Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Guy Pierce, James Franco, Noomi Rapace

Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), is one of those seminal horror films that changes the face of a genre so much, that it marks the way the genre will be for years and years to come. How many movies have imitated the style, the look of Ridley Scott’s original monster movie? Many that’s how many.I could write a list of films that look and play out exactly like it: Alien Contamination (1980), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Outland (1981), Leviathan (1989), Event Horizon (1997)…and the list goes on and on. Ridley Scott left that Alien franchise after having directed that first film and the sequels that followed were directed by talented directors that took each film in totally different directions, which is why I love this franchise, each director has put his stamp on each film, so they are all extremely different. Now if we fast forward a few decades, things have come full circle. Now Ridley Scott has retaken the franchise as if saying “this is my baby and I’m going to make it my freaking legacy to the world!” Which is what Prometheus and Alien: Covenant are, these films represent Ridley Scott’s reclaiming the franchise he started. Does Ridley Scott still have it?

Alien: Covenant is a direct sequel to Prometheus (2012), just in case you had your doubts. This is the story of how the xenomorphs came to be, those nasty sharp teeth, perfect killing machines with acid for blood. Alien: Covenant is the second film in a planned trilogy of prequels, they tell us the story of how the infamous aliens came to be. When Prometheus came out, audiences complained about the lack of xenomorphs, audiences wanted more of the creature that frightened them so much in Alien (1979), they wanted the horror element amped up, the wanted that nail biting, heart pounding suspense they got that first time around. But I like Prometheus for what it is, part of a trilogy of how these creatures came to be, it’s the back story. With Alien: Covenant we can definitely see a story unfolding. There are some surprises in store for fans of the Alien franchise, my mind was blown. I mean, yeah, these prequels are deeper and more profound, but that has to do with the fact that Ridley Scott has grown as a filmmaker, he has a lot more to say about life, hence, the difference in tone between these new prequels and the classic Alien films.

And speaking of depth and themes, what I enjoy about these prequels is that they explore the origins of man. Who would’ve thought that the Alien movies would end up touching such heavy themes? But here we are considering themes about the origins of man, about death, about who made us. The exploration of these themes begins with the introduction to androids, synthetic beings who are capable of thinking and feeling like humans. Similar to us in every detail save for one: they can outlive us. Questioning death and begging the universe for more life is a theme that Scott has been exploring since Blade Runner (1984) a film in which we have renegade androids begging their creator, their “father”, for more life. So yeah, Ridley Scott’s exploration of heavy philosophical themes continues in Alien: Covenant. These are questions that need answers, and Scott knows they cannot be ignored. After all, these are "the big questions" in life. It doesn’t surprise me that these are themes Ridley Scott has chosen to explore now, at the end of his career and last half of his life. Scott is probably feeling extremely identified with the themes explored in these films, questioning life, questioning where we came from, who made us and ultimately: why must we die? As I write this, Sir Ridley Scott is 79 years old!

Ridley Scott does not forget that the franchise started with what is essentially a monster movie, a horror film, and a very good one at that. When we go into top horror movies ever made, there’s no doubt Alien (1979) will make the list. And Ridley Scott knows that. So with Alien: Covenant he seems to want to go back to that horror, the spine tingling, nail biting suspense. And I have to say that Scott nailed it. There are some genuine scary moments here, there’s gore, there’s blood. Yes my friends, this one amps up the terror. But the great thing about Alien: Covenant is that it doesn’t forget that it is a sequel to Prometheus. So it’s like we get half of the philosophy and deep themes of Prometheus (2012), and half of the horror and suspense from Alien (1979), so it should satisfy both camps.

