If it seems like “I Kill Giants” treads similar fantasy ground as last year’s “A Monster Calls,” that’s because the setups are indeed quite similar — but the newer film is just a little bit more effective and involving in the telling of the tale.
In “A Monster Calls,” a young boy with a terminally ill mother is visited by a gigantic, ferocious, tree-like monster who might not be quite as he initially seems.
In “I Kill Giants,” a young girl dealing with an equally tragic family trauma is visited by gigantic, ferocious creatures that emerge from the sea but might not be quite what they initially appear to be.
If they’re real at all. I’m not saying either way.
Directed with creative style by Anders Walter (with a screenplay by Joe Kelly, adapting his own comic book), “I Kill Giants” is a good-looking adventure fable that makes great use of the Northeastern coastal locations.
Madison Wolfe gives a winning performance as Barbara, a brilliant but difficult (to say the least) young girl who goes out of her way to make sure she doesn’t fit in with her classmates, who of course taunt and bully and torment her for being so different.
Barbara wears bunny ears all the time and carries around an old, hand-embroidered bag she says contains all the tools necessary to ward off the giants she claims will soon take down the entire town.
At home, Barbara is as much of a problem as she is at school. She at constant odds with her older sister Karen (Imogen Poots), who is raising Barbara and her brother for reasons not immediately laid out.
Zoe Saldana is warm and sympathetic and endearing as Mrs. Molle, a faculty therapist who refuses to give up on Barbara, even after Barbara commits offenses that would get most kids kicked out of school, and even when Barbara’s apparent delusions about the existence of honest-to-goodness giants grow stronger and more disturbing.
About those giants. This is by no means a big-budget film, but the CGI creatures are pretty cool to behold. (Again: Maybe they just exist in Barbara’s imagination. Maybe not. See for yourself.)
Sydney Wade plays Sophia, a new arrival from London who befriends Barbara. It’s through Sydney’s viewpoint that we come to see and understand where Barbara is coming from. With Sophia, older sister Karen and the counselor Mrs. Molle all on her side, Barbara has more of a support team than she’s willing to understand or accept — for if she does let them in, she’ll have to acknowledge the truth about her home situation and allow herself to be brokenhearted.
Along the way, Barbara becomes a kind of superhero. One without any immediately evident superpowers, other than a unique mind and a powerful heart.
RLJE Films presents a film directed by Anders Walter and written by Joe Kelly. No MPAA rating. Running time: 104 minutes. Now showing at AMC Woodridge and on demand.