Since 1996, Joe Kelly had been a constant writing force in the world of comics. Balancing between Marvel and DC, Kelly told stories starring the likes of The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Wolverine, Deadpool, Spider-Man, Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern. He took part in events like Marvel’s Heroes Reborn and DC’s Infinite Crisis and 9/11 Volume 2. Yet, what may be considered his greatest work came in 2008, when he, along with artist J.M. Ken Nimura, created the Image Comics-published graphic novel I Kill Giants. Nearly ten years later, Kelly’s unique and emotional fantasy would finally jump out of the book and into the mainstream.
I Kill Giants tells the story of young Barbara Thorson, an outsider geek-tween who attends middle school by day, but when free from her educational institution, believes herself to be a hunter of giants. She believes there is an impending doom headed toward her small town and that she is the only one who can defend it. No matter what her fellow schoolmates or the school counselor try, she remains focused on what she believes to be her sole purpose. Eventually, Barbara discovers that the doom that is headed her way also contains a personal element to her life.
After completing the entire graphic novel series, which was voted the Best Indie Book Of 2008 by IGN, Joe Kelly quickly began adapting his story into a screenplay. After many attempts at shopping the script around, his story eventually landed in the hands of legendary director/producer Chris Columbus (Gremlins, The Goonies, Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). However, Kelly had an ultimatum: the script had to be taken as is with no alterations. If not, then no deal. Luckily, that is exactly what Columbus wanted. Following a fallout with the original financier regarding budgeting, the production gained a new, Europe-based subject to finance the film and the production, which had just acquired the immensely talented actress Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy, Out of the Furnace), would move to Ireland to begin shooting. After touring the foreign film festival circuit and garnering critical acclaim, the film gained a US-based distributor and, as of March 23, was released in select theaters, OnDemand and on iTunes.
With Kelly writing the screenplay, the pages of the graphic novel are translated beautifully on the screen. Exact moments from the story are given the perfect cinematic appearance, giving the viewer the mix of Barbara’s real world and fantasy world. While the story is considered a fantasy, it is fueled by the raw emotion that exists between Barbara and her family. With Kelly’s writing, the cast excels in capturing that feeling. Madison Wolfe (The Conjuring 2, Joy) does a great job as Barbara. She gives us the strong, independent young girl that exists in the book before our very eyes. You believe she is Barbara. Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Need For Speed) plays Barbara’s older sister Karen, who acts as Barbara’s guardian. Poots gives us a Karen who is burning the candle at both ends, trying to keep her job while also being present for her family and keeping them together. Zoe Saldana is unsurprisingly superb as Mrs. Mollé, the school counselor who is trying to reach out to Barbara. Saldana projects the emotional frustration of a counselor who is suffering from failed attempts to get to the heart of what is going on with this young student.
The film fires on all cylinders. Kelly’s writing mixed with the talented cast and Academy Award-winning director Anders Walter (“Helium” – Best Short Film, Live Action) makes I Kill Giants, in this writer’s opinion, one of the best page-to-screen adaptations. For parents curious on whether their children can watch it (the film is currently not rated), expect the same type of dark fantasy elements you would see in the later, PG-13 rated Harry Potter films. Also, prepare yourself for “the feels” that exist heavily in the third act; maybe have some tissues handy.
I Kill Giants was released in select theaters, but if those areas are out of your range, do not worry. The film is currently available OnDemand and on iTunes, allowing you to watch it on any digital device you may have. Pop some popcorn, get comfortable on the couch and watch a film that will take you on an adventure, make you laugh, break your heart and help you realize that, like Barbara, “you are stronger than you think you are.”