Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Movie Review: I Kill Giants

I Kill Giants ** / *****
Directed by: Anders Walter.
Written by: Joe Kelly based on the action graphic novel by Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura.
Starring: Madison Wolfe (Barbara Thorson), Imogen Poots (Karen Thorson), Sydney Wade (Sophia), Rory Jackson (Taylor), Zoe Saldana (Mrs. Mollé), Noel Clarke (Mr. Mollé), Jennifer Ehle (Mrs. Thorson), Ciara O'Callaghan (Theresa Tuzzo).
Watching I Kill Giants is a frustrating experience, mainly because as audience members, we’re ahead of the movie almost every step along the way, and it’s gets boring to wait for the movie to play catch-up. This is a movie that all but tells the audience outright that it isn’t telling you everything you need to know about it at the beginning, so that it can spring that on you at an opportune moment to try and draw tears from you. It doesn’t work. As the movie progresses you also get the feeling that what it’s really depicting is a fairly serious mental illness that the film is unwilling or unable to address head on. There are things to like about the movie to be sure – but they don’t make it any less frustrating.
The pre-teen heroine of the movie is Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) who wears bunny ears wherever she goes, and spends her time stalking about in the woods and the beach near her home, setting traps and bait out in order to capture giants. She is the protector of her town from these giants – or so she says – and has a powerful Warhammer in her pocketbook in which to slay them. No one at school likes her – they think (not without reason) that she’s weird – which has made her the target of a nasty bully Taylor (Rory Jackson). At home, her brother is a loud, obnoxious teenager who spends his time on videogames, and her sisters Karen (Imogen Poots) tries to hold everything together, while holding down a job as well. She isn’t doing well either. Barbara makes one friend early in the film – Sophia (Sydney Wade), a recent transplant from Leeds, England – who knows no one else. The school psychiatrist, Mrs. Molle (Zoe Saldana) wants to help Barbara – who treats her, as she treats everyone else, with utter contempt.
Spoiler Warning Ahead for the Next Paragraph
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise when late in the film, it is revealed that the giants Barbara sees is much like the monster seen in the recent film A Monster Calls – which is a manifestation of the boys fears about his cancer stricken mother dying. I didn’t particularly love that film either – but I think it handled the melding of the fantasy and realistic elements together far better – mainly because it doesn’t really try to hide that fact from the audience, and because everything the boy actually does – in the real world – makes some degree of sense. As I Kill Giants progresses, Barbara does more and more outlandish things – becomes more and more unreasonable – or delusional if you will – and pushes herself well beyond the point that makes any sort of sense. In both films, children are using elements they better understand to come to grips with the enormity of death – but in I Kill Giants, the girl is literally fighting “giants” during a hurricane.
There are elements of the movie that deserve praise. For a small budget movie, director Anders Walter does a very good job with the special effects. Yes, they giants are often seen at a distance, through fog, behind trees, etc. – but that’s just smart moviemaking, and it’s effective in the way it builds tension. Young Madison Wolfe really delivers a deeply committed performance as Barbara – it is a slightly scary performance of a disturbed young woman. Sydney Wade is quite charming as her concerned friend as well.
Still, for the most part I found I Kill Giants frustrating. We know the secrets the movie is hiding, and I always get annoyed when a movie basically pokes you for 90 minutes telling you it has a secret it isn’t going to tell you until they want to. A good twist comes out of nowhere, and makes complete sense. When you telegraph a twist from the start, it’s almost impossible for it to have the same impact. In the case of a film like I Kill Giants, which deals with such dark, complex and serious issues, the whole thing feels kind of cheap and manipulative.

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