Movie ‘Jack’: Brute Force Over Cleverness?

One author explores why the original tale worked better.
E. Stephen Burnett | Mar 12, 2013 | No comments |

Oz The Great and Powerful is soaring high over Jack the Giant Slayer‘s giant kingdom at the March box office1. And theology professor Dr. Russell Moore on March 5 provided an incidental, postmortem in retrospect on the latter live-action fairy tale:

[… T]he movie misses, I think, the element that made the old stories so compelling in the first place. The movie obscures the way Jack, in the old stories, usually defeated the giants: not just with grit and luck and determination, but with trickery.

Jack’s power over the giants in the stories was using his wits to trick the giant into hubristically doing something foolish: walking into a trap, slitting his own stomach, and so on.  Often the giants were undone by engaging in some sort of competition, where they assumed they had an upper hand due to their supernatural strength. The giants were never so much over-powered as they were outwitted. In most cases, the giants’ own powers were turned against them, in a way that brought them to ruin.

I missed this in the film, because it made for a more boring, conventional story. I also missed it because I think this sort of giant-killing is intrinsic to the story behind all stories.

[…]  The old Jack tales, with the interplay of unexpected wisdom with unexpected power, are better stories than the deus ex machina stuff of the screenwriter.

More from Moore at his blog. Given the frequent flawed discernment and cultural ignorance among many Christian leaders and authors, we should support more of this from writers such as Moore — especially if they end their explorations with lines like, “I don’t expect to see the gospel in a children’s story on the movie screen, but I do hope to see a good story.”

E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor of a nonfiction book about parenting and popular culture (title TBA), to release spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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