Though he earned his greatest critical respect for doing right by survivors of the Holocaust with Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg remains most beloved for his masterful depictions of childlike wonder. At their best, Spielberg’s movies remind audiences of what it felt like to be a kid, when everything was big and scary, but also exciting and full of possibility. Judging from the second trailer for his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic kid-lit book The BFG, due July 1, Spielberg will return to the same territory he covered in E.T. and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. (And that his disciples J.J. Abrams and Jeff Nichols re-trod with Super 8 and Midnight Special, respectively.)
The core schematic of “child encounters supernatural force, it seems scary at first, but is later revealed to be gentle” will guide the way for Spielberg’s take on the big friendly giant. With moppet newcomer Ruby Barnhill as his leading lady, Sophie, Spielberg plunges the young girl into a fantasy world peopled by towering titans, some bigger and friendlier than others. Newly-minted Oscar winner Mark Rylance lends his CGI’d likeness to the OG BFG, while giants such as Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) and Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) do not take as kindly to humans, as their names may suggest. This adaptation will give Spielberg a little more leeway for dazzling visual spectacles than his recent Bridge Of Spies, too — a detour during the film brings Sophie and the BFG to Dream Country, where such marvels as the glowing tree growing upside-down will wow viewers young and old.
Under every measurable criterion, it’s a Spielberg picture up-and-down, which is good news. Spielberg’s a pro when it comes to creating the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, and The BFG‘s first impression is that of guileless joy, sweetly juvenile fear, and adventure with more stylistic panache than the latest re-heated YA franchise-starter. I already envy the kids who will be able to look back on seeing this through wide, innocent eyes during the dog days of summer vacation.