By a Roald Dahl fangirl.
‘I saw myself in The BFG‘s Sophie and Matilda, and I had books, audiobooks, and films of each. I re-read the first chapter of George’s Marvellous Medicine until I virtually knew it by heart. I sang the bad guys’ rhyme from Fantastic Mr Fox to my Dad when he asked. I was captivated by The Twits, especially Quentin Blake’s illustrations of Mr Twit’s beard. And when we studied the dead rat chapter of Boy at school, we read half of it and then I spoiled everyone by telling them what was going to happen.’
No spoilers (although I’m not sure it’s a film that you really can spoiler. If you’ve not read it, how did you spend your childhood?!)
1. All the good lines came from the book. All the lines that fell flat did not. It was a delight to hear the word ‘Troggle-Humper’ in a major Hollywood film, but the other giants’ bullying the BFG turned it into dumb slapstick.
2. Sophie, bless her, was a terrible actress. I’m sorry, Ruby Barnhill. You were so hammy that I squirmed.
3. In her defence, if you told me that Mark Rylance [the BFG] and Ruby [Sophie] didn’t meet until the premiere, and that Ruby acted the entire movie in front of a green screen, I would believe you. There was no real love between the two characters at the end, and I couldn’t tell you if that was down to the writing, the CGI, or both.
4. That said, I would happily watch a two-hour spin-off in which the BFG wanders around his cave and talks to himself.
5. After watching the scene in which Sophie and the BFG catch dreams, I refuse to believe that this film won’t receive an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. (Although perhaps that film called The Jungle Book might get it instead…)
6. I didn’t understand what we were supposed to think about Sophie and Mrs Clonkers from the first scene. Why don’t they give Mrs Clonkers her name? Does she know that Sophie does her admin for her? Why was there post at 3am? Is she cruel, as in the book, or just absent-minded? I was not impressed.
7. Some events don’t come from the book, but are not only fantastic storytelling devices but would have won Dahl’s full approval for their darkness. (The BFG in the ship and the red jacket).
8. Snozzcumbers looked incredibly, appropriately disgusting.
9. The giants looked amazing and were suitably gruesome, but there was too much slapstick and not enough threat. This film makes them bullies, not bad guys: cowards, who lash out when they feel their position is vulnerable. I get why the film would want to flesh them out, but it ends up turns the only peril into a cliche. And the final clash between them and the RAF hardly deserves the word ‘clash’.
10. This film might be one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in my life, feature the genius Mark Rylance, and be directed by Steven Spielberg, but the 1988 cartoon, awfully animated and mixed though it is, is better where it matters: emotional depth and genuine danger.