The film works even better because it has an awesome cast, and a very eclectic one at that. Here’s Danny McBride doing a serious role, he doesn’t do bad at all I have to say. But if one performance stands out it has to be Michael Fassbender in the dual role of David and Walter, the androids of the film. I simply love Fassbender in anything he does, but here he clearly plays two different roles and it is magnificent. But then again, so many things are magnificent here. The screenplay is so poetic, so good, the dialog sounds beautiful with many references to classical music and poetry. By the way, you’d do good in reading Percy Shelley’s sonnet ‘Ozymandias’, it comes into play at one point in the film. Finally, the production itself is gorgeous looking, the sets, the ship designs, the alien designs I mean, this film is simply beautiful to look at, which comes as no surprise in a Ridley Scott film. So go see this completely satisfying sequel! Here’s hoping this one makes some cash at the box office so we can get to see the next and final film in this prequel trilogy!

Rating: 5 out of 5      


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Cure for Wellness (2017)

A Cure for Wellness (2017)

Director: Gore Verbinski

Cast: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth

A good place to start this review would be by mentioning that director Gore Verbinski was at one point attached to direct a film based on an extremely popular and successful video game called Bioshock.  Strangely enough I finished playing all three Bioschock games last week! I was so hooked, I had no social life for a while. I played all three games back to back! Upon finishing the Bioshock trilogy I was left with the notion that these games would in fact make fantastic movies and that if Gore Verbinski, a director I’ve come to admire, was going to be the one helming the film adaptation, I could rest assured It would be good adaptation. Sadly, just eight weeks before the film was to begin shooting, and after much pre-production, Universal got cold feet because Verbinski wanted the film to be a hard ‘R’ rated violent film and the studio didn’t want to risk 200 million on a big budget horror film. So Universal Studios pulled the plug on the project. Apparently Verbinski really had an itching to make that film because here comes a not surprisingly similar idea in the form of A Cure for Wellness (2017). So are the rumors true? Is this film heavily influenced by the game? And video game connections aside, was the film any good?

A Cure for Wellness tells the story of a young businessman named Lockhart, who is sent by his superiors to bring back his company’s CEO. You see, the rich old man went on a trip to the Swiss Alps to visit a ‘Wellness Spa’ and ended up never coming back. Lockhart’s mission is to bring him back at any cost because the future of the company is hanging on the balance of this one mission. The mysterious “spa” is rumored to have these curative waters, which can heal people, and quite possibly, give them immortality! Is it all on people’s minds? Or is there something else at work here? Will Lockhart ever return from the Spa that no one returns from?

So yes, the film does in fact have many, many things in common with Bioschock. It has leeches, it has lighthouses, it has crazy old people hell bent on “perfection” and beauty. It involves the idea of sucking the life out of people, so yeah, fans of Bioshock will find a special delight in seeing this film because it is in fact sort of like a Bioschock film, without the more expensive elements of the game, like having an entire city underwater. But even though it does have similarities to these games, it’s also very much its own thing. Video games similarities aside, the good news is that I truly enjoyed this creepy as hell movie. It’s the kind of old school horror film that does not in any way rely on jump scares, or cheap loud noises to creep you out.  Nope, these scares are well orchestrated my friends! The last time that Gore Verbinski took a stab at horror was with The Ring (2002) and I remember being blown away by that one the first time I saw it in theaters. It was a PG-13 horror film that showed me that when a filmmaker truly tries, the PG-13 rating doesn’t even matter! Of course, when a film is R rated you can go further and Verbinski really milks his ‘R’ rating in A Cure for Wellness. There are some truly gruesome bits here, but there’s also the intensity of the very adult thematic elements.

