Steven Spielberg brings the Roald Dahl classic, The BFG into the world of live action with an adaptation faithful to the original story.
Steven Spielberg seems to be the perfect director to bring a Roald Dahl story to life considering that he is able to capture the imagination in similar ways through a very different medium. It feels like a natural match that should have happened sooner.
One thing to bear in mind when watching this film is that it is an adaptation of a book meant for young children and Spielberg clearly intended to be true to the source material by aiming this at a particular audience. As such it might seem like it’s a little unsophisticated and juvenile which may be off-putting to older viewers. It wasn’t a problem for me but I can see why it would be.
This does mean that the finished product is really safe all the way through. There’s nothing here that could be considered overly violent or distressing which does sometimes make the overall narrative a little unexciting. I never got the sense that anyone was in any real danger despite constantly being told that the threat was very real.
Fans of the original story will be right at home here. It’s a very faithful adaptation that doesn’t stray from what Roald Dahl wrote all those years ago. The fact that the original story could be so easily adapted says a lot about it but it also means there are no surprises to be had. I personally don’t have an issue with it as I was pleased to see such a faithful adaptation.
Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is our window into the magical world of giants and she is a very endearing character right from the beginning. Barnhill does a wonderful job in her first feature film role and carries the film nicely. She does an admirable job of being intelligent and inquisitive without coming across as overly irritating. The character is very well written and is easily able to carry the film while allowing the viewer to explore the world with her.
Mark Rylance as the titular BFG is great. He fully immerses himself in the role with the odd speech patterns that define the character coming through believably. It does take a while to get used to the way he talks but the audience catches up along with Sophie to the point that it is easy to figure out what he’s talking about. Together they make a very watchable pair and their relationship feels natural enough despite appearing to skip stages a little too quickly.
The other major role is Penelope Wilton as the Queen. She enters the story really late but fits into the narrative nicely and has a cartoonish edge to her performance that really fits the overall tone of the film. She doesn’t have much time to establish clear relationships with the other characters but is certainly memorable while she’s around.
Visually this film is absolutely spectacular. The CGI on the BFG and the other giants looks great and the world they live in is also wonderfully realised. Despite the simplicity of dreams being depicted as coloured lights they do feel appropriately magical. Even though there isn’t a lot going on most of the time there’s always something nice to look at.
In terms of standout sequences the film has two. Seeing the BFG teased by the bigger giants is impressive on a technical level and there is a dinner scene towards the end that is endlessly creative and entertaining.
The lack of action is the biggest failing of the film. There are long stretches where very little happens other than the characters talking to one another. This is more of a sin of the source material but if the film had been 20 minutes shorter then this likely wouldn’t have been an issue.
In general pacing is a big problem in this film with the story starting very quickly and steadily slowing as it progresses. Again, cutting the running time would probably have solved many of these problems.
A solid adaptation of the Roald Dahl story of the same name with excellent acting and stunning visuals. The running time lets the film down as the uneven pacing starts to show itself fairly quickly. There also isn’t an awful lot going on made more obvious by the midsection of the film sagging significantly. Spielberg definitely intended this for a younger audience so there are many scenes that feel like they aren’t exciting because extra effort is being taken not to scare kids. This isn’t a bad thing but I can see how people would have problems with it. Mileage will vary but much of this is a good time.
- stunning visuals
- excellent acting
- some standout scenes
- uneven pacing and an overlong running time
- a lack of danger throughout