So far 2013 has lacked a big money blockbuster laden with CGI special effects but Jack the Giant Slayer aims to rectify this with its retelling of a classic, very English, folk tale.
The core of the original story, Jack and the Beanstalk, is still there with those magic beans and all, yet it is expanded into something quite grand and at times, epic.
Adventurous Jack, well-played by Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy), dreams of escaping the confines of his dull life as a farm boy.
After he accidentally becomes the holder of a pouch of, you guessed it, magic beans, he gets caught up in a whirlwind search for a lost princess.
Not dark, not gothic
What sets Jack the Giant Slayer apart from these is that it does not try to be dark or gothic.
Instead, it takes more of a Lord of the Rings approach, with large expanses of open land and legions of soldiers on horseback.
Strong performances from some of Britain’s finest acting talent do help achieve this ambition. Ewan McGregor is fantastic, his pompous take on a King’s guardsman is a joy to watch. Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually) both impress the audience, though Nighy is barely recognisable under a large amount of CGI.
Young actress Eleanor Tomlinson gets the damsel-in-distress act spot on, though it would have been nice to see her break free of this during the latter stages of the film.
Hoult, on the other hand, best known for his role on Channel 4’s Skins, really takes centre stage. He plays Jack in a fairly modern way, slightly appearing out of place in this ancient kingdom. Nevertheless, he has swagger and charm.
On the whole Jack the Giant Slayer succeeds. The special effects create fantastic looking giants, full of detail, and the landscapes of greenery and falling water are vivid.
The beanstalk though does look a little too computer-generated and lacks a bit of life.
One issue is that the film feels watered down. Like director Bryan Singer (X-Men) knew, he had to make this as family-friendly as possible to get the Easter holiday’s crowd.
Certain points cut before the real action happens and could have been improved by a little more freedom.
Some lovely camerawork, strong performances and a nice expansion of the classic story add up to a solid blockbuster release. It is just a shame it comes bundled with the needless and pesky addition of 3D.
Jack the Giant Slayeris released in cinemas March 22.