Verbinski gives the whole film this classy vibe, this felt like an old school horror film. How refreshing is it to see a horror film not aimed at teenagers? Where there isn’t a comic relief character saying stupid jokes after something frightening happens? I thank the horror gods that finally, here’s a horror movie through and through, trying its hardest to creep you out by slowly building on the terror and the paranoia, instead of treating us like idiots. So my hats down to Verbinski, this felt like a true horror film. It sinks you into the horror and then goes further, darker. The atmospheric elements on this film were handled splendidly. I notice how hard Verbinski was attempting to hold onto that dreadful atmosphere all the time. He made sure there were gloomy clouds, lonely hallways, creepy looking characters, a dreadful color palette. To me the best horror films are those that don’t let go of the atmosphere, as an audience, we like to stay in that spooky world and we want that spooky vibe all the time, and on this film we get it. From the spooky castle at the top of the hill, to the gloomy weather and the spooky ghost like young girl that looms around the spa, Gorvinski was trying to evoke doom, dread and isolation. He achieved it in my book. From a visual standpoint the film is fantastic. Verbinski succeeded in creating amazing visuals with this one. Like Kubrick, you could pause many moments on this film and they’d feel like a painting. There’s a lot of play with colors on this film, but not the kind that pop out, instead this film shows us muted colors that send the image of death and decay to our brains. And if its not grimmy dirty, its neat and almost too perfect. A clinical sort of perfection, which augments how some of the characters search for it.

And speaking about the films influences, well, they were all over the place. Starting with the most obvious one: Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973). A Cure for Wellness definitely follows that formula  in which the main character is falling into the spider’s web, little by little. He doesn’t realize what he is getting himself into until it is too late. It brought to mind other films like Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Martin Scorcese’s Shutter Island (2010) and even Roman Polansky’s Rosermary’s Baby (1968), the latter when it comes to the music on this film, which is perfect on certain scenes. So yeah, I loved it to death. It’s a film that explores the very nature of religion and why it exists. Why are people afraid to leave a cult? Why do we end up feeling like religion will save us? Why do we search for it? Do we need it? So here we have a film that plays with important themes, it’s not just another empty horror film. On the downside, the film does run for two hours and a half, I personally didn’t mind them because I find this theme fascinating, but I’m sure some audiences will grow impatient. My best advice would be to go into it expecting a slow burner that at the end will be worth the trip. At times I felt it was going too slow for its own good, but then bang, it reeled me in again. I saw it last night and ended up dreaming I was in that damned spa! Also, I feel like a second viewing is needed to truly absorb this one, it has a lot of story to it. Basically, I was a satisfied costumer with this movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year for various reasons. Reason number one is audiences can’t get enough of Star Wars and number two, they wanted a better Star Wars film than The Force Awakens (2015), which though fun and entertaining, was just a carbon copy of various other Star Wars films. Not that The Force Awakens didn’t have any original elements to it, it did, and it had its fare share of awesome moments to spare no doubt, but it was too much like Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). People wanted a Star Wars film that would break new ground, expand the universe just a little more and The Force Awakens didn’t have enough of that I guess. So here comes Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, promising us a new take on the Star Wars universe, this time there would be no Jedi’s, no magic, no light saber duels, what Rogue One was proposing us was perhaps something totally unheard of in the Star Wars franchise,  a nitty-gritty war movie. Did it deliver?

The premise for Rogue One stems on that mission that occurs somewhere between Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Rogue One is all about the mission that the rebels go through in order to retrieve the schematics for the Death Star, so they can discover its weakness and destroy it. We get a group of rebels, who are so rebellious they even rebel against the rebels themselves and go out on their own mission. Most of us know how the story turns out because after all this is a prequel, this is an in between tale, so it’s not so much about what will eventually happen, it’s more about how they go about it. How exactly do they do it?

So at least from an originality stand point, I have to give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story kudos because it’s not a carbon copy of anything, it’s at long last a somewhat original story. I mean, if I was to say it was a little bit like anything out  there, I’d have to mention that the opening sequence did echo Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards (2009) a bit, but that’s about it. Rogue One is a one way ticket to hell in which the mission matters more than those trying to achieve it, like many a war movie. The whole War Movie angle is very satisfying, especially when it comes to those awesome and extended space battles which are very complex. It was very focused on those space dog fights, loved that about it.

