Clearly bearing inspiration from Where the Wild Things Are and other fiction that stars kids using fantasy to escape their tragic reality, this comic book adaptation is able to conjure enough empathy for its protagonist to deliver it through some rocky pacing in the first half.
I Kill Giants stars Madison Wolfe as Barbara, a troubled middle school student who carries out elaborate rituals for the purpose of “Giant hunting”. She has no friends to speak of, is blunt to those around her, and has an ambigous situation at home which has led to her older sister caring for the whole family.
The pacing issues in the first half largely stem from the fact that the supposed twist is familiar territory. Despite some lavish shots of her native New Jersey, scenic beaches melding into the green of her local forests, the film’s fantasy elements fall flat visually. The small budget is a likely cause, restricting the upper limits of the CGI. However, what really undermines these moments is the fact that it never feels as though these sequences are supposed to actually be taking place. The existence of similar fiction gives the audience the warning signs that something is off very early, implying that our protagonist’s perceptions are skewed. Even still, there are nice visual touches that leave some degree of ambiguity around the edges, suggesting a hint of magical realism. But Barbara’s methods of denying her reality are far less interesting than when her layers of denial begin to strip away, revealing the painful root cause of her day dreams.
The build towards this reveal is where the film truly shines, glimmers of truth seeping in through the cracks of her self-told lies. Stray images and bits of meaning slowly coalescing, giving her previous actions the necessary context to at least partially justify them. The image of a baseball, malevolent whispers from the bedrooms of her home, omens of death leaving Barbara’s lips.
When the deception of our unreliable narrator finally fades completely, the judgement rendered towards the protagonist is reflected back at the viewer. (there is a moment of great catharsis, and then a sprint towards a meloncholy conclusion). It takes a while for it to come together, but once we’re given full context, I Kill Giants works as a melancholic twist on children’s story telling.
Image Source: IMDB