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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Kill Giants is a fantasy/drama based on Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura's graphic novel of the same name. The story follows an 11-year-old girl named Barbara (Madison Wolfe) who believes not only that life-threatening giants exist, but that she alone is able to slay them. An emotional drama that's thematically similar to 2016's A Monster Calls, this adaptation explores themes of childhood grief, school bullying, and fantastical creatures that pose a threat to the main character. Expect several scenes of violence, from fistfights, bullying, and beatings to a gory close-up of a bloody dead animal and a destructive battle with a giant while a storm rages. Barbara also lashes out at a teacher (whom she slaps) and her lone true friend. There's some language (including "s--t" and "bitch") and moments that may be particularly difficult for families who've experienced loss and/or terminal illness.
What's the story?
I KILL GIANTS, based on the graphic novel by Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura, follows Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe), the youngest child in a family living through an initially unspecified traumatic crisis. Barbara, who's being cared for by her put-upon older sister, Karen (Imogen Poots), during this hard time, believes that dangerous giants threaten humanity's existence and that she alone is capable of slaying them. Barbara struggles at school, where she's routinely bullied (both verbally and physically) by a vicious mean girl named Taylor (Rory Jackson). When Barbara befriends the new kid in town, Sophia (Sydney Wade), and starts meeting with new school counselor Mrs. Molle (Zoe Saldana), she's finally forced to come to terms with the giants -- both what they represent and what they want.
Is it any good?
This fantasy drama is a well-acted, moving tale of how an imaginative girl handles life-changing family trauma. Barbara isn't a typical "likable" main character. She can be difficult, impetuous, and reckless -- but those character flaws add to her relatability. Wolfe does a fine job exposing Barbara's vulnerability, even as she seems sure she doesn't need anything or anyone. Audiences will care about her journey. Saldana, playing against type (she's usually a fierce heroine), is caring in her supporting role as Barbara's counselor. Poots is also noteworthy as Barbara's overwhelmed oldest sister, who has to watch over the younger siblings, keep house, and attempt to make a living.
Danish director Anders Walter sensitively captures the intense drama of dealing with anticipatory grief -- the knowledge that something so out of control is about to happen that fighting giants would be preferable to reality. There are a few minor missteps and a couple of performances that don't hit their marks (the bully, for example, overacts and isn't believable as a school's mean queen bee), but those bumps don't take away from the movie's emotional tipping point, where Barbara confronts her fear, finds her courage, and makes peace with the horrors she's had to face -- and the ones that may still lie ahead.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how violence is depicted in I Kill Giants. Is it necessary for the story? Why? Does fantasy violence have a different impact than realistic violence?
Is there a difference between how "difficult" girls are portrayed or perceived vs. how boys with the same attributes are? Discuss how gender plays a role in how people think about and judge personality.
How does the movie portray bullying? Does it seem realistic? How would you have responded in Barbara's situation?
For those familiar with the graphic novel: How faithful to the story do you consider the movie? Do you think it helps that the author wrote the screenplay adaptation? What are some of your favorite page-to-screen adaptations?
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