Friday, March 1, 2013

Adoption Movie Guide: Jack the Giant Slayer

Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, ask not whence the thunder comes.

A farmboy named Jack and a princess named Isabelle each lay in their respective beds, miles and worlds away. As they drift off to sleep, they’re each read the story of King Erik the Great, who generations ago used a magic crown to keep a group of savage Giants away from the kingdom, and who was buried with both the crown to control the giants, and the beans that could reach them. Ten years pass, and Jack comes into possession of those magical beans. Isabelle visits his home – perhaps by chance – and then the beans sprout, rocketing Isabelle into the land of the Giants. The King’s guard – and Jack – go up to rescue her, but their task is bigger than they realized.

How is This Relevant to Adoption / Foster Care?  - Spoilers throughout the post -
In the ten years that pass between scenes, Jack’s father dies. Jack is raised by his uncle. He clings to some of the possessions of his parents.
Isabelle is at Jack’s home when she is forcibly, unexpectedly, and unwillingly moved far away into an unfamiliar place. In many ways, that’s the same experience that many kids have when they enter foster care. Most foster parents are much kinder than the Giants – but the feelings of fear, displacement and disorientation are probably much the same.

Jack falls in love with Isabelle, but a royal law forbids Isabelle to marry a non-noble. Some adoptees feel that some folks treat them unfairly because of their lineage or their status as adopted persons.

Strong Points
There are many courageous characters. One knight risks himself on multiple occasions for the good of the princess, and then for the good of the kingdom. The King faces a very difficult decision, but makes what’s arguably an admirable choice.

One of the knights tells Jack, “you’re one of us now.”

The King is forced with a difficult decision. His daughter is up the vine. He wants to wait for her to come down, but knows that the Giants may be on their way down, as well. Cutting down the vine would likely result in the sacrifice of his daughter; leaving the vine up leaves his kingdom vulnerable to invasion from a seemingly unconquerable enemy. This is a difficult choice. He chooses to cut down the vine. It’s probably the right choice for his kingdom, but children may struggle with the fact that the path he chose put his daughter at risk.

Jack appears to “earn” royalty, and ends up wearing a crown that establishes him as King of the Giants. He is also able to marry Isabelle. It’s easy to come away with the message that Jack had to earn the right to be respected and accepted by people born into more fortunate circumstances, but the voice-over says that the king abolished the rule that the Princess could only marry a noble. Kids might not catch this distinction. Parents should point it out.

Weak Points

The relationship between Jack and his uncle is problematic. The uncle calls Jack a “plague,” and prepares to sell the keepsakes that Jack still has from his parents to make up for money that Jack lost. The uncle also speaks ill of Jack’s father, saying that he had his “head in the clouds” and was useless.
There are some scenes that could be traumatic. Giants are pierced by arrows. A man is stabbed in his hand, others are stabbed in their stomachs. One giant’s eyes pop out. The movie is surprisingly non-bloody, but it is PG-13 violent. The Giants want to eat humans, and occasionally do so, usually only slightly off-camera. A person is struck by lightning. One character betrays many of his friends to their deaths. It’s implied that a monk has been tortured. A giant prepares to cook one character, but is thwarted.


This can be a fun movie, if your kids aren’t disturbed by the traumatic scenes mentioned earlier. It’s probably good for kids ages 12 and up.
Questions for Discussion after the movie

Isabelle was (quite literally) uprooted from Jack’s home.  How do you think she felt?

Jack was viewed differently because he wasn’t born noble, but later, the nobles accepted him.  Why do you think they changed their mind? Was that fair?

The King had a hard choice to make – cut the vine down, or leave it up.  What do you think of his choice?  (Note: this could be a hard question, because it’s important for your kids to know that you’ll never abandon them. Tread carefully.)

What are some adventures that you’ve had?

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