It makes sense that a young girl who madly misses her mother might retreat into a fully-immersive fantasy world to distance herself from that harsh reality. In the case of Barbara Thorsen, an oddball, bunny ears-sporting teenager who takes no guff from bullies or school officials alike, this queenly denial propels her into a quest to lure and destroy the malignant creatures that haunt her New Jersey town. Barbara spends many an hour researching giants and building elaborate traps, trying desperately to design a safe world, convinced that this is her ultimate, inescapable destiny. As the young slayer, 15-year-old Madison Wolfe is commendable in the giant-killing role and director Anders Walter, recognizing her abilities, allows this young talent to carry the film on her unfamiliar shoulders, supported by the more experienced Imogen Poots (as Barbara’s older sister Karen) and Zoe Saldana (as the school shrink). Sydney Wade—a girl from Leeds playing a girl from Leeds!—is also engaging as the shy but supportive British import Barbara awkwardly befriends, sort of. Based on the graphic novel by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura, I Kill Giants is mostly successful due to Wolfe’s committed performance in the lead and the director’s sensitive handling of the difficult themes—both give the film a surprisingly solid footing. The good-looking locales don’t really feel like ’Jersey, though (the film was photographed in Ireland, Flanders, and Belgium with a largely European crew so that probably explains it), but they do lend the film a certain romanticism likely missing had I Kill Giants been shot among the scrub pines of, say, Shamong.
(c) 2018 David N. Butterworth