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Jack the Giant Slayer (2013): Folktales Retold in this Fantastical Adventure

Film Review: Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

Jack the Giant Slayer is a mash-up film adaptation of the classic folktales, Jack the Giant Killer and Jack and the Beanstalk. Inspired from such folkloric sources, Jack the Giant Slayer soups up the traditional narratives with legendary backstories, epic battles, star-crossed romance, top-notch special effects and an all-star cast. Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Ewan MacGregor and Bill Nighy all star in this fantasy adventure.

When a Princess Meets a Pauper but a Beanstalk Gets in the Way

Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a lowly, orphaned farm lad, living with his uncle, desperately poor and dreaming of something more. Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) is a motherless beauty, living a life of privilege and stultifying convention in the castle of her father, King Brahmwell (Ian McShane). It has been arranged for her to be married to the much older, rather dastardly Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci). She, too, dreams of something more, of another life of freedom.

Yeah, you know where this is going. Our two dreamers meet on the very wet night where Jack has just come home with his magic beans. And oopsy-doopsy, one of them gets wet, and suddenly the shack Jack calls home is shooting up into the darkened heavens with a very distressed princess inside, carried upward by a giant beanstalk.

Yup, you know where this is going. Jack must now rescue the princess. And destroy some giants and beanstalks in the process. That’s the film in a nutshell.

Legendary Beans & Stock Roles

Jack the Giant Slayer creates a whole backstory to those magic beans, a story of ongoing wars between good and evil, of monks who sought power through dark means, of an ancient king who rose up with his magically forged crown to defeat the giants. So, when the once-hidden beans find their way into Jack’s hands and an ancient king’s resting place is plundered and his crown taken, there is perhaps some truth to the old tales of beans and giants. And it is from the old tales that the key lies to defeat the giants of the present.


Jack the Giant Slayer is a beautifully filmed adventure tale, choppily edited at times. The characters never seem to come out of their stock characterizations, but then again, this is a folktale. And folktales are all about easily recognizable stock roles. So, it’s a straightforward film, easily known and easily enjoyed. There’s just enough irreverent gruesomeness – without any major gore – to get the kids squealing and squirming.

So even if this mom thought it ho-hum or fo-fum at times, when the kids are enraptured, well, it rubs off. As adventure films for the whole family go, it’s a pretty solid contribution to the genre.

Where to Watch: DVD, Netflix, and Digital.

Content Note: Rated PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language. There are giants and they eat humans, so there is that. The eating happens mostly offscreen, so it’s more alluded to than shown. Although a headless corpse or bones might come flying. Yeah, there is violence, but a moderated, cartoonish type violence. Not for the child who scares easily.

Did you watch Jack the Giant Slayer? What are your thoughts on this fantasy film?

Photo Credits: Warner Brothers.


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By on September 20th, 2018

About Jessica Jørgensen

A lover of words, stories and storytellers since her youth and just plain curious by nature, Jessica embarked on a very long academic journey that took her across a continent (from Canada's west coast to its east) and even to the other side of the globe, where she currently lives an expat existence in Denmark. She now trails many fancy initials behind her name, if she ever cares to use them, and continues to be ever so curious. She's a folklorist, a mother, a wife, a middle child, a small town girl, a beekeeper, an occasional quilter, a jam-maker. She curates museum exhibits, gets involved in many cultural projects for this and that, collects oral histories when she can find the time and continues to love stories in all their many and varied forms. The local librarians all know her by name.

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