Jack the Giant Slayer is a stunning miscalculation by Bryan Singer or the people who hired him. I like almost all of Singer’s work, but his straightforward, portentous style couldn’t have been more wrong for this goofball adaptation of “Jack the Giant Killer,” which needed either a light hand or twisted mind, and which here gets neither. After a storybook prologue telegraphs the entire plot to ensure no surprises will be on offer, the film launches into a long, lame effects demo reel, with Nicholas Hoult as a hunky farmboy dispatched along with the king’s royal guard (led by Ewan McGregor) and the evil vizier (Stanley Tucci) to rescue the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) from a race of giants in the sky.
The main problem is that Singer saw this as a regular action film assignment, and produces a series of nominally competent CGI set pieces involving daring escapes from marauding giants and climbing up and falling down beanstalks. What’s missing is a sense of play and a sense of humor. There’s a long scene where McGregor is about to be baked into a pierogi, and Singer tackles it with the same stately seriousness he brought to the attempt on Hitler’s life in Valkyrie. He has no interest in the story and he makes no attempt to distract us from it. So the film drones on for two hours in the same anonymous-studio-product monotone, with the occasional attempt at comic relief just feeling lonely and sad in the middle of all that hollow, expensive wizardry.
But the worst thing about Jack the Giant Slayer is the treatment of the princess, whom the screenplay initially tries to paint an an independent adventure-seeker who blanches at the coddling necessitated by her title. But once the film gets going, she turns into a useless lump who waits to be rescued while yelling “Jack! Jack!” In 2013, this is almost offensive, and certainly embarrassing. Especially since Jack is kind of a dullard himself.
— Eugene Novikov