The BFG : Spielberg’s Territory but not Spielberg Enough
“Never get out of bed. Never go to the window. Never look behind the curtains…”
There’s no doubt that Steven Spielberg can make wonderful movies. He conquered the history genre with Schindler’s List, frightened a generation with Jaws, and exposed prejudice with The Color Purple; however, I have always found his biggest accomplishment to be his more fantastical films. Take E.T. (my favorite of his filmography): the same man who’s made adults screech in terror was able to make families weep with joy. For that reason, I have been shaking with excitement for The BFG.
I usually like to start with the positives, but this time I’m going to switch things up, as almost every problem The BFG has stems from one vital aspect: the CGI. Stuck somewhere behind real and animated lies this film’s imagery. Our main giant, for example, has a quite realistic face, but a cartoonish body, so when he goes to interact with real actors, audiences will become detached. If the film’s humans were animated, too, then this would be one of the best made animated films ever, but they aren’t, so it’s not.
Back to the detached feeling, though. Considering most of our protagonist Sophie’s scenes involve animated characters, all her scenes allow for the film’s reality to be broken by the CGI. Between that and her decent-at-best dialogue, I felt absolutely no connection to her. The BFG—who’s often in frame with only animated objects—I felt real sympathy for. Though I cared about both characters’ success, I only felt for BFG.
Despite all this, I was consistently engaged with the perpetually exciting world of The BFG. Longtime Spielberg DP Janusz Kaminski and longtime Spielberg editor Michael Kahn are to thank for this, as they bring Roald Dahl’s environment to life with awe. The dreamlike cinematography, ripe with color and fascination, is only enhanced by the stream of edits. Giant Country’s set design always allows for something to experience (even during the most mundane of scenes). All of this, tied together by Spielberg’s meaningful ones, creates a world equal to that of even E.T.
There are parts, however, that either force you out of the world or don’t expand upon it enough, and that’s thanks to the sound design. Gary Rydstrom, who can do a great job, fails in bringing The BFG into a fourth dimension, as the sound often sounds like it’s coming from the same room from the same distance. This, mixed in with bad foley and a few odd cut-outs, resulted in poor sound design. If it weren’t for John Williams excellent-as-always score, the sound would be the worst part of the movie. (I will say, though, that Williams’ tunes are not nearly as great as they could be—they all sounded derivative of his work on Harry Potter and Jurassic Park.)
By far my favorite part of The BFG is Mark Rylance. Much of the acting is par, particularly those who are in the royal family scenes (save Rebecca Hall), but Rylance stands out. He’s certainly big and friendly, with a hint of lovable in the mix. There’s one scene that comes to mind, in which Sophie compliments BFG, that Rylance is fantastic. I hope he continues to work with Spielberg, for it seems to be doing them both good.
In the end, The BFG will keep a smile on your face. Sure, the pacing falters here and there, and sure, most of the jokes aren’t even chuckle-worthy, but the movie just has so much fun in store that it’s hard not to have a good time. During the lunch scene at Buckingham Palace, I literally couldn’t stop smiling. It’s a Joyous film, The BFG!