Steven Spielberg’s screen adaption of Roald Dahl’s 1982 beloved story The BFG won’t go down in history for being Spielberg’s greatest work. Competing with E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan and Minority Report it has a lot to live up to. Yet, I don’t think Spielberg intended it to be this way.
I have been re-tweeting every post from Disney about the upcoming film. Its release this weekend was much anticipated. I wasn’t disappointed, but I knew I wasn’t going to be. I’m an avid Roald Dahl and Disney fan and the film was just how it should’ve been. I believe (and have read) a lot of people were expecting an action packed, edge of your seat, hold your breath type of film. I’m afraid those people will be disappointed.
The film starts at a slow pace. So slow even I had my doubts in the first 30 minutes. Yet, let us not forget that the BFG is a gentle, humble soul. He is the Big Friendly Giant after all. In hindsight I see what Spielberg intended. We spend this time getting to know The BFG and his new friend Sophie. She is an orphan girl who The BFG steals from her bed after she sees him out of her window. We realise he is a vulnerable, burdened character. Mark Rylance plays the role of The BFG and brings the character to light in his gentle portrayal. His sad droopy eyes, his rickety, clumsy way of walking and of course his hilarious mixed up speech. He is gentle and protective of Sophie who is played by newcomer Ruby Barnhill. It’s hard not to feel a deep affection for the geriatric giant.
A highlight of the film is when The BFG takes Sophie with him to catch dreams in Dream Country. This is where the melding of CGI and imagination are at its best. It’s a spellbinding scene where Sophie and The BFG catch pastel coloured dreams that congregate around a mysterious, mystical tree surrounded by mist and fairytale magic. It is here that The BFG explains to Sophie that he:
“is hearing all the secret whisperings of the world…. [Like] the footsteps of a ladybird as she goes walking across a leaf…little ants chittering to each other as they scuddle around in the soil… [and] sometimes on a very clear night… if I is swiggling my ears in the right direction… I is sometimes hearing faraway music coming from the stars in the sky.”
I mean, how can you not fall in love with this intimate scene between two new, unlikely friends.
The film picks up pace when Sophie hatches a plan to stop the man eating giants from eating innocent children. The giant’s names are Bloodbottler, Meatdripper, Gizzardgulper, Manhugger, Fleashlumpeater, Bonecruncher, and Maidmasher. (Thank you Roald Dahl for your creative gifts to mankind!) Her plan? To go straight to the one person who has the power to save them all. The Queen of England of course! Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley from Downton Abbey) plays Queen Elizabeth II who adds a comic aristocratic naivety to the role. Her utter faith and hospitality to The BFG and Sophie sets the scene for a hilarious breakfast feast in the Dining Hall of Buckingham Palace.
We were lucky enough to have three children sitting in front of us in the movie theatre. Their squeals of delight at The BFG sitting on a piano to eat breakfast made the experience all the more special. When The BFG offers the magical drink called Frobscottle to the Queen and her corgis the anticipation of the Queen making a whizzpopper (a fart) was too much for the children in front of us. They collapsed in heaps, and so did the rest of the movie theatre.
The film is charming and endearing. The animation is outstanding and to me it does perfect justice to the original illustrations done by Quentin Blake. It may not be the best movie of 2016 but it will leave you feeling light-hearted and if anything you will go home and dig out all your old Roald Dahl novels.
All images are courtesy of the official Disney Twitter page and illustrations by Quentin Blake from the BFG novel. Copyright © Roald Dahl and Copyright © Quentin Blake.