BFG : Reprising a kids fantasy, the Spielberg way

Does the old fairy tale still work? Is this the story we should be telling our children?

I is watching the Big Friendly Giant, fondly called BFG, with a child’s amusement. You is thinking what has happened to the English? You is not watching BFG, that’s why.

That’s how the main character of BFG (brilliantly played by Mark Rylance) talks in the latest extravaganza from the legendary director Steven Spielberg. He has tried to weave his E.T. magic again and has been successful to an extent.

Yes, to an extent only. For time being, let’s say that the big movie with even a bigger heart doesn’t seem to have it’s heart in the right place. Not quite. Or at least, that’s how I felt towards the end of the movie.

  • The visuals are outstanding
BFG and Sophie catching dreams in the Dream Country

Steven Spielberg has created a fascinating and visually compelling world in the form of “The Giant Country”. The giants look remarkably real. The dream country sequence is well, quite dreamy and captivating. Who doesn’t dream about running behind catching those elusive dreams?

I quite like the house of BFG. It has the old world charm, elaborate hacks to do tasks for him, like pulleys, levers, hidden bridges etc. It looks like a charming vintage decor which is so inviting. My favorite is BFG’s “Sailor Boat Bed”.

The magic of upside fizzy green “happiness” drink also provides good laugh and hints at the simplicity of feeling happy. I watched the movie in 3D, and visually, it kept me captivated. The animation and special effects are top-notch because it rarely feels that what we’re seeing is not real.

  • The camaraderie between BFG and Sophie is charming
Sophie and BFG, look at expression on BFG’s face

BFG and Sophie (a charming Ruby Barnhill) get along really well right from the beginning. Their sense of protecting each other in the times of adversity and looking out each other’s back is un-missable. They make you feel their loneliness and the joy of finding attachment and comfort in their unusual company.

BFG and Sopie’s relationship is one place where the story has got it right. For me, the child-like simplicity of their simple friendship was the highlight of the movie.

  • The other Giants are not as evil as they are made out to be
Other giants in the BFG house

This is where the story falls apart. There are a handful of more giants in the Giant Country apart from BFG, each one much bigger than him. BFG and other giants are quite different from each other. He is a vegetarian while the others are meat-lovers and cannibals. The stark difference between BFG and other giants is so clear that we can simply put it as BFG being a civilized giant in an uncivilized native Giant inhibition.

He can read and write. He has a well-decorated home and an elaborate laboratory. He diligently does his work of dream catching. He is clean, wears proper clothing, carries a hand bag, visits city often. The only thing that makes him different from humans is his size. That’s it.

But is that enough to make other giants evil?

Does their only fault lie in being different from BFG and Sophie?

Should they really be punished for exhibiting their natural behavior and living style?

Should they be taught a harsh lesson to toe the line of civilization?

So much so that they’re forcefully evicted from their native place and dropped mercilessly on a place in middle of nowhere with the food that they loathe. This seemed like extreme cruelty and propaganda to me, especially in a movie which is supposed to be a children’s movie.

  • Not everyone in this world has to be a humble servant of the Queen
The Queen with the BFG’s “Happiness Drink”

There is just way too much emphasis in making the BFG learn that he is a humble servant of the Queen, by little Sophie. It’s not subtle. It’s troublesome to see how deeply ingrained is this thought on the young impressionable mind of Sophie and how she literally pushes it onto BFG. He doesn’t live in the same civilization, it would have been fairly understandable if he didn’t know these worldly things. Maybe that’s how the original story but hey, we’re in 2016.

  • Nobody has any right to displace the inhabitants from their native just because it doesn’t suit someone
The Giant Face-off

This dramatic (questionably violent for kids) climax of cruelly and forcefully displacing the giants from their country, far far away from London (where Sophie comes from) is completely uncalled for. This is the part where the story loses it. It’s the same climax we’ve seen umpteen times in Hollywood productions when the “Empire saves the humanity from the danger of giants.” Except that, at least in this story, the giants did no wrong to anyone. Why was the lot thrown in the ocean? and then disrespectfully the food that they abhor is showered upon them as the sign of Queen’s mercy. Despite all the attempts and trappings of a fantasy fairy-tale, is this what we’re asking our kids to idolize?

And the beautiful extravaganza failed and lost me at this point, no matter how visually captivating it still was.

Originally published at on August 1, 2016.