The BFG is a kids story from the 1980’s. It involves a giant who roams Britain at night blowing dreams into the rooms of little kids. Why he does this isn’t very clear except that he captures dreams and then seems to like dispensing them to some kids because that gives him charm.
One night, this giant is spotted by a little girl who lives in an orphanage. Her name is Sophie, and she’s an insomniac. In a panic, the giant grabs the girl and takes her with him back to giant country. He does this because he’s afraid that humans would hunt the giants if they knew that the giants existed. As an aside, the other giants are all cruel, “cannibals” (they eat humans). The BFG eats rotten vegetables.
Anyways, the moron and little girl go through the motions of fearing each other and then become fast friends. We also learn he calls himself The Big Friendly Giant, and likes the way some kid he previously kidnapped shortened that to the BFG. So the girl calls him that and all is well.
But there is a problem. See, even though this giant is nice and cuddly, it turns out that there are other giants who are much bigger and much nastier and they kidnap and eat children. What’s more, the other giants have come to suspect that the moron has a human stashed somewhere.
I’m actually a little torn about this film. On the hand, this film is beautifully shot. The effects are fantastic and believable. The acting is good. The story moves along at a good pace. There is little I can fault throughout the film. It’s even quite earnest and without cynicism... something I really do appreciate. So overall, I see where this film should have been a huge success and part of me wants to tell you to go see it.
But story matters and this story just never got interesting.
At no point does this story ever reach any sort of climax, and that makes the film dull. Take the meeting with the giant. Sophie gets taken by the giant. She gets dragged to his cave. In the cave, she hides from him, but he always knows where she is... so there’s no drama. The giant says he will keep her forever. She resists at first, but she’s an orphan with nowhere to go... no drama. Then she decides she wants to stay, though the BFG has done nothing to earn it... no drama. Now the BFG wants to return her, except we already know the bad guys know about her, so he can’t leave her... no drama.
The key to any good story is to keep the audience unsure of what will happen next. Be it the outcome of a fight or battle, the need for reconciliation between two characters, the roll of a dice or the execution of a plan, the more uncertain the audience is of the success of the character they want to win, the greater the tension and the more the audience will be interested. Yet, at every single turn, The BFG telegraphs how a particular conflict will be resolved basically at the point it is mentioned.
This is why the film comes across as so utterly dull. Imagine being shown a football game, but first being handed a list containing the details of every score. How exciting would that game be? It’s the same thing here.
It’s sad. This was a film with tremendous potential. All the pieces were there, and Spielberg knows how to tell a story. This time, however, he failed... and the blame really does lie with him.