WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for bot the I Kill Giants movie and comics.
Few comics have delivered a story as moving and cathartic as Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura’s critically-acclaimed I Kill Giants. Published by Image Comics and Man of Action in 2008, it detailed the life of Barbara Thorson, an outcast who prefers playing Dungeons & Dragons than taking part in typical middle-school activities. However, her real focus is on hunting and killing monstrous giants in the woods nearby.
Well, that’s the line of reality that Kelly and Niimura blurred in the books, and which Academy Award winning director, Anders Walter, has translated to the big screen. Minor script changes aside, Walter’s film stays relatively faithful to the source material, painting Barb’s (Madison Wolfe) world as a tormented one filled with teenage angst. More so, it perfectly captures the cause of this pain, as well as the battles Barb’s waging. Not just internally, but with her sister Karen (Imogen Poots), best friend Sophia (Sydney Wade), and school psychiatrist Mrs. Molle (Zoe Saldana), all as she lashes out, struggling to cope with her sick mother’s impending death. And it’s the latter which turns out to be her greatest giant (aka the Titan) that she must eventually face.
It should come as no surprise that I Kill Giants deals with overcoming emotional adversity rather than telling a story about superheroes with capes saving the world. And as such, Walter leaves us with the most important lesson we can ever learn from a comic book movie in the form of a simple, heartfelt message: “We’re stronger than we think.”
Full disclosure: This story resonates with me on a personal level, because I relate to Barb. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been emotionally stunted when it comes to real-life issues surrounding sickness and death, and like her, I live in a state of denial. I, too look for avenues of escapism, though in my case, it’s not D&D but comics, and Barb’s denial manifests mentally as these giants she has to conquer. When I first read I Kill Giants, it reminded me of the months my father spent in hospital after a spinal surgery and how I, scared to see my hero in a fragile state, only visited him once. Even when he was in therapy rehabilitating, I’d try to avoid him because it’s tough to see people we idolize in a broken state. And in I Kill Giants, Walter manages to bring all these emotions out in a way that, with all due respect, transcends the comics medium.
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