Giants have a pretty bad reputation. Not only are they always portrayed as big, bone-crushing creatures, but they’re also usually shown as unintelligent and not very gentle. “The BFG,” which stands for big friendly giant, stands to give us a different interpretation. It still manages to represent the usual giant stereotypes as well. Adapted from the best-selling children’s book by Roald Dahl, Steven Spielberg’s first collaboration with Disney is full of wonder, a big-hearted little girl and BFG, who is a lonely, but protective friend. However, although there are some fantastic moments, the film’s plot allows itself to get a bit too ridiculous near the end and disengages from the world it had settled itself into.
Loneliness and wonder collide as Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is swept into the world of creatures she didn’t think existed and a land outside the realm of what she knows to be real. An orphan, Sophie lives in a home for children. In the late night hours, when everyone is asleep and dreaming, Sophie stays awake, hiding under her bed covers, flashlight in hand and book under her nose. Sleep evades her, and one night, it proves useful when she spots a large shadow meandering through the streets of London, moving in and out of the light.
The large shadow turns out to be a giant who has spotted Sophie. Not wanting her to tell anyone of his existence, the giant kidnaps her and takes her away to his home and far away from the only one she’s ever known. But Sophie quickly finds herself enamored with her new home and comfortable with the giant, who goes by BFG (Mark Rylance). But BFG’s even larger brothers (he’s the runt of the family) aren’t as kind and gentle as he is. They tease him relentlessly and when they find out that BFG is keeping a human girl in their midst, Sophie and BFG devise a way to stop them before they eat Sophie for dinner.
Before getting into an analysis of the story, I must note that the cinematography and CGI are beautiful. The scene where BFG hides behind or between buildings, trees, lamp posts is, simply put, a phenomenal use of light and shadow. It magnifies the differences between a giant among the human world and enhances them in a simple, yet contrasting way. Another notable scene is the one where BFG and Sophie are dream catching. The vibrant colors against an evening backdrop illuminate the magic and surrealism of dreams.
Now onto the plot. It’s very simple and to the point. However, it’s the film’s pacing that slows things down. It never really picks up speed. By the time the finale rolls around, the plot adds in a bizarre twist (the queen of England, played by Penelope Wilton, shows up to help) and the hope of moving into a satisfying conclusion disappears. It’s not that “The BFG” isn’t cute, because it has its moments, but what it offers in terms of character relationships and overall plot doesn’t quite live up to its own element of wonder. It falls short of being memorable and sits in the crowded realm of mediocre. Sophie and BFG make for an interesting pair, but as soon as the film moves from its more mystical giant world to that of the queen’s palace, it becomes off-putting and ridiculous, even within the scope of the story. So while Steven Spielberg brings us a gorgeous-looking film and Mark Rylance’s performance as BFG is wonderful, the movie itself is underwhelming and fails to truly captivate.
While Steven Spielberg brings us a gorgeous-looking film and Mark Rylance's performance as BFG is wonderful, the movie itself is underwhelming and fails to truly captivate.