Kudos to director Gareth Edwards for making a Star Wars movie with decent performances, excellent action sequences and good effects! And all without light sabers and Jedi’s? That’s a feat right there! How original was it to have a Star Wars film take place on a beach? I mean, did you ever think you’d see Storm Troopers or AT-AT’s on a freaking beach? Nope, but there they were fighting amongst the tide and the palm trees! A totally new environment, which goes in tune with Lucas’s formula for his Star Wars films: the ever changing environments. This one takes place in a forest, another one is in a dessert; the other one is in the freezing tundra and so on. So Gareth Edwards didn’t deviate from Lucas’s Star Wars formula, he simply gave it his own spin and sometimes even surpassed Lucas in terms of direction. For example, I loved how Gareth Edwards got to squeeze out intense performances from his actors, something Lucas was never successful at. On Rogue One we get some real drama, the dialog doesn’t feel cheesy or forced. It was delivered with intensity and emotion. I mean, this movie was dramatic and had an overall dead serious tone to it. The robot of the film, Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO does add some levity to the film, but on the upside K-2SO is not annoying or silly like C3-PO could be. So on this film, even the robots act well.

The film is not without its missteps though. First, Felicity Jones does not make the strongest lead. She’s supposed to be a rebel leader, but her performance just doesn’t transmit that. By comparison, Rey from The Force Awakens (2015) felt like a much stronger character. It’s not that she’s bad in the role, she does fine, but she doesn’t excel, she doesn’t come off as memorable. She didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. Second weak spot comes in the form of CGI replicas of human characters. In my book, this has never worked well because humans are too hard to duplicate. We’ve seen this tried before in films like TRON: Legacy (2010), a film in which we saw a CGI version of Jeff Bridges. So far, Disney films are the pioneers in this field. The character they brought back to life for Rogue One is Grand Moff Tarkin, originally played by Peter Cushing.  While the CGI replica of Cushing does look, move and talk like Cushing, you can tell it’s not a living breathing thing and so it’s like right there in your face how fake it is and it kinda takes you out of the movie. I would have left these CGI characters in the shadows, or not focus so much on their faces, I mean, as it is it feels like Disney studios simply felt so sure of themselves with their CGI creation that they went and put it right there, up front, for all to see how good they are at computer effects. But truth is no matter how well made these computer effects are, you can always tell when it’s not a human. I really hope film studios will stop doing this sort of thing. To me it’s disrespectful to the actor who’s passed away. But you be the judges on this matter, what say you my dear readers? Should actors be duplicated by computers in this way? To me nothing can replace a real live actor.

But these are minor hiccups in an otherwise amazing Star Wars movie. If you are a fan, you will love this movie. It is not as in your face with the fan service as The Force Awakens was, there are still inside jokes here and there throughout the movie that only true blue hardcore fans of Star Wars will get. Like for example, Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor has no problems in shooting storm troopers first! You’ll see characters you recognize from A New Hope scattered all throughout the movie. You’ll see familiar spaceships, familiar landscapes, aliens and dialog that hints at other films. This is a movie made for Star Wars fans, but without being in your face about it like The Force Awakens was. Final words on Rogue One is this is one of the best Star Wars movies to come around in a long time. So far Disney is doing a fantastic job with these Star Wars movies, can’t wait to see what Episodes 8 and 9 have in store for us. With the amount of money these movies are making right now, I’m sure we’ll be seeing Star Wars movies for a long time to come.

Rating:  5 out of 5  


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad (2016)

Director: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie,Viola Davis, Common, Jai Courtney, Ezra Miller, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman, Karen Fukuhara, Ben Affleck

The thing about Suicide Squad is that it’s neither a good nor a bad film. Sadly, this is what Hollywood is doing a lot of these days, films that are neither here, nor there, they simply exist somewhere in the realm between good and bland. That being said, I had a decent time with Suicide Squad; it entertained even through its flaws. I was surprised to discover that it had moments of brilliance, few as they were yet was extremely dissapointed that a writer/director of David Ayer’s caliber delivered such an average film. But before we get into anything, I want to let you guys know that this review is coming from a true blue comic book fan, so I’m not one of those people who went into Suicide Squad already hating it. Actually I was truly looking forward to it. I even saw it opening day. The main draw for me were all the cool possibilities the concept of villains as heroes had to offer, plus we had director David Ayer behind the cameras which gave me a lot of hope. The result wasn’t as disastrous as some reviews make it sound, there’s some fun to be had with Suicide Squad. But I’m sure you’re wondering exactly what these pesky flaws everyone keeps talking about were, so let’s get down to it shall we? 

