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What We Know So Far: Inspired by the beloved children’s book by Roald Dahl, this live-action adaptation follows the adventures of Sophie, who travels with a giant known as The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) to Giant Country and learns of how her new friend is scorned by the others for not eating children and stealing human food.
The Trailer: Official #1
Dan: This atmospheric trailer immediately sets the stage with dramatic lighting and a roaming camera revealing an orphanage in darkness. The moody imagery and muted palette definitely gives a fairy tale / Harry Potter vibe – which makes you think this is what Hogwarts would look like if Spielberg directed that iconic franchise. The camerawork feels like it’s investigating the scene, slowly navigating the shadows, revealing our adorable protagonist and her world. Some of the best family adventures come from this legendary director, so who better to tell this sort of story. Once we meet our bespectacled hero, huddled under a blanket reading a book by flashlight, its clear Spielberg feels right at home. No adults are seen in this brief teaser, but we get a good idea about the inquisitive little girl. She seems like a book nerd, more at home with her imagination than with others her own age. At least she has a cat for a friend. Knowing Spielberg this could purposely tie in with the symbolism of the wild alley cats and the wild giant, looking for a friend. Since I’m unfamiliar with the original source material, I don’t know how this will unfold, but one look at the giant’s innocent emotional eyes and I’m expecting she may have found a new pet – or someone that needs her help like E.T. and Elliot.
David: Having read the book (of course) many years ago, there is some excitement in seeing the story come to the big screen again (an animated version was released in 1989). There can be no doubt that having both Disney and Steven Spielberg attached to it should be the right combination. Spielberg truly knows how to make films for children and this teaser has his “magic” touch all over it. Suitably aimed at a young audience, there is a lot to admire about the short clip and it does a fantastic job of stirring imagination and conjuring interest. I am a fan of the book and part of me wishes to keep the creations I have in my head right where they are and not on screen but I like how little Sophie looks and the orphanage and London have a wonderful fairytale quality to it. Naturally, the real trick is going to be The BFG himself, and while there is only a brief glimpse of the giant, it’s well-done. Mark Rylance, who was astonishing in Spielberg’s recent Bridge of Spies (2015) is the giant and should be very good in this role. Obviously, The BFG will be CGI as that is abundantly clear in the trailer, but Rylance will surely give the character the charm it so deserves. But Spielberg is walking a very tightrope with one, as there is a fan base for this book that, like myself, have a special place in their hearts and that means respect for the source. I think of the Fleshlumpeater in Dahl’s book and I know what I want to see. Let’s hope Spielberg can bring this all to life in the proper way. That said, I have two more issues. One being the adorable Ruby Barnhill, who seems well cast, but is also, let’s admit, a little awkward as most children in films are. But Spielberg (mostly – Hook being a big exception) manages to bring out the best in his young casts and I have high hopes he’ll do the same here.
My final quibble has nothing to do about the story but about something that appears on the last title card when the trailer ends: 3D. This is the most troubling and upsetting aspect of this film and will prevent me from seeing it if it’s the only option. As I recently noted when reviewing In The Heart of the Sea (2015), a film I didn’t know was 3D until buying my ticket, the 3D experience is a waste of money and a terrible trend that offers nothing to the experience. Muddy visuals, pop-art book-like visuals, and a gimmicky feel, this is ruining movies and needs to stop.
Dan Says: The little girl seeks adventure staying up until the “real Witching Hour”. At 3am she’s the only one awake. While reading a book, she hears a crash outside her window, and looks out at the commotion. Cats have knocked over a metal garbage can. The shadows of the alley swirl. The ethereal lighting is pierced by a Giant’s reaching hand. This is my Sneak Peek Moment not only because of the visuals, but also because of what he reaches for. He picks up the garbage can. Just to be “Friendly”, I guess, and put it back where it belongs. The Moment continues, as the Giant approaches the girl’s window. She dives under her covers. The Giant peers inside, constantly shrouded in darkness. We briefly get a glimpse at his worried eyes. He reaches out for the small child. What are his intentions? Has he met humans before that weren’t so nice? Is there a secret this town keeps? I hope the Giant doesn’t talk, anticipating a more interpretive relationship like the original King Kong. A mystery brews from this early teaser trailer compelling viewers like me who are unfamiliar with the Roald Dahl book. However, since I am familiar with his imagination, I’m expecting an eccentric blend with Spielberg’s sensibilities. So far, so good. This already looks better than Hook.
David Says: The trailer is a nice introduction to the story and does a fine job of setting the tone and look of the film. My Sneak Peek Moment comes when we see little Sophie in her bed reading a book with her flashlight. It instantly reminded me of little Bastian in The NeverEnding Story (1984), who huddles under a blanket in the attic of his school and reads a book as well. I think this is a nice visual and gives the sense of reading a mysterious, personal touch that keeps the reader in a tiny secluded world that only they experience. I like how Sophie looks and is wide-eyed with the anticipation of reading and as the source material is from a book, is a nice nod to how the story began. I’m on board and if Spielberg can capitalize on this trailer, this should be a good time at the movies.