I Kill Giants, based on the comic book limited series from Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura, is a dark fantasy/coming-of-age drama that refuses to pull any punches, delivering a knockout story in the process. Spotlighting under the radar films is always a joy, and I Kill Giants snugly fits into that category.
Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) is a pariah at her school due to her own anti-social nature and a school bully named Taylor (Rory Jackson). These troubles don’t severely damage her sense of self worth since she, at least in her mind, is protecting her small town from giants. Imogen Poots co-stars as Barbara’s exasperated and overworked sister who is tasked with taking care of the family (Barbara also has a seemingly less than supportive brother). Thanks to a school counselor (Zoe Saldana) and an amiable new friend Sophia (Sydney Wade) into the mix, Barbara may finally be coming out of her shell, but her laser focused task on killing giants continues to put her at arm’s length from a sustainable friendship.
Credit goes to Oscar winning filmmaker Anders Walter (Helium) for making Barbara, for most of the narrative, a highly unsentimental and often unlikable protagonist. Though being a monster slayer is a herculean job, Barbara could put on a happy face now and again, but that simply isn’t part of her DNA.
Whether or not Barbara is living in a world of illusion comes to bear during the final act of the narrative, but for most of the film we are seeing the world through her POV, and the monsters are a very real part of that existence. Though it wasn’t blessed with the budget of a similar themed A Monster Calls, the production value of I Kill Giants is commendable. Barbara’s house, situated near the shore, is a thing of beauty, and Walter’s utilization of the giants provides its share of scares and wonder. Though the comparison between the two films in inevitable, I Kill Giants is its own being and, in my opinion, the stronger feature (A Monster Calls was a bit too syrupy for my tastes).
Even with its eye catching visuals and engaged ensemble, I Kill Giants’ success rests on the absolutely compelling performance of Madison Wolfe. The actress imbues her scenes, many of which are fantastical, with a painful, grounded reality that anchors the story. She’s the heart and soul of I Kill Giants, and hopefully she’ll continue to work with A-level material down the road.
I Kill Giants also refuses to wallow in sentiment even when dealing with tragic situations, and its even eyed approach to Barbara’s journey is, for lack of a better word, a thing of beauty. Life is filled with monsters waiting to take us to an even darker place, and Barbara is determined to fight until the bitter end. It’s a lesson that, under lesser hands, would have been evoked in a horribly preachy manner. Instead, a harsh ring of truth and ultimately empathy resides in these giant filled lands, and Barbara is the perfect leader to show us the way.
***I Kill Giants hits theaters and On Demand Friday, March 23.
Rating 4 out of 5
I also discuss I Kill Giants on the latest episode of CinemAddicts. Take a listen below!!