Suicide Squad is all about this top secret government project called “Task Force X” that unites a group of villains who are under the custody of the federal government (read: in jail) in order to have them do the governments dirty work. So as it turns out, these villains end up being the heroes, because an even more villainous witch called ‘The Enchantress’  is hell-bent on taking over the world. In order to achieve this, she brings to life her once dead, but equally powerful brother. The Suicide Squad’s supposed to stop this all powerful entity. Will they achieve their mission? Or will their collective insanity tear the group apart?

If you have seen Ayer’s body of work, then you will know why I was a bit disappointed here. I mean, Harsh Times (2005)? An amazing picture! End of Watch (2012) and Sabotage (2014) were both highly watchable in my book.  Let’s not forget that Mr. Ayer was a great writer before successfully transferring his talents to the directing department. Before becoming a successful film director, he wrote amazing scripts like Training Day (2001). So yes, I’m perplexed as to why Suicide Squad didn’t blow me away story wise. With Ayer at the helm, I was expecting more of an edge to this film. When the film starts, you are first lambasted with a ton of background stories for each character, which I thought was a mistake because what ends up happening is we get a bunch of fast forwarded versions of each characters origin story. Hollywood’s forgotten that mystery is one of the major elements of cinema, we don’t need to know every single little thing about every single character; especially not in an ensemble piece like this one. I mean, if we’re watching a solo Harley Quinn movie then fine, give me that full blown origin story. Otherwise it’s too much, too fast. As it is, you get these little snippets of everybody’s story squeezed into an already cluttered film. That’s problem number one.

 It’s The Joker and Harley Quinn that you want to see the most of. Sadly, the Joker isn’t on the film as much as you’d think he is. Don’t know what the general consensus on Jared Letos Joker is, but I do know that the decision to make him The Joker divided fans. Me? I was happy with the choice; I’ve always thought he was an underused actor. In my book he is one of the greats of his generation. His Joker is the first to feel like a real gangster, like a crime boss, a guy who’d dabble in selling drugs in a night club while screwing his hot psychiatrist, I mean, he wasn't so cartoony, he felt evil. Each representation of the Joker has been special for different reasons, but I like where Leto is going with it. He wasn’t so much a comic book character, he felt closer to the kind of gangster you’d find on the streets, only with make up on his face; loved whenever Joker and Harley were on screen. That scene of Joker rescuing Harley Quinn while shooting a machine gun from a helicopter while laughing maniacally? Yes please! More of that!

Where the DC cinematic universe is failing is in not giving equal importance to each character. Some are the stars of the show because they are played by the big stars, while characters like Killer Croc, Katana and Slipknot are treated like throwaways. That’s something that Marvel movies never do. Even the smallest, weirdest characters are given their moment to shine in a Marvel movie. While in DC, the weird characters are simply that, weird. Sometimes the way they are portrayed makes you wonder why they are even there. That boomerang throwing villain, why was he there? He does very little. Oh, he’s supposed to be the comic relief? He doesn’t do a good job of it either. Then there’s Slipknot a character introduced at the last minute, like that nameless character that comes along for the mission on an episode of Star Trek, the one you just know is going to bite the bullet. And so on. By comparison, in Marvel movies even Ant-Man gets epic!

