I Kill Giants (2018)
Written by Joe Kelly
Directed by Anders Walter
Barbara Thorson is a withdrawn teenager living on Long Island who spends her days traversing the nearby woods and setting traps. She is convinced that giants are real and are coming to attack her town. A new girl moves to town, Sophia, who wants to be Barbara’s friend but finds her caustic and unwelcoming. As she gets to know this intense young woman she learns about the giants hiding just beneath the surface of our reality and Barbara’s secret weapon, a massive hidden weapon called Coveleski. But as Sophia gets closer to Barbara, she learns more is going on in her life.
I wasn’t expecting to include this movie in my look at Spielberg-inspired films, but within the first ten minutes, I immediately saw the aesthetic and thematic connections to these pictures. The music recalls John Williams as we follow Barbara around the woods in the opening moments, watching her concoct a bait from plants and candy, spreading it across tree branches. It leads us to expect something exciting and interesting is coming that we’re going to get a story about unique characters. Sadly, that is not what I Kill Giants ends up being.
The movie feels like a higher budget Disney Channel movie from the early 2000s. When the script finally plays its hand and reveals the what is going on in Barbara’s personal life it ultimately falls into cliche territory. It was already inching that direction with the hints that our protagonist was doing all this because she’d lost a parent. And then again when it introduced a girl gang that goes after Barbara because she’s so “weird.” There’s even an adult carer in the form of Zoe Saldana’s school counselor who is attempting to uncover the truth behind this troubled girl. Every plot beat is felt coming scenes in advance, and we’re never truly surprised with character choices.
I Kill Giants also continues an annoying new trend of making cancer into metaphors for kids to fight. It already popped up in A Monster Calls and continues here as a plot twist. This is all well-intentioned but seems like an increasingly weak way of making movies about children facing death. I think there is a place for these films and I want more films that don’t handle children with kid gloves. As an elementary school teacher, I see children dealing with weighty issues all the time and coping or not coping in dramatically different ways. With Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming Welcome to Marwen, we are about to have another film about how trauma is processed through an expensive CG animated fantasy. I can’t help but think that there are other, more exciting and less spectacle based ways to portray how people, and specifically kids deal with these massive life events.
I was not very impressed with I Kill Giants. I can see this appealing to a particular audience, but I wanted something that either presented the core material of dealing with cancer in more inventive ways or a movie that played with our expectations of reality. I would have loved hints that the giants were real so that both the real world issues and the fantasy were given equal weight. The way the movie stands now, it just rings hollow to me.