Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review of I KILL GIANTS: Self-Absorbed Substitution

March 27, 2018

The poster showed central image of a young girl bravely facing off with a huge giant in front of her. There's a blurb about this film being "from the producers of Harry Potter" (turned out this only referred to one person - Chris Columbus) and that this was based on an acclaimed graphic novel. For those unfamiliar with the original source material like me, everything about this poster would seem to tell us that this was one thrilling adventure film. Don't get too excited though, it isn't one.

Barbara Thorson is one troubled teenage misfit. She had withdrawn from her own family and her classmates from middle school, making her easy target for bullies. Nevertheless, she would rather spend her time doing serious research on how to best capture and kill the giant she believes will attack her town. Those who care for her try their best to reach out to her; but can they figure out how they can best rescue Barbara from her weird obsessions?

Madison Wolfe is a 15-year old actress whom I last saw as the demon-possessed daughter in "The Conjuring 2" (James Wan, 2016). Here she is again, this time in a challenging lead role, battling more inner demons in her head. This was an unenviably difficult role which Wolfe bravely took on, even if this was a deeply damaged girl she had to play. This character will get on your nerves and try your patience even if you were just watching her. 

Quirky young actress Imogen Poots played Barbara's elder sister Karen, who had to stand in as head of the family. Zoe Saldana played the new school psychologist Mrs. Molle, who noticed Barbara's peculiarities early on and persisted in her desire to help despite numerous rude rejections. Sydney Wade played the new neighbor from England Sophia, who was able to gain Barbara's trust but still had not the maturity to handle it. Of course, there had to be that ugly bully girl to make life even more difficult for Barbara. This was Taylor, played with supreme contempt by Rory Jackson. 

This film reminded me a lot about "A Monster Calls" (J.A.Bayona, 2016) (MY REVIEW). They basically had the same plot about a disturbed child who retreated to a world of fighting monsters to protect himself from a painful reality. In fact, the monster in both films even looked sort of alike, the way this giant also seemed to be made from scrap pieces of wood. It has to be noted though that the graphic series "I Kill Giants" by Joe Kelly (and his artist Ken Niimura) first came out in 2008, while the novel "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness (and his illustrator Jim Kay) only came out in 2011. 

As you can surmise by now, this is a serious dramatic film, not an adventure film. This was not an easy watch for me, especially the first two acts, though its cinematography is consistently breathtaking. Barbara was a sassy, unpleasant girl who answered back, and even hit back, to those whom she thought were against her. Barbara was one really messed up character and it was not easy to like her or to root for her, even if you felt sorry for her. By the final third though, this film by Anders Walter (Academy Award winner for his short film "Helium" i 2013) finally gets engaging, with its heart and message crystal clear. 6/10.

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