On the positive side of things the film does have its moments which for me dealt with Harley Quinn and The Joker, and let’s face it. These two characters are the main draw of the film; it’s why the kiddies are going to see it. You think they care about a Boomerang throwing dude? Nope, their butts are in those seats to see Joker and Harley fall madly in love. The visuals that come out of that origin story are some of the best the film has to offer. I would have preferred seeing a Joker/Harley Quinn solo film instead of this film, but whatever; maybe Warner Bros. will wise up and release it for next Valentine’s Day or something. The squad goes up against powerful villains, almost too powerful for the Suicide Squad, but that’s what this film is all about, it’s less about super powers and more about the tricks these characters have up their sleeves. In the end, the film is told in a choppy manner. It’s messy story wise and doesn’t flow. Some scenes feel forced, so much so that you can practically detect where they squeezed in those re-shoots. Still, though troubled in certain areas, there’s fun to be had with Suicide Squad and thanks to Harley and The Joker, it’s a success at the box office, but I’m going to have to side with the general consensus on this one, DC needs to start making better movies instead of making mediocre ones.

Rating: 3 out of 5 



Friday, July 8, 2016

The BFG (2016)

The BFG (2016)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader

The BFG is Steven Spielberg’s first official box office flop, which is a rare thing because ever since he kicked off Summer Blockbusters back in 1975 with the creation of Jaws (1975), he’s been on the good side of box office success for most of his career. Even his bad ones make money, just look at the disastrous Indiana Jones sequel, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) or Spielberg’s failed attempt at a war comedy, 1941 (1979) both made their money back even though they stunk. So The BFG (2016) is a landmark movie for Spielberg, but only because its his biggest failure. Yet, did it deserve to fail? Is it a stinker? We’ve seen Spielberg half-ass a movie haven’t we? Just the other day I was watching The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and realized how truly lame it actually is. Sure it’s got gee whiz special effects, double the dinosaurs (oh wow, two T-REX’s!) and lot’s of action, but at its core, the tepid script doesn’t even compare to Jurassic Park (1993) in terms of overall quality, there was no meat with those potatoes, dare I say no heart! But we forgive Spielberg because then he turns around and makes another great film and well, we forget all about his last bad one. But is The BFG one of his bad ones? Was Spielberg half-assing it with The BFG? Why did it tank so spectacularly at the box office? 

The BFG is all about this little girl called Sophie who resides at an orphanage in London. She likes to stay up late at night reading, organizing the mail and doing all sorts of things while everybody is sound asleep. She’s a night owl. On one of these late nights, she sees a giant walking through the fog filled streets of her sleepy London town. Realizing he’s been seen, the giant snatches Sophie and takes her with him to the “Land of the Giants”. While at first Sophie is scared, she soon befriends the big friendly giant. Together they go on dream catching adventures. Sadly, there are other giants who are bullies and want to eat Sophies and all the little boys and girls in London. Sophie and The BFG must devise a way to stop their cannibal ways. Can Sophie and her Giant find a way to stop them?

The BFG is based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. Dahl was also the author behind such children’s classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Witches and Matilda, all of which have also been adapted to films. So just to make thinks clear here, this film is based on the book of a beloved author, directed by one of the greatest directors of all time and produced by Disney the most successful movie studio at the moment. So why did it flop? I was curious about this myself, the trailers made the film look magical, and truth be told it is. It’s a fairy tale that involves giants, the origin of dreams and true friendship. It felt like a mix between Peter Pan and  Jack and the Beanstalk. So, with all these good things going for it, why the failure? I guess the only true reason I can think of is that it’s not all that exciting. Sure not every movie has to be action packed. In my book, there’s also space for films that are quieter in nature, films that slow things down, that feel like someone is whispering a story under the covers of your bed in the middle of the night. The problem is that today’s audiences are so jaded, so used to superheroes smashing buildings in half, that when a film comes along about a gentle, friendly giant, an old man who weaves our dreams together, then it’s considered too slow. Then the films target audience tunes out. And it’s true, this is a slow paced film, but it’s my opinion that this is exactly what Spielberg was aiming for, a sleepy sort of fairy tale. So be ready for that kind of film.

