It’s hard to think of a more faithful recent adaptation than Spielberg’s The BFG. Certainly among blockbusters, it is absolutely the work of a filmmaker caught under the spell of a much-loved novel. The novel, of course, needs little introduction; written by Britain’s greatest children’s writer, Roald Dahl’s The BFG, like many his novels, has remained a staple of children’s literature since its release in 1982.
So rare is such fidelity in filmmaking, in fact, that it’s a shame to class Spielberg’s film as faithful to a fault. Everything is present and looks, as the BFG would put it, a scrumdiddlyumptious visual delight but the lavish sets and inspired visuals often draw attention to the slightness of the plotting and the shallowess of all the characters bar the BFG himself. The interiority of the film is a problem that stems directly from Dahl’s book, however Sophie’s lack of depth or motivation, and the speed at which she succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome, makes her hard to root for. Her character is (not literally, thank god) swallowed up when placed next to the BFG who is orbited by a myriad of myths and meanings that are both spoken and unspoken.
The BFG is a marvellous motion-capture creation, a work of technical wonder that is true to Dahl’s description while also allowing Mark Rylance to flex his substantial acting chops amid the wizardry. The BFG is a film that will charm many and has all the parts if only some of the substance.
Although Dahl was famously sceptical about adaptions of his work, it’s easy to predict with confidence that he would’ve approved of Spielberg’s The BFG. For the millions who owe the breadth of their childhood imaginations to Dahl, there’s plenty to love, if only it could offer a little more depth.
CAST: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Jermain Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Penelope Wilton
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
WRITERS: Melissa Mathison, Roald Dahl (novel)
SYNOPSIS: Sophie, a precocious young orphan, is kidnapped by a big, friendly giant with whom she develops a bond.