The BFG is a fantasy-adventure film based off of the Roald Dahl book of the same name. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg.
Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) roams the halls of the orphanage where she resides. After organizing the mail and fixing the clock, she settles in bed with the house cat. Moments after scaring away drunkards, Sophie witnesses a giant (Mark Rylance) skulking through the streets. Knowing he’s been found, he takes Sophie with him to his home. Sophie pleads that the giant not eat her, with the giant heartily assuring her he is not a giant that eats “human beans.” Instead he has a special diet that includes snozzcumbers, a smelly vegetable and frobscottle, a special soda with downward-moving bubbles. Sophie insists she will run away, but after a bad dream provided by the giant, she decides to stay for the time being. The following morning, a much larger giant named Bloodblotter (Bill Hader) identifies the other giant as Runt. Bloodblotter almost takes Sophie away, but is tricked by Runt. The giant is further tormented by a group of giants including Bonecruncher (Daniel Bacon), Gizzardgulper (Chris Gibbs), Manhugger (Adam Godley), Childchewer (Jonathan Holmes), Meatdripper, Maidmasher, and led by Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement). Runt does everything in his power to prevent the other giants from finding Sophie so she won’t be eaten. Sophie, moved by Runt’s kindness and capturing dreams for others, instead calls him the Big Friendly Giant, or BFG.
The plot of the movie is incredibly straightforward to cater to the target audience: kids. The whole movie is just under 2 hours, and though it seems the movie could be shortened by 20 minutes, it’s moderately paced to keep everyone’s attention.
Sophie’s character is revealed in two parts. Right at the beginning, she’s shown as a learned yet isolated girl with a sense of wonder. The BFG is also a loner in two respects: he’s committed to not eating children like his brethren and he’s the shortest of them by a considerable margin. He’s more intelligent than the other giants due to his interactions with regular people through the dreams he collects and gives to them. The other giants are all rather one-dimensional, with their characteristics limited to not liking vegetables nor being wet. In fact, the giants have distinctive names but are not on directly identified on screen enough times to keep track, save for Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater. Sophie briefly mentions the caretaker of the orphanage, whose shown twice in the film. She’s portrayed as, at best, absent-minded. Sophie insists that she’s also abusive, but the audience is left to just take her word for it. Without going too into detail for spoiling the second and third acts, the other humans portrayed in the film are all willing to accept the fact that giants are real without the least hint of skepticism. I’d like to see a bit of pushback from those humans and then be more willing to accept the fact when they see it for themselves.
Perhaps my favorite part of this movie is it’s broken vocabulary. While Sophie and the other humans speak properly, the giants make use of several mispronounced or completely made up words. Expected grammatical errors like replacing “is” and “have” with “are” and “has” give the BFG a little bit of charm.
Both of the main characters feel like outsiders from the atmosphere they live in. Sophie’s insomnia and interest in reading makes her feel different in the orphanage where she resides, and the BFG’s want for intelligence and active interest in dreams make him very different from the other giants in Giant Country. These two outsiders stick together and accomplish something extraordinary. Also, while not blatant or in-your-face, the BFG insists on a vegetarian diet instead of his brethren, who only subsist on eating people, promoting a cruelty-free way of living. The film does go into a good detail about disappearances of people and the giants eating them, making for a dark tone for a film directed at kids.
A Steven Spielberg film is usually complemented with a score by John Williams. This film is not an exception. The beautiful music pairs well with the fantastical scenery, particularly in Dream Country.
The film is largely composed through computer graphics, showing the giants in significant contrast to the actual humans in the film. There’s a brief compositing problem when Sophie and the BFG are in close proximity, like where Sophie stands on his shoulder and the camera focuses on their faces. Aside from that, the scenes are well-crafted. The closeness of British streets are made more apparent when the BFG sneaks through them in the first and second acts of the movie. Dream Country and the BFG’s workshop are the most colorful, each emotion of dream are given distinct colors. The facial movements of the giants were captured with mocap technology and closely reflects the actors portraying the characters.
I really enjoyed the performance of Mark Rylance, the actor playing the BFG. While several other recognizable stars are in this film, it mainly focuses on Rylance and Ruby Barnhill. Barnhill has been on TV before and this is her first feature film credit. Other actors include Bill Hader as one of the man-eating giants, Penelope Wilton, Rafe Spall, and Rebecca Hall as Mary.
The film is an adaptation from a book written in 1982 by Roald Dahl. Primary audiences are kids, being a Disney-produced film, and the adults who grew up reading the book. I myself read the book back in third grade. The movie will not reach everyone like most other Disney films, but garners enough nostalgic feelings to make for a successful weekend.
Post Movie Thought
The movie was a good amount of fun, but it wasn’t as climactic or satisfying as I expected it to be. It could be that I haven’t read the book in so long, but the excitement of the final act was overshadowed by how funny I found the toast at the end of the second act. The toast won’t be received as well by every audience as I received, and without giving away the context, I know not everyone finds that kind of humor funny.
As I mentioned before, the movie is based off a 34-year old book meant for children. I’m please to see that most of the material of the novel is maintained in the book. Among the altered scenes are any with Sophie’s caretaker in the orphanage, named Mrs. Clonkers in the book. Her appearances are limited to a brief moment of her picking up magazines in a pile of mail and her silhouette looking in on the children after Sophie goes to bed. She’s mentioned once more by Sophie as a terrible person, but the audience is told this instead of being shown. The ending is also altered from the book, which I didn’t remember until referencing it for this review. While the tone of both endings are positive, I prefer the movie’s ending to the book’s ending. Everything else is kept pretty well intact, the language, dark elements, and happy notes.