What took me by surprise where the themes of the film. I had no idea that this movie was going to be all about belief, faith and God. Oh wait could the letters B.F.G. stand for the words belief, faith and God? Could I be stretching it? I don’t think so, the films themes are fairly obvious. This movie is quite similar to the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe books, they address issues of faith, they push the idea of believing in a magical, eternal being that’s watching over all of us, taking care of us, wishing goodness upon our lives. That this magical being is there even though we can’t see him, that all we have to do is “feel him” in our hearts. That all we have to do is take that magical leap of faith, blindly believing the notion and that if we do, then he will be there when we need him the most, when we are in pain, lonely or sad. Thankfully, Sophie is inquisitive. After all her name is Sophie, an allusion to philosophy which in itself means the search for knowledge which explains why Sophie likes to ask lots of questions to the giant, like how old he is. The giant tells her he’s an eternal, that he’s always existed, the biggest allusion to God in the entire film, which is why there’s no doubt in my  mind the giant in The BFG represents ‘God’.

I’ve always found the idea of God a fascinating one. Every society, every culture has their idea of God and to me that’s fascinating on its own. How no matter what country we are from or what society we grow up in, we all end up thinking that there’s something bigger than us, something more powerful. The idea that there’s an eternal, magical being watching over all of us is a comforting one and I understand why a lot of people choose to believe in it. I personally can’t blindly believe in something I’ve never seen. I can be open to the idea of it, or the possibility, but I can’t say ‘God’ exists because there’s no way of proving it. Which is why it rubs me the wrong way when this type of idea is reinforced, especially in children’s films, as if they’re trying to incept these notions early in childhood.  At one point Sophie jumps of a balcony because she “feels” the giant and “knows” he will be there to rescue her. Of course the giant appears and saves her, but in real life, it would be another story. No magical giant is going to come out of nowhere and save you, in real life you have to save yourself. In real life you jump of a balcony, you’ll end up as a big grease spot on the pavement. The point the movie is trying to make is you have to take that leap of faith and believe in God. You have to believe he’ll be there to save you.  “I do believe in fairies, I do, I do” comes to mind for some reason, yet fairies are a fantasy, same as this movie. The reason I dissect these themes is not because I’m nitpicking, it’s because movies are about us. Same as books or songs, they always have something to say about human nature.

But anyway, theological themes aside, I still managed to enjoy the film because it can be interpreted in other ways as well. Maybe that magical being watching over Sophie represents an adult, your father, your mother, or whoever chooses to take care you and guide you through life. I chose to see the film this way. Sophie is an orphan, and The BFG chooses to bring some goodness into her life, he felt her loneliness and her need and chose to be a friend to her, the father that she never had, a step father of sorts and though step fathers and mothers are often times vilified in films and books, a lot of times they can be more of a father and a mother then the biological one. So that’s another way to see the film. Ultimately, I think this movie was actually rather sweet. Basically, an old man and a little girl find a way to connect, to become friends in spite of generational barriers. They learn to appreciate each other past  generational gaps. The old have a lot to learn from the old, and vice versa, so that’s another level on which the film works.

Technically speaking, the film is amazing, the special effects flawless. The giants look truly gigantic. Spielberg here once again demonstrates his uncanny ability to work with children. Ruby Barnhill does an amazing job here playing Sophie, she comes off as an intelligent child, who likes to read and use her head to come up with solutions for any given situation. The problem with the film is that though Spielberg works great with children and has made some wonderful children’s movies like Hook (1991) and E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982), I think The BFG is a tough pill for kids to swallow in terms of pacing; many children will undoubtedly find it “boring”. I was watching it in a theater filled with about 10 people and this woman kept telling her boyfriend she wanted to leave because she couldn’t understand what was happening on screen. That she was bored and this was a grown woman! She was pleading to her boyfriend to leave the theater! They did about half way through. I guess your enjoyment of this film will depend on your attention span. If it has a short fuse, you’ll probably walk. If on the other hand you have patience and can take a shorter paced film, you’ll probably stay and enjoy it. 

Rating: 4 out of  5


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