I’ve been accused before of “reaching” to find spiritual messages and metaphors in popular films for this column.
There’s no “reaching” needed, however, to find the spiritual messages in the newly adapted fairy-tale flick, “Jack the Giant Slayer,” for they’re all over the place.
Unfortunately, without a consistent measure of truth in its spiritual messages, the theology of the film is “all over the place,” too.
Be that as it may, “Jack the Giant Slayer” is an entertaining movie, a big step up from some of the more recent fairy-tale adaptations (see the rather poor “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”) and a movie that has just enough solid writing to leave audiences thinking and remembering the night they went to see the giants.
In a fairly straight-forward retelling of the Jack and beanstalk tale, “Jack the Giant Slayer” introduces the idea that the myth is based on legend, legend on lore and lore on ancient history long forgotten. With catchy rhymes, the story told to children at bedtime has a foundation in reality that – coupled with the director’s decision to make this a darker, more adventurous tale – gives the film just enough twist to make it interesting.
With a very clean script and little sexuality, “Jack the Giant Slayer” could make an excellent family adventure movie … just make sure to exercise caution with little ones. This is PG-13, not for the usual fare, but for violence and some frightening and even gruesome moments.
I’d also recommend discernment on account the film’s spiritual mythology.
Some of the writing is top-notch, moments when moviemaking and biblical truths align to make excellent scenes, such as a monk’s admonition to leave witchcraft and the beanstalk’s “magic beans” alone … and hidden.
“They are born of dark magic,” the monk warns, “and once darkness has a taste of light, it will not rest until it has swallowed the sun.”
Another scene depicts Jack, a believer in the stories of heaven, hell and giants, speaking to the captain of the guard about what lies at the top of the beanstalk.
“What do you suppose is up there?” Jack asks, clearly alluding to giants.
“I’m not a superstitious man,” the skeptical captain responds. “I simply prepare for everything.”
“No,” the captain answers, “only things that are real.”
As you might expect, the “not superstitious man” discovers his definition of what is and isn’t “real” needs some adjustment.
Other biblical parallels to the Tower of Babel and the inevitable jealousy and pride of a usurper plotting his chance to be king weave their way through the script.
Yet at the same time, the film posits that mankind is saved from the giants by its reliance on fighting fire with fire, using the dark arts to defeat a dark enemy. It’s an unfortunate twist in exactly the wrong direction, which mars a film that otherwise champions virtue and valiance and isn’t afraid to speak of God and man’s quest to find Him.
In the end, however, the surprising spirituality of the film is merely a spice, a bit of depth in what otherwise is just an adventure tale about a common boy and an uncommon princess working together to save humanity from its own, out-of-control ambition and the out-of-this-world giants that would destroy it. Not a classic film by any means, but one that could make for a fun night out or a good, family-night rental.
- “Jack the Giant Slayer,” rated PG-13, contains only 2 very mild profanities and no obscenities.
- The film’s only sexuality consists of some cleavage-bearing dresses worn by the princess, a couple of kisses and a scene where some ruffians threaten a young lady with nefarious designs but are stopped before they can actually lay hands on her.
- The film does, however, contain a significant amount of violence, both in a major battle scene toward the end of the film and in a sequence where a beanstalk falls and kills, crashes and crushes several people. Beyond that, there are bones and giants eating people (though mostly off screen), swordfights, the stabbing and slaying of a giant, deaths and a somewhat gruesome dismemberment. The movie doesn’t revel in gore, and there isn’t much blood, but there’s a war on, and the film doesn’t shy from it.
- Beyond the spiritual elements discussed above, the film fairly frequently mentions God, believing in Him and “going to meet Him.” It mentions heaven and hell, depicts brief prayer, contains monks and briefly shows some monks engaged in “dark magic,” but isn’t explicit in its depiction of the occult.