Tuesday, 28 August 2018

I Kill Giants ★★★☆☆

“From the Producers of Harry Potter” the trailer proudly states, before a young girl wielding a hammer much too large swings at colossal being. A giant, if you will.


Block text. Dramatic cut. Music fades. Marketing can do more damage than good, can’t it? Hot take, I know. In this instance, I found it easy to spot, but I couldn’t help but think of all the kids prepared for an exciting adventure, as a girl as young as they, overcome insurmountable odds by slaying these behemoths… because I Kill Giants is nothing of the sort. A deliberately vague family trauma is the ‘monsters as symbolism’ de jour, which protagonist Barbara (Madison Wolfe) must confront.

I hadn’t seen Madison Wolfe in anything prior to I Kill Giants. Rather, I thought I hadn’t, but after researching her previous rolls, it turns out I’ve encountered her a few times. The difference here is that she’s given the opportunity to perform to her fullest. And what a performance it is, despite the dialogue often working against it. 

“There is a time when you should ask yourself, do you want to go through life as a coward or a knight?” It wasn’t until I read that line back to myself that I realized how much I hated it. Yet, spoken with confidence - dare I even say gravitas - by Madison, it just worked, because it carried an emotional weight to it not directly present in the writing.

Which was the main point of contention for myself? The dialogue suffers from being so direct; blunt and overt. This gave me pause for thought because I was struck with the realisation that I’m in my mid-twenties (oh, so wise beyond my years) and I Kill Giants is intended for an audience as young as Barbara. Maybe I was expecting too much, I thought, as elements of characterisation frustrated, even agitated me to a point of fatigue. Yet, the ernest, inherently empathetic situation of a family trauma is so universal, lived and endured by everyone, that I Kill Giants won me over in spite of its missteps. Though not simply because the subject matter would indeed affect anybody; Barbara’s denial of the situation - evasive, angry, brash, afraid - giving way to towering monsters that she, and only she, can kill to protect the people around her is tragic. Appropriately so.

I have (deliberately) neglected talking about the giants. They are featured about as much as I’ve mentioned them here. The giants aren’t a direct antagonist. They are a setting, a tone, a mood, a perceived and persistent threat, and a not altogether tangible one. They work well as the walking metaphors they are, not least of all because of how they’re portrayed; filmed from low angles, heavy bass to their footsteps, bringing storms, literal and emotional.

The individual elements of I Kill Giants work better than the whole they are contained in, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend it. Despite my frustrations, it’s a touching, if clunky narrative which is supported by Madison’s performance. Trauma, grief, and the denial therein isn’t an easy task to portray, and any misstep risks undermining it. I Kill Giants isn’t consistent, but I would be lying if I said that the final act didn’t break me. 

Lewis Hill

I Kill Giants at CeX

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