'Jack the Giant Slayer': What the Critics Are Saying
Bryan Singer's film left THR's Todd McCarthy searching for an "original or singular element to this handsome reupholstering of the English folk tale."
Did Jack slay the critics?
Despite its big budget, sleek look and B+ CinemaScore, Jack the Giant Slayer is struggling at the box office in its opening weekend. It may not pass the $25 million mark, while it cost an estimated $300 million to make and market the film.
Starring Nicholas Hoult as a good-looking farm boy and Eleanor Tomlinson as a princess who is spirited away by a magic beanstalk, director Bryan Singer's Jack gives viewers a new take on a classic British tale. The Warner Bros. film also stars Ewan McGregor as a brave knight and Stanley Tucci as the princess' foolish fiance.
The film holds a 52 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and below is a sampling of what the critics had to say about Hollywood’s first tentpole of 2013.
“When will all the dead-serious $200 million battle-centered giant-infested similarly cast rousingly scored fabulously rendered 3D fairy-tale reimaginings finally merge together into one enormous Anglophilic fantasmagoria of monarchical order and virtue so we can all be done with this for the time being?” he wrote. “Is The Hobbit: There and Back Again next summer too soon to hope for it? In fact, the latest example of this syndrome, Jack the Giant Slayer, isn't bad in and of itself; it's well made, attractively cast and has some lively as well as ghoulish moments. But a castle fit for a king to anyone who can find an original or singular element to this handsome reupholstering of the English folk tale, a version notable for its fine visual effects and vastly multiplied population of giants.”
The Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan found much of the fault to lie with the film’s writing, which is credited to five people.
“Any script with five writing credits (screenplay by Darren Lemke and Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney, story by Lemke and David Dobkin) has a lot of explaining to do, and Jack illustrates why more usually equals less in this department,” Turan wrote. “The indifferent, unsurprising script that these men cobbled together has all the earmarks of being an assignment, an exercise in the arbitrary with no organic reason for being. If any human being (I can't speak for giants) had even a moment of personal passion about this project, the evidence is not on the screen.”
New York Times critic Manohla Dargis praised the film’s first 90 minutes, but wrote that it loses its footing after that.
“The visual design for the giants and the beanstalks keeps your eyes busy, even when the story sets your mind to wandering. If it drifts with increasing frequency it’s because, well, this finally is just a digitally souped-up, one-dimensional take on 'Jack and the Beanstalk,' capped by the kind of interminable blowout that makes many big-studio entertainments feel as long as the last Oscars,” she wrote. “While the stalk is still impressive, the movie just doesn’t have staying power.”
The Washington Post’s Michael O'Sullivan doubted the film’s ability to appeal to more than a narrow audience, writing that it is too silly for adults and too frightening for children.
“Jack seems designed to appeal to a very narrow, and possibly illusory, demographic: the mature moppet ... There are a couple of nifty, if less than jaw-dropping, special effects. But the whole thing never feels entirely -- I don’t know -- real,” O’Sullivan wrote. “Why, for example, are all the giants dudes? Where are all the lady giants, or the giant babies?
Associated Press critic Christy Lemire gave the film a positive review, calling it “smart, thrilling and a whole lot of fun.”
"Jack the Giant Slayer is cheeky without being too obnoxiously cutesy,” she wrote. “While the look of it is medieval, the vibe seems more current, but it's not so anachronistic as to be self-referential and subversive along the lines of a Shrek, for example. In that regard, it actually ends up being pleasingly old-fashioned.”