In a land no doubt far, far away two very different youngsters drift off to sleep they are treated to a story about the great King Erik and the Giants he defeated. Young Jack revels in the excitement of the story and goes to sleep dreaming of one day being a royal guardian while little Isabelle, knowing that one day she will be Queen, dreams of the adventurous life ahead of her. We jump ahead a decade to find Jack (Hoult) given the task of taking the family’s horse and cart into town to sell it. He is sent by his uncle, who has been raising him since Jack’s father died. While in town he is distracted by a puppet show also being attended by Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), who has snuck away from her protective guard. When Isabelle is accosted by a group of drunken men Jack attempts to intercede. He is puzzled by the group’s reaction to his actions, only to realize that Isabelle’s army of protectors, led by Elmont (McGregor) have arrived in the nick of time. Isabelle is whisked back to the castle home of her protective father, King Brahmwell (Ian McShane), whose wife has also passed away. Concerned for his daughter’s future he is hoping she will soon be married to Count Roderick (Tucci), a vile man only concerned about his future status than Isabelle’s love, which is non-existent. Jack’s cart is stolen and he soon finds himself giving his horse to a monk on the run. In exchange the monk gives him a bag of beans which he says have great power and can be easily sold. When Jack gets home his uncle is more than a little angry, throwing the beans to the ground. But when one of them gets wet it sprouts a huge….well, I’m sure you know the story.
Beautifully rendered, “Jack the Giant Slayer” is one of the best looking films merging live action and CGI characters that I have seen in some time. The giants in question are an ugly bunch, with each one bearing a particular physical characteristic. They are led by General Fallon (Bill Nighy), who has the distinction of having an extra head on his soldiers (voiced by John Kassir). Though his smaller head is an occasional foil for comedy, Fallon is truly bad to the bone with hopes of one day being the giants’ king. The cast does a convincing job of maintaining their characters, with Tucci stealing his scenes as a combination of Chris Sarandon’s Prince Humperdinck and Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen from “The Princess Bride.”
The computer-designed world found atop of the beanstalk is painstakingly created and a thing to behold. My hats off to the production team that conceived it. The production values all around suit the story well with special mentions going to cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel and composer John Ottman, both long time associates of director Singer.
Blu-ray details/extras : The combo pack (DVD/Digital/BD; but aren’t they all, now?) is an attractive package, to say the least. Aside from the immaculate audio and video transfer (though the video is so crisp and detailed at times it does somewhat point out the flaws in the not-uber-relastic visual effects – the creatures and greenscreen work, at times, looking like something that might only pass for a video-game lead-in) there’s an exhaustive, interactive documentary chronicling all the facets of the movie, some deleted scenes, as well as a gag reel.