This is not the way the poem goes in director Bryan Singer’s (X-Men) Jack the Giant Slayer. Fee, Fi, Fo, and Fum are the two-headed giant’s henchmen, the stars of the village of giants.
Based on the fairytale, Jack and the Beanstalk, this film stretches and goes back to the beginning of the legend of the giants. Jack (Nicholas Hoult of Warm Bodies), the young farm boy who unwittingly trades a horse for beans, runs into the adventurous Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). An escaped bean transforms itself and the princess is carried off to the heavens – well, at least, to the land of the giants above the skies. The hunt ensues to rescue the princess, the group led by the knight protector, Elmont (Ewan McGregor).
With the expectation of a children’s fairytale, this film surprisingly has a grown up feel of horror and suspense. Its giants are not only monstrous, they’re evil and vengeful, with uncanny expressions. Most creepy of all is the two-headed leader of the giants, General Fallon (Bill Nighy), its smaller head resting on a shoulder, unable to speak but in grunts, its face reminiscent of Gollum in Lord of the Rings. These are nothing like the dumb and clumsy giants in traditional fairytales, unable to catch a tiny human. No, these giants are warriors in need of revenge and a lot of scrubbing down.
New to the story is the legend of King Eric who had power over the giants in a time forgotten until the power of the beans came to light by way of Roderick (Stanley Tucci), the right hand man of King Brahmwell (Ian McShane). The original tale mentions no princess but this film centers around her rescue. As romantic as that sounds, Jack and the Princess have little if forced chemistry between them. The formula is understandable, however, since these days no one would take to heart the reason for Jack going up the beanstalk to acquire only riches. Jack would quickly be caught and rolled up for a pigs-in-a-blanket dinner for the giants, ending the story too soon.
What saves the film from becoming too scary and too silly is its sporadic humor and the presence of Ewan McGregor. If there was a spark of romance it was emanating from the knight Elmont for his adored Princess Isabelle. The costumes of the king and his men weigh in on the silly side, seemingly borrowed from traditional Alice in Wonderland or Humpty Dumpty King’s Men. Elmont’s armor is just normal enough to make Ewan the dashing knight that somehow seems natural to his character.
Despite its shortcomings, this is a film worth seeing again, if only for the creepiness of the giants, the allure of Ewan, and the enormity and epic surge of the beanstalks. What is missing may be an extensive explanation of why the giants have the specific fear that overtakes them. Jack the Giant Slayer can be bypassed in 3D mode as the effects are not extraordinary, even though these giants do eat humans.