morals, kiddies? Too funny.
Sporadically possessing a similar sense of wonder as seen in The Princess Bride (1987), the movie Jack the Giant Slayer borrows from the "Giant Killer" and "Bean Stalk" books, cleverly distilling aspects of both stories into a wonderfully entertaining, freshly scribed - albeit wildly anachronistic - tale of oftentimes epic proportions for contemporary moviegoers of all ages. The screenplay by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney truly crackles with punchy dialogue and wry plot twists. Hoult and his supporting cast pull in extraordinary performances here, with Tucci stealing every scene as the best comic villain seen in a long time. Hilarious. Everything about this feature consistently encourages your suspension of disbelief that these characters really live in this world of magic beans, mythical lands and monster-sized men. Even the magic beans have a compelling back story that includes a fabled, warring King Erik banishing hordes of man-eating giants back to their vast and untamed realm perched between Heaven and Earth. What a realm! Awesome.
Along with the synopsis, bios, photos, videos and wallpapers, the film's impressively self-contained official site at jackthegiantslayer.warnerbros.com cleverly serves up a page for buying tickets to screenings, another for downloading the soundtrack, as well as several chances for you to win related swag from various tie-in partners and sweepstakes. There's also a Features page of interactive media such as the Fallon's Fury and Jack's Giant Race games, plus a simple Giant Photo Upload and Your Giant Height activities. Great stuff.
Sure, it's a slight turn-off that Jack the Giant Slayer needlessly accommodates the latest (and hopefully waning) novelty of 3D screenings, but absolutely do yourself a huge favour and check it out on the big screen for its immensely entertaining storytelling and good old big giant fun. Reviewed 03/13, © Stephen Bourne.
Jack the Giant Slayer is rated
PG by the Ontario Film Review Board for scenes containing some
grotesque images in a fantasy, comedic or historic context, use
of expletives, crude content, scenes that may cause a child brief
anxiety, or fear, embracing and kissing, and restrained portrayals
of non-graphic violence, and is rated G by la Régie du
Cinéma in Québec.
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