Review: ‘Jack’ spies some good old-fashioned fun

Review: ‘Jack’ spies some good  old-fashioned fun
From left: Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson and Nicholas Hoult take on giants in “Jack the Giant Slayer.” Photo by Daniel Smith

Thanks to a bounty of gigantic visuals, enjoyably traditional storytelling and characters, and a jaw-dropping sense of adventure, “Jack the Giant Slayer” provides old-school blockbuster excitement that has become a rarity in this day and age.We begin by watching Jack listen to his father read to him a story about an ancient war between giants and humans, which just so happens to be the same tale Princess Isabelle is hearing from her mother. Ten years later, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) wishes to experience life outside of the castle, while humble farmhand Jack (Nicholas Hoult) desires to find his place in the world. Before they know it, a chance encounter with each other results in a massive beanstalk separating Isabelle from Jack.

Jack joins a search and rescue team led by Elmont (Ewan McGregor) to find and bring back the princess.

Upon arriving at their destination, they find themselves contending with giants — enormous behemoths that yearn to wage war against the humans. In addition to recovering Isabelle, Jack and Elmont have to stop Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who has plans of usurping power.

But even when they do rescue the princess and climb down the beanstalk, the giants aren’t finished with them yet. Why? Well, you don’t desire to start a war to take back what you lost years ago and not go through with it at the last second, of course!

Sound familiar? Yes. Boring? Not a chance.

The CGI certainly lives up to the film’s name and premise; the giants possess detailed textural qualities and fluid body movements.

I enjoyed the performance capture process, which I consider to be a great improvement over 2007’s “Beowulf.” I also give director Bryan Singer credit for employing practical effects to give the cast members something to touch. A good example of this occurs during the moments when we see the characters climbing the iconic beanstalk; portions of the beanstalk were constructed and integrated with the digitally created sections.

Aside from the visuals, what imbues the film with an even greater atmosphere of gigantism is the camera’s capturing of the vast fantasy world, both human and giant alike. The steady camera movements provide an expansive view of the British countryside, not to mention follow the beanstalk as it winds its way upward and downward.

Furthermore, each time a giant enters into view, the camera doesn’t hesitate to adjust its angle to give the audience a good idea of how enormous these beings are.

I admit the narrative is predictable and one doesn’t need to be an intellectual to know what happens, but this return to a straightforward, traditional storytelling approach is actually more refreshing than one might assume at first sight. Plus, given Singer’s experience with the first two “X-Men” films, you can expect him to deliver plenty of action sequences — which he does, only on a more colossal scale this time.

Nicholas Hoult delivers an endearing yet unassuming performance as Jack; he does a good job creating a likeable hero. Eleanor Tomlinson’s portrayal of the spirited Isabelle is warm and effective, and the chemistry between she and Hoult has a naturalistic edge.

Ewan McGregor pays a visit to “Obi-Wan Kenobi” territory that feels surprisingly appropriate for his role of Elmont. Stanley Tucci and Ian McShane are underutilized in their roles of Lord Roderick and King Brahmwell, respectively, though one can argue they enjoyed doing what their characters were expected to do.

The ruthless leader of the giants, General Fallon, is voiced by Bill Nighy, whom you might recognize from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Underworld,” and “Love, Actually.”

Are you ready for an epic fantasy adventure of gargantuan proportions? Can you taste the old-fashioned blockbuster liveliness that has been upgraded to entertain a modern moviegoer? Then you’ll be happy to hear that “Jack the Giant Slayer” is just the film that you, your family and your friends will enjoy. Fee-fi-fo-fum!

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language
Running time: 1 hour 54 minutes
Playing: General release

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