The BFG, 2016.
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader.
A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.
Spielberg’s passion project of over 20 years has finally hit the screens and whilst there are moments of brilliance and wonder, The BFG is a lacklustre film that just doesn’t deliver. For those not familiar, the story follows young organ Sophie (Barnhill) who forms an unlikely friendship with The BFG (Rylance) and they set about delivering dreams and taking down the evil child eating giants.
In terms of visual storytelling, The BFG succeeds without question. The motion capture used to create The BFG is superb and Rylance’s superb acting skills break through the CGI and he makes a truly wonderful and whole character. The visuals of the dream world where he goes to collect the dreams he shares with the humans is also stunning and magical. But this is where it ends. Whilst the children’s story is packed full of great moments and adventure, nothing much really happens in this film until the last 20 minutes. The first act where Sophie meets The BFG is entertaining for a while but after that it seems as if the two of them are repeating the same conversation to stretch out the running time. After all of that when the final act comes it feels rushed and anti-climactic.
Spielberg is responsible for some of the greatest children’s films of all time and I had such high hopes for his adaptation. The ingredients are all there but somehow it just hasn’t worked. Rylance is excellent, as if the supporting cast of Rafe Spall, Penelope Wilton and Rebecca Hall. Barnhill as our hero Sophie is just ok. Her performance is entertaining at times but she feels a little wooden. Spielberg usually casts his child actors well, but here something hasn’t clicked. The child-eating giants are also under developed and never feel terrifying. The voice work is excellent, as are the effects, but there’s such little character development that you’re not sure who’s who.
The final 20 minutes where Sophie and The BFG seek the help of the Queen is the only thrilling part of the film. Rafe Spall as the Head Butler Mr Tibbs is hilarious and Penelope Wilton is exceptional as the Queen. A scene where The BFG is invited into Buckingham Palace for breakfast had the whole cinema laughing. But after that the finale is rushed and there’s no sense of danger for our heroes.
All in all The BFG is a disappointing film. Whilst the visuals are phenomenal and the cast perfect, the film plods along at an unbearably slow pace with humour that only children will appreciate. Roald Dahl’s stories are enjoyable because of the dark subject matter they deal with and the extraordinary characters he created. With this adaptation we get a sugar coated and happy story with no real grit.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter