Now on Blu-ray: Spielberg’s Towering Sense of Wonder Shines in ‘The BFG’

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The BFG Blu-ray

As crazy as it seems, we’ve reached the point where Steven Spielberg can release a wonderful piece of fantasy filmmaking and it’s simply overlooked by critics and audiences alike. And yet that’s exactly what happened this year with The BFG, the legendary filmmaker’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s story of the same name. Working with E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison one last time, Spielberg crafted a movie that is heartfelt in its earnestness and stunning as a piece visual storytelling. Now that The BFG has arrived on Blu-ray, there’s ample opportunity for everyone to realize the errors of their ways and properly evaluate the film as another excellent work from a master filmmaker.

The story of The BFG is rather simple with little conflict to drive the story. It’s much more a film about building another world and the relationship between the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) and young Sophie (Ruby Barnhill). The BFG takes the orphan Sophie from the London orphanage she lives in and takes her to Giant Country. However, the other giants of Giant Country aren’t as friendly as the BFG, including Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) and Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) who have a taste for human flesh, or “beans” as they call them. The BFG is the subject of the brutish bullying of his fellow giants for being an outsider, but he doesn’t allow the brutality of his peers dissuade him from his life’s work of capturing dreams and setting them loose for the children of the world. As the giants learn of Sophie’s presence in Giant Country, the young girl and the BFG reach out for help to the Queen (Penelope Wilson) in the hopes that the might of the British might be able to quell the scourge of the unfriendly giants.

Spielberg creates a world full of magic and wonder unlike anything he’s ever made before. It’s a world that is glossy with its artificial façade, creating a dream-like sheen that blends between the practical and digital elements that compose the frame. The imagination on display in the intricate design to the BFG’s home is magnificent work from a team of artists repurposing real life objects to all sorts of unusual uses. Spielberg and his longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski work in unison for a virtuoso display of visual storytelling, creating a sense of scale while flexing their stylistic muscles.

Newcomer Ruby Barnhill does a magnificent job for a young actress, capturing the wondrous sense of adventure and fear that her character must alternate between on her fantastical journey. The big standout of The BFG is Oscar winner Mark Rylance as the eponymous giant. He cheerfully mispronounces a wide variety of words in his earnest goofiness. There’s a level of empathy and heart that Rylance is able to coax in his motion captured performance that few could bring to the forefront even without digital trickery. As the villainous giants, Jemaine Clement and Bill Hader seem to be relishing in their absurd roles, and the fun that they’re having comes across on the screen.

As far as the special features go on the Blu-ray of The BFG, there’s a lengthy documentary about the making of the film featuring interviews with Spielberg, executive producer Kathleen Kennedy, as well as Ruby Barnhill and Mark Rylance. There’s also a fascinating behind the scenes featurette about the making of the giants, and the raw footage of the motion capture performances of Clement and Hader prove to be quite entertaining. Of all the special features, the most heartfelt is the tribute to screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who passed away last year. Each member of the cast and crew, but especially Steven Spielberg who worked with Mathison on E.T., share their fond memories of the legendary screenwriter. For all the heartwarming aspects of the movie, this somber remembrance stands out as a reminder of the real life heart that was present behind the scenes.

Having been so great for so long, it is still mind boggling that a film as wonderful as The BFG was overlooked as a minor work from Steven Spielberg. It just goes to show how easy it is to take greatness for granted. Over time people will come around on The BFG and understand that it’s movie that has a heart as big as its hero.

The BFG
  • Overall Score
4

Summary

Another wondrous piece of filmmaking from the legendary Steven Spielberg, The BFG has a magical visual style and a heart as big as its hero.

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