Film #233: The BFG (2016)

bfgdirector: Steven Spielberg
language: English
length: 117 minutes
watched on: 11 October 2016

I went into this with a bit of trepidation, as the book of The BFG by Roald Dahl was one of my childhood favourites. But it’s got Steven Spielberg at the helm, so hopefully nothing could go wrong. This review kind of assumes you’re familiar with the story, by the way, and mainly focuses on the differences between versions.

My overall feeling was that I liked it, but it wasn’t how I imagined it or remember seeing it in the old animated movie. I don’t think it deserved to flop as badly as it apparently did.

The acting from both main characters was really good, especially the debut from the young girl. The BFG’s constant mispronunciations had me laughing out loud at points. All the keys that made the original book a classic are there, although the middle part of the movie is compressed a lot, and replaced with some Quentin Blake-inspired illustrations of the missing scenes.

I liked the CGI a lot. Like the Tintin movie, the mo-cap is really good, and despite looking a little cartoonish in some aspects, the giants’ faces all look really realistic. Compared to the actors who played the parts, you can really recognize the faces.

Some of the problems I had with it were already present in the source, like the fact that none of the other giant characters are developed, and their names seem to be interchangeable. Or I found the scenes with the Queen strange in general.

The other things are mainly my imagination not matching with the movie. Like the Giant Country itself – in the book’s illustrations and the animated movie, and in my imagination, it was a bit of a murky dreamland. This matches better with the themes and ideas in the story, such as the BFG’s Dream Country and the fact that most of the story takes place in the dead of night. In this movie, there are wide-open vistas, lush greenery, and tall pointy mountains; it’s obviously been filmed in Skye. That took me out of the action for a bit. The Dream Country is also odd, although executed well.

Conversely, though, there are aspects of the Giant Country possibly being an allegorical dreamland – Sophie (the main character) shouts at some louts from her bedroom window in the first scene of the movie as they’re making too much noise late at night, and they’re plainly played by the same actors as the giants. In the middle of the movie the BFG tries to put her back in the orphanage, a scene I don’t remember happening in the book. I didn’t find that part necessary – I thought it would have been nice to have one of the missing scenes from the book instead, like the one where Sophie discovers joy when she drinks the special farting juice with the BFG.

Similarly, there’s a scene when Sophie first comes into contact with the giants, which is downright scary in the book, but here is turned into a comic caper with slapstick. I thought that was also rather unnecessary, and removed something of the heart of the story.

That said, I ended up feeling happy after the movie finished because it had provoked that nostalgia, and I just hope that a new generation of youngsters learns about this story!

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