A young girl escapes to an imaginary world where she can fight and defeat giants to save the world when her real life gets too hard. As her home life is less than ideal and the school bullies intensity their attacks, she retreats further and further into her imagination.
Directed by Anders Walter, I Kill Giants is written by Joe Kelly based on the graphic novel her co-wrote with Ken Niimura. The film version takes the story and makes it its own while keeping the essence and spirit of the graphic novel, adapting it and keeping as much of it as possible. The film version being written by the same person definitely helps on that front. The film itself is a well-made, albeit a bit long, children’s film that should entertain and touch most adults watching it. The way the story of Barbara and her giants is built is touching and brings the viewer in by appealing to their inner child, their imagination, and their nostalgia. Between the writing and the directing, the story is in good hands and it shows in the results on the screen as the film is one of those that achieves the balance of being a children’s film that adults can be touched by.
In the part everything revolves around, the lead Barbara, young actress Madison Wolfe does amazing work. She takes the vulnerable Barbara and imbues her with courage and bravery in the face of adversity and incredible challenges. She makes it look completely natural for her to be Barbara and for Barbara to be planning her fight with giants. Working with Wolfe and giving a nuanced and emotionally controlled performance is Zoe Saldana as Mrs. Mollé. Here she gives depth to her character that goes beyond just being there for Barbara, she looks to actually care and becomes the adult rock that the young girl and the viewer can lean on. She gives her character layers and humanity, effectively stealing the show in all of her scenes. Saldana’s performance here should make anyone that is not a fan yet fall for her. Her performance is the connection for adult viewers with the story and with Barbara.
Creating the giants Barbara imagines and plans to face was a challenge in terms of making them look good and like they belong in the film. This was achieved with visual effects by Umedia and an animated segment directed by Phillip Berg. Both those elements help create a more complete universe for Barbara and her imagination, while pulling the viewers in giving them a visual to go with the story and to give them a stronger connection to Barbara and her world. Of course, this also had to work with the source material while adapting and extending it for the big screen, which is done well and thoughtfully.
To work with these visual effects, the cinematography by director of photography Rasmus Heise creates beautiful images with a level of gloomy-ness that goes with Barbara’s mental and emotional state. The film is thus given a style and look of its own that not only fits the mood but also helps the viewer feel this mood. The images are carefully framed and shot giving the film style and atmosphere in and effortless manner.
I Kill Giants is a kids’ film that also works for adults. The story doesn’t dumb down feelings or avoid them, it works with them and the characters, showing how things affect them, how their feelings come to be. The film gives its kid-stars and the watchers the benefit of the doubt that they can understand on their own without over-explaining. The performances, particularly from Madison Wolfe and Zoe Saldana, are touching and incredibly talented. The subjects approached in I Kill Giants might be heavy but this is done in a way that makes them more easily digestible. I Kill Giants is a sneakily powerful film that works on and with emotions with just the right touches to shine in the darkness.