The BFG (2016) – Steven Spielberg

This one seemed like a surefire winner, you’ve got Spielberg working from a script by Melissa Matheson who wrote E.T. The story is adapted from Roald Dahl’s story, and Mark Rylance brings The Big Friendly Giant to life.

But no matter how good, the computer-generated images were, combining the computer characters with live-action ones, specifically, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who shares the most screen time with the giant, they just aren’t photo-real yet.

It feels clunky. Is that the fault of the CGI limiting the director’s spontaneity? Or is it a less-than-stellar script? One could point out the inherent silliness and lowbrow humour of the farting scenes but the film is aimed, for the most part, at children, and most kids find farts funny.

I was a little troubled by how much I didn’t enjoy this one. This could be the first Spielberg film that I found truly disappointing.

Rylance turns in a solid performance layering TBFG with real joy and pathos (he has some problems with the giants he shares the land with), and he gets to deliver some wonderful lines. Barnhill makes for an interesting young character, and the joy and wonder she exudes help to put some of the computer/real-world interactions aside. But it’s not enough.

As great as everything looks, the blending of Barnhill into some of the sequences just seems glaringly bad.

This one had everything going for it, Spielberg, Matheson, Rylance, score by John Williams, edited by Michael Kahn, Janusz Kaminski serving as director of photography. And yet, it just doesn’t have that magical Spielberg quality that so many of his other films have in their DNA.

There are some fun sequences and Dahl’s whimsy is still inherent in the film, it’s just not told or executed as well as it could be. I don’t think the visual effects are where Spielberg needed them to be to properly tell the story. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t fun moments and heartfelt sequences, but they get lost in the muddle that is the rest of the film.

To be clear, I didn’t hate the film, I was just disappointed by it. Spielberg’s work has always been so iconic, and exemplary, and this one just feels like it fell short a little. Perhaps it should have been all live-action or computer-generated, not a combination of the two. It seems the visuals just aren’t there yet, and the eye can always tell, and that plays into viewing the film as well.

That’s alright Spielberg has other tales to tell.

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