Saturday, March 03, 2007

I saw Bridge to Terabithia today

I saw Bridge to Terabithia today. Not the new Disney version, but the real version. This is the 1985 version starring Annette O'Toole. I liked it a lot. Having seen this version, there's no way I'd go see the Disney one.

If you haven't read the book, and you haven't seen the movie, run like hell, because I'm going to spoil the whole thing in this post. Starting now.

Now, if you've seen the trailers for the new version, you've seen giants and ogres and all sorts of magical beasties and a computer-generated land of wonder. None of that is in the book, and none of it is in the 1985 movie. None of it's necessary, and it serves to screw up a good story.

The story is this (remember, spoilers!):
Eleven year old Jesse Aaron lives in the country with his parents and three sisters in economic conditions that can charitably be called "poor". Leslie just moved in down the road, and the two of them become fast friends after she beats him in a race. Together they explore the forest near their homes, and in their imaginations they dream up a make-believe kingdom they dub "Terabithia" and crown themselves king and queen. No fantasy creatures... no wild adventures... just two kids, in a special place they can call their own. Their castle is a quilt stretched over some scrap lumber. It's what kids do (or at least what I did when I was that age). Terabithia is reached by way of a fallen tree over a creek. That is the titular bridge.

Did I mention that Jesse was poor? He does draw, however, and his teacher (played by Annette O'Toole) recognizes and encourages his talent. One rainy Saturday she takes him to the city to visit an art museum. Upon his return, Jesse learns that Leslie slipped on the log bridge, hit her head, and died. Trying to help Jesse through his grief, Annette O'Toole delivers excellent advice, saying, "You won't believe me, but you're lucky." She tells Jesse that Leslie was very special, and in knowing her, he holds some of what made her special inside of him. Now he has the opportunity to pass that on to other people.

After the funeral, Jesse returns to Terabithia to hold a touching service of his own. His little sister, Annabelle, follows him and is stuck, frightened, on the log bridge. Jesse helps her across, and tells her he wants to show her something special. He takes her to Terabithia and crowns her Princess.
This is a story about two kids with a special relationship. They love each other in the purest sense of that word. The story gives a needed lesson in how to handle grief, and as such I'd recommend the book or the 1985 movie to anybody, especially for pre-teens for whom it is targeted.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with fantasy creatures. The bone-headed, clueless morons at Disney should be shot for once again blatantly mishandling a story and misleading their audience. Their trailer is a textbook case of bait-and-switch. Their changes are completely worthless, adding nothing at all to a story that stands much better on its own.

I can't say I'm surprised, though. They totally screwed up The Little Mermaid by removing the exquisite ending crafted by Hans Christian Andersen (the master of pathos, in my book). They did it again with Pocahontas (fyi, the real Pocahontas converted to Christianity, changed her name to Rebecca, and moved to England. All that about painting with the colors of the wind is a bunch of politically correct historical revisionist bullshit. I say that as someone whose father was native American, so I'll stack my umbrage against anyone else's anyday). Disney screws up every story they can get their hands on to the greatest extent possible, and don't even bother to come up with original stories for most of it, choosing instead to plagiarize dead people who are no longer in a position to sue their sorry butts... but I digress.

Look, don't see the new movie. If you want to see a good movie with a good message and not an overblown videogame with a sock to the gut in the final moments, then go to Wal-mart and get the 1985 version off the $5.50 rack. Better yet, buy the book.


Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia

9 comments:

  1. Okay, I saw the old and new Bridge to Terabithia and I need to say the new one is way better. So they do add creatures in it...so what? It's what kids see in imagination! The old one isn't accurate at all. The new one is. In the book they got to Terabithia by swinging on a rope, not crossing a tree bridge. In the new movie, they followed that. Also, Leslie died by the rope breaking and she drowning, not slipping off the bridge, they followed that in the new movie also. Also, in the new one they follow the story line very well. I agree that the trailers did mislead you and I was upset about that, but the movie is nothing like that. They barely see any creatures. Only sometimes. Also, the new one shows emotion and you could actually feel how Jess felt about his friend's death. In the old one, it's plain cheesy. The new movie is a movie with a good message that is easier to grasp than the old one. I saw the first one, but I didn't understand the message. Now I understand it. It also shows a very good description of the power of imagination. So give it a chance.

