Many of us remember the eerie opening to 1989’s cartoon movie The BFG, with the silhouette of the Big Friendly Giant flying into a golden ring of light. David Jason gave heart and soul to author Roald Dahl’s fantasy novel, while Amanda Root voiced little orphan Sophie.
Fast forward 27 years later and we’re presented with Steven Spielberg’s live-action take on the tale boasting plenty of CGI to bring the characters to life.
Sophie once again is up late in the orphanage while all the other girls sleep, and newcomer actress Ruby Barnhill’s voice tells the audience that it’s the ‘Witching hour’ – when the Boogie Man comes out. Outside the streets are empty aside from a few drunken men leaving the pub, who cause such a racket with their singing that Sophie tells them off for being “bladdered”.
But it’s a mysterious, larger-than-life shadow which catches the youngster’s eye as she looks out of her window and before she knows it Sophie is snatched out of her bed and travelling across Great Britain in the hands of a giant.
Soon she’s in Giant Country in the humble home of the BFG, this time played by Mark Rylance. After starring in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, for which the actor won an Oscar and BAFTA, it seems the director was set on casting him once more. Not only does he look the part, with his face superimposed onto a CGI’s giant, but his topsy-turvy talk is absolutely spot on for the part. The ‘snozzcumbers’ have also had a makeover, with technology making them even more disgusting than before.
Giant Country isn’t just home to the BFG though as a group of huge, man-eating monsters – voiced by the likes of Bill Hader and Jermaine Clement – also reside in the rocky landscapes. They’re not as tough as they look though, afraid of water and turning to the BFG whenever they have a ‘boo boo’.
It’s only when they catch whiff of Sophie being in their land that the real danger begins and soon Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Penelope Winton) and her aids (Rebecca Hall and Rafe Spall) are roped in to stop the giants from stealing and eating children.
When you compare this version to the original you realise how much you miss out on without CGI – Dream Land, where the BFG catches dreams, is breathtakingly beautiful as your eyes are flooded with bright colours and lights, while the giants themselves appear so real that for a minute you’re convinced these creatures exist.
The humour hasn’t been lost amid the new technology though, as whizz poppers still get giggles out of the audience, especially when the queen farts in Buckingham Palace, and the evil giants provide a lot of the comical scenes as they ‘frolic’ about.
Perhaps the only downside of the new BFG film is that it’s a little long winded – it takes so long to build up to the climax, which you’ll know about if you’ve seen the original or read the book, but once it finally arrives it all feels a bit too rushed. And there are moments which would have been better with less CGI, like when the queen’s Corgis end up flying around the room as they fart.
A few parts needed more depth as well, as screenwriter Melissa Mathison (E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie) added some new plot details, but failed to explain them properly.
It’s still a great family watch though and is the perfect way to bring the classic tale of the BFG to a whole new generation.
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