A little girl is snatched by a towering creature who turns out to be quite friendly.
Roald Dahl’s classic 1982 children’s novel has come to the big screen under the direction of Steven Spielberg and with a budget that’s more than giant sized. So how does it fare?
Fine really. There’s enough good material in the book to make scripting duties by the late Melissa Mathison (who also wrote E.T. with Spielberg back in day) a relatively simple matter and she has done little to change events, bar a tad fewer whizzpops and a bit more action.
The biggest thing this adaptation brings to the table is technology, as recent advances in performance capture have created a unique take on the BFG, complete with all the mannerisms of performer Mark Rylance.
It really is an amazing way to create a character and a glimpse at the future of film production. Rylance is perfect in the part in every element from his voice to his features and gestures, and he’s matched by a marvellous turn from 12 year old Ruby Barnhill as the utterly practical Sophie.
The BFG is a tale of giants and dreams and that means there’s plenty of potential for magical moments, but the film doesn’t land as many as it should. There’s a sense that Spielberg is reaching for a feeling of overall wonderment, but can’t quite remember how he used to do it.
Instead we get a few of his more recent tricks, including a long shot that’s intended to create tension but the near total CG environment makes it feel a bit perfunctory. There’s little doubt that the 69 year olds skills aren’t as sharp as they once were, and the film could have used a younger hand at the tiller.
It all goes a bit Tintin eventually, with over the top action sequences that quite miss the point of Dahl’s book and an ending which oddly shies away from the more satisfying original.
Still the film has its moments, none better than when a crowded maelstrom of dreams careen around the room as the BFG concocts another vision or nightmare from his collection.
The BFG is a genial thing with spectacle to spare that’s a little light on the magic of Dahl’s original to be a true classic.