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  2. Well, on your recommendation I actually did get the Disney version on DVD and watch it. Having done so, I stand by everything I said in the original post except the admonishment not to see it. Sure, see it if you don't mind being diminished by the experience.

    None of what they added was necessary, and I do believe it detracts seriously from the film. So seriously, in fact, that you seem to be unaware that the old movie and the new one carry the same good message.

    Look, if you manage to see the Disney version on DVD, make sure you watch the bonus features; specifically "Behind the book". Of the book, Anna Sophia Robb (the actress playing Leslie) says, "It's different for everyone. Everyone has their own image of it. It's friendship, it's hope, it's love. Everything that you want it to be, it is." Smart girl. Sadly, the production team doesn't take that to heart. In replacing your image with theirs, they diminish your image. You might not even notice the loss, as they replace it with one that's rich and vibrant and well rendered. But it's not yours.

    Of suggestion vs. exhibition, suggestion is always the more powerful. I'll pit Freddy Krueger against any of the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre dramas any day. Which is the more compelling? It ain't Freddy. The suggestion of threat causes more real terror than does gratuitous gore; the suggestion of skin is more erotic than stripping; innuendo is more titillating than vulgar jokes.

    A story only touches you insofar as it suggests to you the relationships you have had in your life, either real or wished for. It never creates new emotions; it invokes those that are already within you. Too much detail and it fails to connect. It's not what you see that stimulates your imagination; it's what you don't. The true artist knows what to leave out.

    As well with the imagery. You say "It's what kids see in imagination!" Well, it's not what I saw. Or what my kids saw. I'll bet it's not what you saw had you read the book first. It's what a committee lead by director Gabor Csupo saw. And frankly, what I saw was better. I feel for the people who see the Disney movie first, because when they read the book their own vision is driven by Disney. Those who read the book first or saw the old movie first don't have that handicap. Their own imaginations are in charge.

    Nevertheless I'm glad you found the new movie easier to grasp. It's too good a message to let get away.

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  3. i dont think its right to say that the old one is the best based on your personal opinion which is almost compleatly biased. personaly ive read both the book and seen both the movies. the first movie version ive seen was the 1985 version and i personaly think the new one was better! the older one wasnt as accurate, and a little cheesy, but it was still good and i would watch it, but in the new one they made me fall in love with Leslies character and then she died and not even the book was as sad at the end. the special effects wernt nessisary, but it just added to the story in a little way. it might not of been what you imagined, but its the kind of thing you do as a kid, you can see it in your head if you imagine hard enough. and as for the "As well with the imagery. You say "It's what kids see in imagination!" Well, it's not what I saw. Or what my kids saw" all i have to say is, was the old movie anything like what you saw?

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  4. You don't think it's right? Perhaps you missed the part where this is my blog, therefore my opinion. (And it's spelled out at the top of each page!) The difference between you and me is that I do articulate the reasons for my opinions.

    You disagree. Well enough. I certainly don't say you're wrong for liking what you like. Am I biased? Of course! This isn't a poll, nor a voting site. I don't go out and canvass my neighborhood to find out what I should think and believe. Ruminations is purely my opinion! I'm certainly not going to give some wishy-washy watering down of my opinion on my space just because you somehow think it's not right that my bias should not be the same as your bias. That's the kind of hubris you leave at the door, friend.

    There's a secret to life. It's not about you. It's not about me, either. In matters of opinion and taste, no one has to agree with you. No matter how "right" you think you are. Because there is no such thing as a "right" preference. So THINK, form your opinions, speak them, and be prepared to give your reasons. But once you've done so, don't get all bunched up just because someone else doesn't buy your argument and adopt your opinions. If you've thought about them in advance you don't need to apologize or change them just because someone else disagrees. If you find yourself vacillating it's purely because you really didn't think about it in the first place.

