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Movie Review: I Kill Giants

Movie I Kill Giants
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Plot: Young Barbara (Madison Wolfe) escapes the realities of life by retreating into a fantasy world to fight evil giants. With help from a new friend and a school counselor, Barbara soon learns to face her fears and battle the giants that pose a threat to her.

Review: Etched into the back of my left calf is a tattoo of a young misfit girl standing atop the hand of a massive, fallen giant. As winds from a terrible storm whip at her back, you can see the bunny ears she wears upon her head buckle and sway in a chaotic wind. In the grip of her small, clenched hands she holds an enormous magical hammer, named Kovelski. It’s with this hammer and an unwavering will that she finds giants, hunts giants, and kills giants. This brave warrior’s name is Barbara Thorson, and she’s the central character of I KILL GIANTS.

As someone who - for years - has proudly proclaimed that the story of I KILL GIANTS is his favorite comic book narrative of all time, I approached this movie with an open mind, a piercing gaze, and a desire to walk away from it with the feeling that first-time feature director, Anders Walter, had successfully represented what I feel is one of the most epic fantasy tales of escapism and acceptance that I’ve ever discovered on the printed page.

Based on the 2008 comic book series of the same name written by Joe Kelly with art by J.M. Ken Niimura, Anders’ adaptation serves as something of a Director’s Cut to the original story, with Kelly himself having written the screenplay for the film. Rather than share the same story told by the beloved source material, Kelly uses the big screen opportunity to expand upon both the characters and emotionally-charged themes of his critically-acclaimed series.

When Anders’ version of the tale opens, we’re quickly introduced to Barbara Thorson (as played by THE CONJURING’s Madison Wolfe). As a fifth-grade introvert who’s prone to attacking authority figures and family members with harsh and demeaning observations, Barbara is painted as a disturbed child who often recedes into a fantasy world of her own making to avoid making friends, completing schoolwork, and mending an obvious rift that has divided a once meaningful relationship with her sister Karen (Imogen Poots).

As I KILL GIANTS continues on, we find Barbara ritualistically making her way around the sleepy harbour town in which she resides (think the Northern Coast of Long Island, New York), checking on the condition of a series of elaborate traps she herself has set in preparation for a mystical, nigh-unstoppable force that she believes is steadily trudging its way toward her home. While making the rounds she meets Sophia (Sydney Wade), a new classmate of Barbara’s who’s just arrived from England and is looking to make friends. Reluctant to involve anyone else in her world, Barbara diffidently gives Sophia the brush, isolating herself from those hoping to reach out and learn about her world. Also looking in on Barbara throughout the film is her school counselor, Mrs. Mollé (Zoe Saldana). While being new to the district and compiling data on her latest batch of students, Mrs. Mollé finds herself particularly fascinated by her bunny-eared pupil’s penchant for making outrageous claims about an oncoming horde of ferocious giants.

Meanwhile, back at her seaside home, Barbara’s sister, Karen, is struggling to make ends meet while acting as guardian to her younger siblings. Inside the house, the air is stale and filled with a unique tension. Adding to the stress in what’s supposed to be her safehaven, Barbara believes that something dark and terrible is living on the second floor. Despite stowing herself away in the basement, Barbara can hear the beast calling to her from above. With giants approaching from the shoreline, and a beckoning ghost in her own home, there truly is nowhere left for her to hide.

With all of the pieces placed on the proverbial board, this is the question you now have to ask yourself: Is any of this real?

For me, where Anders’ I KILL GIANTS truly shines is in the way that it blurs the line between fact and fiction so delicately. Much of what sells the giants as being real is Wolfe’s conviction, and how she’s willing to alienate herself from the rest of the world in order to see her mission to completion. As someone who’s been close to the character for years, I found Wolfe’s performance to be a near page-perfect representation of the seemingly deluded and unflinchingly stubborn Barbara Thorson.

Adding to the movie’s grandeur is Laurent Perez Del Mar’s sweeping and fanciful score. As a mixture of orchestral arrangements and a sampling of Broken Twin’s “Glimpse of a Time” filter in, each piece serves to heighten the action and emotions of the accompanying scene with a tender flourish. I don’t always take note of movie soundtracks, but I’ve found myself listening to the I KILL GIANTS score on the regular, replaying scenes from the film in my head, and getting choked up all over again as I recall Barbara’s struggle with her own reality.

As I find myself focusing much on Madison Wolfe’s Barbara, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the compelling performances given by both Zoe Saldana and Imogen Poots as well. In remembering their characters from the series, I was pleased to see Saldana’s inquizitive Mrs. Mollé and Poots’ tightly-wound Karen expanded upon for the sake of the film. Because at its core, I KILL GIANTS is as much a story about the relationships shared between its characters as it is about facing one's fears.

Without Mrs. Mollé’s determination to reach out to Barbara, and Karen’s tough-love approach to serving as her sister’s caretaker, Barbara is just another another ignored child in desperate need of love, understanding, and attention. After all, it’s clear that Barbara is in pain by the way she dons her rabbit ears, each time she leaves the house, as if the fur-covered antennae were a piece of impenetrable armor. Not only do they protect her from giants, they also serve as a shield against those who would look to label her insane for her whimsical beliefs.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest challenges of writing a review for I KILL GIANTS is not to spoil the big twist, and by extension, the ending of the movie. Suffice it to say that by the beginning of the film’s third act, those who aren’t familiar with the story may be left questioning much of what they’ve seen prior to that moment. And not in some frustratingly-confused way, but rather an “Oh wow! I need to watch this again, now that I have this new information” type of scenario.

For me, I KILL GIANTS delivered on all fronts. It’s not only one of the best comic-to-screen adaptations I’ve ever seen, it also manages to make a great story even better, thanks in-part to the impassioned performances of its cast as well as Kelly’s expanded script. Be it Sophia’s desire for friendship, Karen’s searching for a way to make ends meet, Mrs. Mollé’s tenacious approach toward treating her troubled student, or Barbara’s desire to see her enemies vanquished, it’s all there, and it’s damn good.  

If I may leave you with some sage words of advice, it would be to keep a box of tissues nearby in anticipation of tears. I KILL GIANTS is adventuresome, whimsical, and packs an emotional gut punch of titanic proportions. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have seen my favorite indie comic book story on screen and loved every second of it … or maybe I just did. Never forget, my friends, you’re stronger than you think.

Source: Joblo

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