The world is a lot smaller than you realise.
Disney’s latest film, The BFG, perfectly sums this up. Based on the popular children’s storybook by notable children’s author, Roald Dahl, The BFG follows the exciting tale of friendship, courage, loyalty and adventure in a world where magic and wonder are in abundance; a world consisting of giants.
The film centres on the young orphaned girl, Sophie, and her curious mind as she breaks the rules of the orphanage in which she lives in order to catch a glimpse of the world outside; the mysticism and mystery that comes with being enveloped in darkness. It is this curiosity that leads to her chance encounter with the Big Friendly Giant (the ‘BFG’) and learns about Giant World and all of its inhabitants.
Having been put together by some of the world’s most creative minds, that of Roald Dahl, Steven Spielberg and the crew at Walt Disney, The BFG, in my opinion, failed to live up to expectations and fell short where the 1989 animated film of the same name succeeded. In a rather unusual turn, Disney’s version of The BFG greatly minimised the darker undertones and elements of Roald Dahl’s original story; rather peculiar since Disney does dark themes and elements of the unreal and supernatural incredibly well.
In significantly reducing the ‘monstrousity’ of the ‘evil’ giants and the fear that a child would normally have of the dark, Disney’s take on The BFG simply lost its charm and appeal. The characters all lacked vitality and were rather lack-lustre. The evil giants were nowhere near terrifying or threatening and together with the BFG himself, they all appeared to be a group of bumbling fools. That’s not to say that there were no redeemable characteristics, however. The BFG’s kindness and caring for Sophie was certainly moving and showed a great deal of his love for human beings.
Initially, characterisation was well done in the film, with Sophie and the BFG playing their roles perfectly as they came to grips with each other’s differences. That being said, I found it rather odd that the Big Friendly Giant wasn’t friendly enough to introduce himself right off the bat. Instead, we only learn of his name and of what the ‘BFG’ stood for approximately an hour into the film. Not to mention too, the BFG seemed to lack in basic mannerisms and is rather crass from time to time rather than being funny. The BFG wasn’t the only character that appeared a bit out of character, so to speak. Sophie too was not at all like the little girl I imagined from the book and the animated film. Instead, she was rather rude, impulsive, talkative and refused to listen to her elders.
The dynamic between Sophie and the BFG was not at all what I had expected. Sure, the BFG was kind and caring toward Sophie but this appeared forced at times. In fact, toward the end of the film, it almost felt as if Sophie couldn’t care less what the BFG did with his life, as long as she had a home to live in. Similarly, in The BFG, it appeared that the BFG was actually a lot nicer and kinder but had become rather cold after a young human friend of his, a young boy, was eaten by another giant. This could be a factor behind why the BFG wasn’t as friendly. I’m not too sure what the point was in introducing the history of this boy to Sophie as it only made her feel rather jealous and desperate for the BFG’s attention (rather weird when at times it looked as if she couldn’t care less).
Speaking of characters, the two characters that I really enjoyed in the animated film were, unfortunately, the two that were played out to be the worst characters on screen. The leader of the giants in this film appeared more of a brute and was rather boorish instead of being the terrifying monster that he was portrayed as in the animated film. Isn’t the whole point of the story to showcase the terror and fear these giants instil? Similarly, the Queen was far more proper and ‘British’ in the animated film in comparison to the poorly acted version Disney chose to include. To be very honest, apart from giving the go ahead for the army to assist in capturing the giants and to provide Sophie with a place to live, there was no real reason for the Queen to be featured in the film at all.
What was especially disappointing, though, is the fact that some of the comedic moments in the story was downplayed rather than showcased. These funny moments, such as the whizzpopping jokes and song didn’t feature as prominently in the film, which could have made for a lot more laughter and joy. Nevertheless, watching the Queen ‘whizzpop’ (a.k.a fart) was chuckle worthy.
Despite The BFG lacking in many ways, the film did indeed portray the important message of being brave, standing up for one’s self and believing in endless possibilities. In addition, the film was visually gratifying and allowed Roald Dahl’s tale to come to life in a realistic way. Interestingly, the visuals was what I felt made the film worth watching. It carried the film and created an aura of mysticism around the creatures and elements of the Giant World.
Having watched the animated version of the film prior to Disney’s film, my personal feeling is that The BFG was not for me. The film lacked the true heart and emotional pull that I believe Roald Dahl had envisioned in his book and personally, the film was tough for me to stay watching through to the end. Perhaps it’s the adult in me that wasn’t able to see the the magic of the film or perhaps it was the lack of a musical number. Either way, The BFG certainly was no Matilda or The Witches. I’ll be sticking with the book for now.