Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I Kill Giants: Here There Be Giants, Maybe

It’s a matter of scale. There are plenty of giants in fairy tales and literature (Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Killer, the BFG), but not so many in film—and arguably none that are iconic to any extent. That could finally change in the digital age. Barbara Thorson would like to introduce us to the giants she fights, but just how real they might be remains an open question throughout Anders Walters’ I Kill Giants (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Thorson does not have any friends, but she believes it is better that way. She has accepted a higher calling: protecting her coastal Long Island hamlet from giants. Naïve kids would just get in the way. Nevertheless, plucky but lonely Sophia, who has just moved from England is determined to be her friend. Not even Thorson’s crazy talk about giants will dissuade her. Thorson reluctantly starts teaching her tag-along methods of protection against the mythical hulks, while trying not to get too close, because all the signs point towards a brewing crisis.

IKG shares quite a bit in common with A Monster Calls, but it is less manipulative and melodramatic than Bayona’s tear-jerker. At times, Thorson is a hard kid to love, but she is forceful and proactive. Screenwriter Joe Kelly adapted his own graphic novel (created with artist J.M. Ken Niimura), so it rather makes sense how easily the film exploits our expectations of what a comic book superhero should be like.

Young Madison Wolfe and Sydney Wade are also quite compelling as Thorson and Sophia, respectively. Zoe Saldana looks like she is trying too hard to be cool and sensitive as the sympathetic school shrink, but Imogen Poots is quietly devastated as Karen Thorson, the beleagured older sister forced to take responsibility for her family.

Walters won the Oscar for the animated-live action short film hybrid Helium, which would make a fitting prologue to IKG, both thematically and stylistically. He creates some arresting visual compositions, but he never lets them overwhelm the on-screen drama. This is a sleeper film largely off the entertainment media’s radar, but years from now, it might be remembered as the comic book movie of 2018 that really had legs. Recommended for fans of realistic character-driven fantasy, I Kill Giants opens this Friday (3/23) in New York, at the Village East.