❉ How does the fantasy drama based on the comic by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Nimura fare on screen?
Based on the 2008 comic by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Nimura, this adaptation arrives onscreen telling the tale of youthful imagination running wild in the face of the teenage traumas that high school and family life can bring. Unfortunately, it arrives a little too late, dragging on the heels of JA Bayona’s A Monster Calls which explored the same issues a year before in much the same style here. The shadow of that film looms large over I Kill Giants not only in terms of story but tone and imagery also.
Not that director Anders Walter and producers including Chris Columbus can be blamed for aping that particular film. I Kill Giants was published in 2008, three years before Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls hit the shelves, and the rights were quickly snapped up after its initial run. This is one of those states of Hollywood coincidence where a pair of near identical projects show up close together; for every Deep Impact there’s an Armageddon, every Robin Hood Prince of Thieves has its Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin and every Dante’s Peak has its Volcano, or was that last one the other way around?
I Kill Giants tells the tale of teenager Barbara Thorson, played by Madison Wolfe, a young loner more concerned with hunting down giants that threaten the coastal town she calls home than making friends or even hanging out at home where her older sister Karen, Imogen Poots, is holding the fort in the conspicuous lack of any parental figures. High school counsellor Mrs. Molle, Zoe Saldana, takes a keen interest in Barbara, who is rarely seen without a set of ragged bunny ears adorning her bespectacled head and a bag of protective charms, to figure out what could have brought about such fantastical notions in her.
There is always room in cinema for exploring the teenage psyche through a fantasy lens, Pan’s Labyrinth being a high watermark, but unfortunately, I Kill Giants fails to mark itself out from its filmic predecessors, it never manages to show the emotional devastation that Madison is trying to avoid by immersing herself in a world of giants who lurk in the woods and the sea. It also falls short as an adaptation, Kelly and Nimura’s comic with its black and white manga-like styling easily conveyed the emotional states of all its characters and meshed the fantasy elements more successfully and the dynamism of the illustrations managed to give the story a real grandiose and widescreen feel when Madison’s imagination and emotions were running at full force.
On the page Madison’s ears paired with her oversized glasses were a visually dynamic device, whilst in the corner of the panel various other creatures lurked and skooked, conversing with her. Unfortunately, budget constraints apply more onscreen than to the comic book page so everything has been scaled back here. One thing that can not be blamed on budget however is sadly the character of Madison herself, her ragged too small bunny ears and NHS glasses make her appear more like a depressed looking Louise-from-Bob’s Burgers cosplayer than defiant giantslayer. Director Anders Walter fails to bring out a convincing performance from Madison Wolfe that does not show the spikiness of her illustrated counterpart. In fact the performances across the board, from a supremely talented cast who have all shined elsewhere, never rise above the levels of your typical daytime TV movie. But thanks to its been filmed in Ireland, Father Ted fans may get a quick thrill when they spot Father Cyril Macduff sporting a not too successful American accent as a principal here.
Walter may be more successful with his next project, hopefully he won’t be struck with the unfortunate timing of similar projects so close to his own, an animated sequence here only recalls its similarities to A Monster Calls in full force yet again. However, he also needs to develop his skills when it comes to storytelling. The film is way overlong and really drags itself out. A young adult audience looking for young girls fighting monsters will find themselves severely disappointed whilst another audience looking for something more emotional will find nothing new in the same old emotional tropes that are trotted out here and can be found too easily elsewhere on the likes of bland daytime television.
In both the fields of film and comic books where monsters of all shapes and sizes can be found in every second book on the shelf I Kill Giants with its black and white artwork still stands out as something singular and unique in the way it told its story. Sadly, I Kill Giants the film is a missed opportunity that despite its best intentions fails to live up to the heights that its source material easily captured.
❉ I Kill Giants is released on DVD 2 July, from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment. Order your copy today : https://amzn.to/2J1Blql
❉ Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.