I can’t say I retained a fondness for Roald Dahl’s story about the Big Friendly Giant, but I definitely have a fondness for Steven Spielberg and his body of work, so I felt inclined to see The BFG this past weekend (A.K.A. the most American weekend ever), starring Mark Rylance as the titular big-eared giant and newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie.
I’m not sure that my expectations were that particularly high for this film. I was never really blown away by anything the trailers showed me, but intrigued by the look of the movie and how colorful it was, as well as who directed it, of course. With that said, I still couldn’t help but feel a bit let down by the end result. Spielberg is attempting to recapture that cinematic wonder-filled magic he was so rightly known for doing with classics like E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark, that he sacrifices a bit plot and deeper character moments for it.
When Spielberg’s not exploring his first fart joke ever in this movie, we meet Sophie, who sort of seems to be longing for a better life outside of her orphanage? I don’t know; I really couldn’t get a read on her in the earlier part of the movie. Like I said, we could’ve used deeper character moments here. Anyway, outside her window, she spots a giant attempting to remain unseen out in the streets, scavenging food and whatnot, and the giant spots her right back, so he decides to…kidnap her? I’m very confused. He certainly attempts to justify it by saying she would’ve told everyone in the news about giants existing, but it still felt like an unnecessarily drastic action. That’s about as spoiler-filled this review will go, but you can see my issues with the story here. I just never felt the basis of the BFG and Sophie’s relationship was explained or explored in an understandable or relatable way. Also, the BFG literally catches dreams or something? That plot point was lost on me.
Regarding the CG of the movie, I loved Mark Rylance’s motion-capture performance. I can’t recall seeing a mo-cap character with such expressive eyes that relays every ounce of doubt or concern or happiness that character is feeling. The other, more-villainous giants: they looked good too, but clearly most of the effort went to making the BFG the star of the show. And he certainly was, and Rylance certainly delivered as much charm as he could in performance, but it couldn’t erase the qualms I had with the storytelling aspect.
The pacing of the movie I think is also its worst enemy. We spend an awful lot of time watching the BFG and Sophie talking and getting to know each other, and we don’t see the magnitude of the threat that the larger, meaner giants bring until Sophie lands on an idea to stop them. Then you realize “oh, these giants are supposed to be a problem for all of humanity.”
As you can tell, there’s a lot that I feel wasn’t conveyed in this movie in a satisfying or even understandable way in this movie, and the slowness of the pacing certainly didn’t help things. While the CG and the colorful scenery in the movie definitely immerse you in the world, the storytelling does not for me, and as a result, the entire movie leaves me feeling rather cold from the squandered potential.