I just spent a whole minute trying to delete a period, only to realize that it was a piece of dust on my screen. Okay… Anyways.
I Kill Giants was one of those sleeper movies that I was extremely excited to watch. Based on the award-winning graphic novel of the same name by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura that is already a surprising ten-years-old now – gahd time flies. This is one of those books that sits on the library shelf begging to be read and once you finally pick it up you feel like an idiot for not reading it sooner. The black and white comic is captivating (despite the serious lack of giants), offers amazing characters and has a brilliant heartfelt story. If you have not read the book yet, I would highly recommend it, especially for those booknerds that aren’t big into the superhero comic books. It’s just solid literature.
When I found out that I Kill Giants was becoming a feature film, a month before its release, I was obviously stoked. The book is one that I always felt would mean something to a lot of kids and teenagers. There is a major coming-of-age story that carries significant value to the nerds, the weirdos, the eccentrics, the kids that don’t fit into the box. So, I was excited that it was becoming a film less-so for myself, but that this story would reach a larger audience. Plus, the poster is fantastic.
The story follows Barbara, an average looking girl who wears strange clothes, doesn’t talk about typical girly things and rocks a pair of bunny ears. Barbara has dedicated her life to protecting her small town from giants, and she’s pretty dang good at it. There is a sense of inevitability in her fantasy world, that something major is coming her way and she is doing whatever she can to prepare herself. The arrival of a new girl in town and a new psychologist in her life starts to shake things up for her and try as she might to focus on giant slaying, reality continues to come back at her. As she allows these newcomers to become closer to her, the two worlds begin to collide, and she is forced to face the things she has been avoiding. On the very edge of completely losing touch, Barbara is faced with the decision to confront her real fears or continue with her quest as a giant-slayer.
That is only a quick synopsis of a story that carries many complex layers. Ultimately, the story is about facing the things that scare us most, even if we would do anything to not allow them to happen. Barbara’s innocence, quirkiness, and misplaced bravado are a perfect metaphor for the procrastination, excuses, and avoidance that we are all guilty of from time to time. The story will touch home for almost anyone, and that young girl is a hero, even if its not in the way she intends.
Book to film, I feel like the essence was captured perfectly. There are many integral plot points that are taken panel for panel. Somethings were shaken up, like a lot of Barbara’s fantasies were taken out, as well as plenty of her best costume changes – I would have really liked to see her decked out in full knight’s armor. But, visually the movie was masterfully done and took many of the best scenes and settings from the source material.
Barbara herself is the absolute bomb. They managed to capture her personality and eccentricities in a way that felt real, but it was still this strange girl from a comic book. I loved her badass bravery, I mean she does find, hunt, and kill giants. Her toughness is on a scale of my personal hero, Ripley from the Aliens franchise, she is just that awesome. Madison Wolfe is a brilliant little actress and I hope to see more of the star in the making. Zoe Saldana did an excellent job as well, especially considering most of her lines were directly out of the books. But, what else would you expect from Gamora? The only character that disappointed was little Sophia, she lacked a lot of the charisma that made Barbara’s best friend lovable, and all her best lines fell flat.
One thing that I thought was interesting about the movie was the lack of male actors. Majority of the male roles were taken out entirely and the few that remained were only given a line or two. Quite the reversal of the Bechdel Test, for once men were underrepresented and I am totally cool with it. Honestly, it just makes this movie all that more meaningful for young women. That is not to say that boys can’t enjoy this giant slaying adventure as well.
I think this is a fantastic little film, and I do hope that there are people out there that gain some serious value from a story like this. To call I Kill Giants a coming-of-age tale doesn’t give it nearly enough credit, I think coming-of-self may be more appropriate. This is a poignant story that drives a valuable message and does so in a fashion that is captivating for all ages. I would definitely recommend watching this film to anyone, and should you give it a go, don’t worry you will see giants, eventually. But, this story is intentionally not about giants, it’s about a girl who needs her imagination to cope with reality and just how dangerous that can be sometimes.