Madison Wolfe stars as an outcast teen waging war with fantastical creatures in deeply personal drama

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A teenage outcast does battle with monsters inward and outward in “I Kill Giants,” a soft-spoken, deeply personal story about loss.

In a breakthrough performance, Madison Wolfe stars as Barbara, a Dungeons & Dragons-obsessed teen who has no problem standing out from the crowd. When the new girl at school asks why she wears ratty rabbit ears on her head, Barbara answers plainly, “it’s a tribute to my spirit God.”

Barbara — Wolfe has a spunky attitude that recalls Chloë Moretz — has troubles in her classes and is picked on by the school bully, which earns her frequent visits from the school psychologist (Zoe Saldana). She doesn’t have time to chat, however, because she’s busy defending her coastal Connecticut town by setting traps for the giants who come at night and blaze a path of destruction.

Adapted from Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura’s limited comic book series of the same name, “I Kill Giants” is a tightrope walk that relies on a rather sizable story omission to sustain its big secret. It’s a storytelling flaw that doesn’t take away from the emotion of the story, which recalls last year’s “A Monster Calls” in terms of themes and execution.

Danish director Anders Walter, who won an Oscar for his 2013 short film “Helium,” does a solid job of balancing the story’s fantastical elements with its grounded ones, even if he strings viewers along for longer than is required with stories of former Philadelphia Phillies (and Detroit Tigers) pitcher Harry Coveleski.

But the destination is worth the journey, and when “I Kill Giants” peels back its layers, you’re left with a monster story that packs an unexpected wallop.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘I Kill Giants’

GRADE: B

Not rated

Running time: 106 minutes

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