There’s an absolute confluence of emerging talent to be found in fantasy drama I Kill Giants, which unites up-and-coming tween star Madison Wolfe with Oscar-winning director Anders Walter (here making his feature debut) and comic scribe Joe Kelly (better known to most by his nom de plume, Man of Action). An insightful contemporary-set tale exploring fantastical – and, conversely, decidedly human – drama, I Kill Giants treads similar ground to last year’s now strangely-forgotten A Monster Calls. Yet, while J. A. Bayona’s otherworldly fairytale emerged an unlikely triumph in utilising said tropes as a bedrock for what would ultimately become a nails-in-the-armrest grief drama, I Kill Giants is a far less conventional or mainstream journey down the same path. As to whether or not it quite gets there, well, it does, but not without its problems along the way.
Wolfe plays tween heroine Barbara, who has dedicated her life to protecting her small seaside town from an ongoing crusade by the world of giants to conquer the world of man. A lonely crusader, Barbara soon discovers something of a kindred spirit in her school’s new arrival, Sophia (Sydney Wade), with whom she begins to open up and share the burden of her secret life. The intervention, however, of a new school psychologist (Zoe Saldana) will challenge Barbara’s world in a way the young heroine has never quite dealt with before, and the reality behind her one woman war against the race of giants will soon be laid bare for all to see.
A compelling, but not wholly successful, venture, I Kill Giants suffers perhaps most by being too afraid to truly indulge the more fantastical element of its initial set-up. Wolfe makes for a great lead, handling the dramatic and the otherworldly story elements with not only complete ease but seamless transition. That Kelly’s screenplay then – adapted from his own graphic novel of the same name – can’t quite seem to sell Barbara’s extra-curricular activities for all they’re worth proves problematic from the onset, not the least of the reasons why being that it very quickly spoils what should be a grand reveal down the line by juxtaposing the difference between her worlds and why there’s more than one to begin with. A Monster Calls absolutely leant into its fairytale influences, I Kill Giants seemingly cowers from them in fear.
Faring better, however, is director Walter, whose grand staging of it all is at once enthralling without feeling too unwelcoming to the scope of Barbara’s second life, a wonderfully realised score by Laurent Perez Del Mar segueing effortlessly between the down-to-Earth yet adventurous palettes on offer. A generously developing supporting cast, meanwhile – comprised of talent such as the always-engaging Saldana and Imogen Poots – provide a solid grounding for Wolfe, even if that grounding is perhaps too grounded on the writing level to really work with the story Walter wants to tell.
I Kill Giants will captivate and grip your attention with both hands, but that grip does loosen as it creaks ever closer to what should be its grand reveal. Whilst its story is rock solid, it’s on a theatrical level that this gaping flaw increasingly widens, something doubtless skirted by the more grandiose setting of an illustrated page, but problematic in the transition to live-action. As page-to-screen evolutions go, it’s far from a complete failure though, and there’s more than enough in which to sink your teeth as it rolls along. It lacks the scope and scale needed to truly sell its own concept, however, and though it might be a far cry from A Monster Calls, it’s at least not a monster you’d hang up on.
I Kill Giants is in cinemas nationwide from Friday, April 6th; rated 12A. Check out the trailer below.