Jack the Giant Slayer got off to an exceedingly rough start during the obligatory (more on that in a moment) mythological infodump in the beginning. There's this boy, and his father is telling him the story of the giants who live in the clouds, and the beanstalks that let them come down, and the war and stuff, and this scene with the boy and his father is mirrored by a scene with a girl and her mother, same story, and these two bedtime stories are the same story, spliced together so we know that the boy and the girl are being told the same legend.
Which, as it turns out, isn't really all that important, but it connects these two people for us, the pauper and the princess, and that part IS important, but let me get back to the rough start.
See, story-time cuts not just back-and-forth between these two tale-tellings, but to an animation of the legend itself. We see the giants, the beanstalks, and the war, and it's not animated like a child's storybook might be animated. No, it's animated like one of those 2003 Barbie Princess movies were. As if, and I don't understand why they want me to think this, as if these medieval children dream in low polygon count CG.
So, yeah. Rough start.
And it's unnecessary! (We've reached the "more on that in a moment" moment.) These days the fantasy genre has enough wood behind its magic arrow to drive home the point that we are going to be asked to accept magic and physics and whatnot that don't fit in the world we're familiar with. We don't need to be told the whole back-story at the very beginning. This is called "infodumping" and it's bad enough in a book where pages are cheap. Putting it in a movie hobbles the filmmakers by denying them the ability to put other, better things in the movie.
But I'm ranting, and I haven't gotten past the first five minutes of film.
Once we got through that bit? Hey, this movie wasn't too bad. The action was fun, some of the dialog was pretty snappy (especially in scenes with Stanley Tucci) and the central conceit was actually kind of captivating. I got knocked out of the story just a little when I realized that this was all supposed to be taking place in an actual kingdom on our Earth, but by then I was having enough fun that I could just give that bit of ridiculousness a wide miss. I mean, if I'm going to believe in giants living in the clouds, I can't go straining at the abundance of polished metal in a medieval setting.
Jack was played by Nicholas Hoult, who played "R" in Warm Bodies. I hate to say this, but I liked him more as a dead guy. And I hate saying it because reads like a low-hanging-fruit flavor of weak joke, and I can do better than that, but seriously, Nicholas Hoult was far more entertaining, and far more believable as a zombie. That doesn't mean Jack was played badly, but R was so much more fun.
Okay, if it sounds like I'm being harsh on the film, let me come right out and admit that I had a great time at the show. I was never bored, and those Barbie Princess animations were only used in the beginning so I had almost forgotten that slap in the face by the end. The rest of the movie was spot on. Jack the Giant Slayer comes in at number 4 for me this year.