Saturday, July 2, 2016

The BFG - Movie Review: Does Sophie have Stockholm Syndrome?

If Giants eat humans is that really cannibalism?
The BFG starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill and directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie tells the story of a girl who is abducted by a giant when she notices him outside her window during the night. The giant takes the girl to giant country where he tells her she must live for the rest of her life. Soon after the kidnapping they bond and form a lasting friendship, but she learns he is bullied and harassed by the other much bigger giants.

The BFG is based off a classic book by author Rolad Dahl. I’ve never read this book, but my son who I went to the movie with has and is a big fan. What stood out to me is something found in every Dahl book, a sense that the world isn’t really a nice place. Dahl doesn’t shy away from the dark nature of the world and puts many of his child protagonists in bad situations they must overcome. I think Spielberg may have dialed back the darkness for the movie, but I could be wrong. It is still there underneath the surface of the film and hits fairly hard in a few instances. During these few times Spielberg is able to convey the emotional impact in a meaningful way, which really isn’t surprising given who he is.

The best part of the film is the bond between Sophie and the big friendly giant. There interactions make the movie and Ruby Barnhill who plays Sophie does a great job. Mark Rylance is fantastic as the BFG and the performance capture in this movie is second to none. I personally thought the Orcs in the Warcraft movie looked fantastic, but The BFG topped it. I can’t get over how great all of the giants look and how they merge perfectly into the sets. Motion capture keeps getting better and better and I can’t imagine what they will be able to accomplish in the next few years. The movie made you believe in the heartfelt relationship Sophie had to the Giant. The CG completely sucked me in and I was able to get lost in the fantastical world Spielberg created from Dahl’s book.

Spielberg’s mark is felt all the way through the film. It’s not surprising, but just watching I picked up on how masterfully he directed this film. The subtle changes in perspectives throughout the entire movie are smooth. You never feel lost when the scene changes viewpoint. The audience’s frame of reference is constantly changing from one character to another, and even with the vast size differences the transitions are seamless. At times we focus on Sophie and how much bigger everything in the BFG’s world is compared to her. Then the frame of reference will change to the BFG and everything will look normal for him. Then the other giants will come in and the point of reference will focus on them and how much bigger they are compared to BFG. This is all done with seemingly little effort. All of this helps frame and tell the visual story. I’m not sure another director could have pulled these shots off within the film.

I did have a few issues with the film. It took me a while to warm up to Sophie as a character. There wasn’t enough backstory given to her and her life at the Orphanage. Maybe it is in the book, but I needed to see a day in the life or part of a day at the Orphanage. She tells the BFG it is horrible place to live, but actually seeing part of what she had to go through would have reinforced her wanting to stay with The BFG.  The fact she went from not trusting him to being his best friend so quickly was a little hard to believe within story. Their friendship developed so well and so believably it is easy to overlook, but seeing her mistreated in the Orphanage would have made the overall story more believable. The only other complaint I had was the ending wrapped up too well too quickly. It was an easy resolution from a big buildup. I would have liked to have seen more of a struggle for the BFG and Sophie to accomplish their goal. These problems bookend an otherwise very heartfelt and touching movie.

I enjoyed watching The BFG and so did my twelve year old son. He read the book in second grade and has fond memories of reading it in class. I’m glad the movie did a good job in representing the story, at least for him. People who are and aren’t fans of the book can enjoy this movie.  If you want to see a good all-around touching film then The BFG is it. The movie is Worth Seeing. It really is worth seeing just for the motion capture CG and Spielberg’s directing, but having a good story helps as well. If you don’t make it out to the theater to watch at the very least give it chance on rental.

What did you think of The BFG if you saw it? Did you think it did a good job of representing the book? If you haven’t seen it will you give it a chance? Comment and let me know. 

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