It’s not really a Whizzpopper but it’s also not a Whizzflopper
Steven Spielberg teams up again with Melissa Mathieson and Mark Rylance to bring Roald Dahl’s The BFG to the big screen.It seems that, for a long time now, studios have been cashing in on remakes of older films more than they ever have before. While there are still plenty of original movies being made and released it does seem that ideas are rapidly running out. Perhaps it is because of advances in modern technology, that almost every big blockbuster is released in 3D as well as the now seemingly old-fashioned 2D. Having said that, it does mean that new, younger audiences are able to enjoy films that older generations previously enjoyed during their younger years.Now it’s Steven Spielberg’s turn, along with the late Melissa Mathison (who wrote E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), to try their hand at a remake with a new version of The BFG originally released in 1989 and based on the much loved book by Roald Dahl. I grew up watching the original animated version and loved it. The monstrous human eating giants were just the right amount of terrifying and the BFG himself was loveable and charming. I purposefully decided not to watch the original before seeing this latest version so that I wouldn't be hindered by comparing them.
The film opens up on to the damp and dimly lit streets of London as Big Ben chimes in the background. We meet Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) as she sneaks around the orphanage careful to avoid the matron of the home. Meanwhile, under the cover of darkness a giant creeps around the quiet streets of London, ensuring that his presence remains unknown – that is until a startled and scared Sophie sees something outside her bedroom window.
A hop, skip and a jump and we’re in the Land of the Giants, where this big eared, gangly fellow lives. Played by Mark Rylance using motion capture cameras the BFG is played out in great splendour. With kind and gentle eyes, a west country accent and a speech that is more than a little befuddled we, along with Sophie, soon realise that this giant isn’t a scary one, but a sweet and loveable one. But outside his front door lurk bigger, mean spirited giants, with names like Man Hunter, Bone Cruncher and Fleshlumpeater. It’s during these scenes that we discover more about the BFG and what he does and see the friendship start to blossom between him and Sophie. Unfortunately the opening of the film promises a lot more than the middle part can deliver.
It quickly becomes rather flat with a lot of attention paid to dialogue and not much action – which could get a bit boring for younger audiences. Visually it’s all very pleasing, the set pieces are wonderful and work well in transporting you to a different land within the BFG’s home. Likewise the chemistry between Sophie and BFG is fun to watch as she learns to understand his mixed up speech and eventually work together to formulate a plan to stop the nastier, bigger giants from living up to their names. The film does pick up again towards the end when the pair pay a visit to the Queen and have breakfast; this scene was probably the only one that got any real laughs at my screening, which was packed with children.
Mark Rylance is a delight to watch and almost makes up for what the film lacks
Rylance is great as the BFG, charming, humble and sweet throughout which was enhanced by Barnhill’s Sophie. A Brave and bold young girl who, having felt lonely the majority of her short life, finds a kindred spirit in her new giant friend. The supporting cast brought an element of humour from Rafe Spall as Mr Tibbs, the Queens butler, and Rebecca Hall as Mary her maid. Penelope Wilton plays the Queen bringing a few more laughs to the breakfast scene in a manner that only the Queen could. The other giants worked well to bring a small amount of tension to the story line, but were nowhere near as menacing as I remember from the original animated film. Jemaine Clement plays the main dimwitted nasty giant, Fleshlumpeater.
As I previously mentioned it is a great visual film. The dream catching sequences are luminous and use vivid lights which I am sure will be even more pleasing for the younger audiences. But as far as character and plot development goes, aside from the BFG himself there wasn’t very much. This didn’t necessarily affect the story line, but there could have been a lot more made about the dream catching and delivering in order to make it that much more magical, in my opinion. There was a lot of attention to detail which enforced the size of the BFG from the four grandfather clocks used to make a table for the giant at the palace and the red phone box used as a kitchen utensil holder in the giant's kitchen.
I was torn with what to score this film because it was a good watch but did feel exceptionally long in places with not much happening and when there was action, it was over far too quickly. I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on how true this version is, but from what I can recall from the original animated film, it remains fairly similar. I didn’t see it in 3D, but I can only think it would be worthwhile for the dream catching sequences alone. An enjoyable watch for the most part but judging by the restlessness of most of the audience perhaps this is one for home viewing.
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