So I watched The BFG…
When I was a child, one of my favourite places to visit was the school library. I devoured books. Most visits would invariably end with me picking up a piece of work by R.L. Stine or Roald Dahl. It takes a village to raise a child and these two men were definitely in my village. So whenever a film adaptation of either author’s work comes up, I’m a bit more judgmental than normal.
Okay, basic plot: Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is an orphan who suffers from insomnia. One night, unable to sleep as usual, Sophie sees a giant walking through the streets. The giant spots her and – fearing that she’ll expose him – whisks her away from the orphanage to Giant Country. Here the giant (Mark Rylance) introduces himself as The Big Friendly Giant (or BFG for short). BFG is extremely protective over Sophie and fears that if the other giants find out about her presence, they’ll eat her. Together Sophie and BFG concoct a plan to beat the other giants and stop them from eating any other children.
When I think of the Steven Spielberg’s movies – both those that I watched and those that I’ve only heard of – one word comes to mind – magic! Spielberg doesn’t just tell stories, he brings the impossible to life. With this in mind, you’d think he’d be the perfect person to bring a film adaptation of a book to life. This is a man whose imagination is seemingly infinite and whose mastery of special effects is second to none. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t quite work out the way you think/hope it would. This film is dull and part of this is due to a poor script but the majority of the blame seems to fall on Spielberg’s shoulders. His eye in the film doesn’t seem as sharp as it usually is and his editing hand not as steady. The film doesn’t dazzle you the way a Spielberg product normally does nor does it even remotely come close to bringing the magic of the book to the screen.
Now I haven’t read The BFG in well over fifteen years. I don’t really remember it but I know that I enjoyed it. As the film prods along, memories of the book began slowly trickling through my mind. The movie feels like an accurate representation of the book with memorable story elements being carried over. Unfortunately, there’s no wonder or delight in the script. Melissa Mathison who penned this film’s script, seems like she just copied and pasted the story without really adding anything to it. The film is lacking je ne sais quoi. It reminded me of 2015’s Pan. It feels overly gritty and serious. There’s no fun to be had in this film. I certainly didn’t have any.
The film’s only saving grace is Mark Rylance’s performance. This is the second film I’ve seen Rylance in (the first being another collaboration with Spielberg, Bridge of Spies) and the best word I can think of to describe his acting is luminous. He literally shines. You can feel the spirit and energy of his character through every action. He’s phenomenal. He sadly, doesn’t have much help from his fellow castmates. Child actors are either hit or miss and Ruby Barnhill is a miss. She isn’t endearing, delightful and doesn’t have sufficient spunk to make you connect with her character.
Another glaring flaw in this film is the poor quality of its special effects. This is particularly disappointing when you consider this is a Spielberg production. There’s an airbrushed quality to Rylance’s BFG that makes him appear fake. This is compounded in the other giants’ appearances. It feels like the film should have just been an animation. I can’t accept poor special effects in big-budget films. It’s one of the most fundamental elements of a film like this. Furthermore, the film is far too long. At the hour and a half mark, I considered abandoning my viewing when I saw there was still thirty minutes to go. I’ve watched some bad movies in my time but few have made me count the minutes to the end like this one.
Overall, The BFG can only be described using one word – dull. There’s no spark of wonder or creativity in the entire film’s runtime. Save for a entertaining performance by Mark Rylance, there isn’t much quality in the film either. It’s worth missing. 4/10