    But don't ever let yourself be brainwashed into believing that an informed opinion can be "right" or "wrong". You get one life. Why would you waste it thinking someone else's thoughts?

    So I might as well let you in on a second secret: here's how to read an opinion. An op-ed doesn't exist to tell you what to think (though some deluded authors think that's possible). It exists to tell you what the writer thinks. Neither I nor anybody else seriously believes that they can command you not to see something. When someone says "don't see this", the purpose is to set your expectation. What you know of the reviewer helps. If you're a Rosie O'Donnell fan, then hearing Rush Limbaugh pan a film may be just the recommendation you need to go see it. And vice versa. Either way, you go see it with your own eyes, your own brain, and your own experiences.

    (BTW, since you asked, the old movie leaves it to me to fill in my vision, which is something the new movie crowds out. That was the point. Sad to say, you missed it.)

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  5. So yeah, it's me again. Any way I think you are right. I did watch the special features just to let you know and it is a good children's book. They're both good...and to tell you, my parents hate that movie because of how boring they think it is. I tried to explain to them that it carries out a good message of friendship, imagination, and plain old life. It's the reality of children. If I read the book, I can find myself relating to alot of the characters and situations in this story. It's really good also. People see Terabithia in their own way...and to tell you the truth, when in the book it said imaginary foes...or ginat killers...it never really described the creatures and I let my imagination go wild. I did see ogres and trolls and all those beastly things. I also did read the book first and saw the old one. We all have opinions. Any way, both the new and the old one carry out the same message and it was just easier for me to grasp while watching the new one for some unknown reason. Sorry if I insulted you or anything...this is what I mean here...I said it to harshly in the other comment.

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  6. I saw the new film and some clips of the old one, and I have to agree with you. why does everyone like the new film? because it has fancy special effects and incredibly pretty actors that don't even look like eleven. I have to admit I probably would find watching the old one less interesting simply because there's no pretty girl to look at. the new perfect image of everything. and yes, disney does that with all kind of stories.

    BUT, I still wouldn't say that movie was shallow. It still has a lot of the good story in it and Leslie's death is very cruel. It's just sad it's pretty surface is more important.

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  7. I saw the new film and some clips of the old one, and I have to agree with you. why does everyone like the new film? because it has fancy special effects and incredibly pretty actors that don't even look like eleven. I have to admit I probably would find watching the old one less interesting simply because there's no pretty girl to look at. the new perfect image of everything. and yes, disney does that with all kind of stories.

    BUT, I still wouldn't say that movie was shallow. It still has a lot of the good story in it and Leslie's death is very cruel. It's just sad it's pretty surface is more important.

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  8. You actually liked the 1985 version? The version that even David Patterson, the son of the author, hates? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course. The only thing I'm saying is that, you're one of the very few who even liked that version of the movie, lets not even talk about enjoying it more than the new version!

    Something that clearly shows how much more loved the new version is the over 300 fan fiction stories written about it. And A Place For Us, a fan site dedicated for the disney version.

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  9. Different strokes for different folks, Kevin. The difference between our opinions is that I have articulated reasons for mine. Surely you can do better than alluding to the opinion of a guy who didn't write it, and pointing to some people who like the 2007 version so much that they wrote their own alternate endings instead. A convincing argument, it is not; thus I am completely unmoved by their opinions as imparted to me by you. Perhaps it would be a good idea to base your opinions on what YOU think rather than what OTHERS do. Then tell me that.

    BTW, the site you cite is http://a.placeforus-online.net/terabithia/ Just Googling "A Place for Us" would get you a nice animal shelter. The Disney link is so incredibly popular it doesn't appear until page 5 of the results. While I typically like fan fictions, you have to be careful when citing them as being indicative of satisfaction. For instance, in A Place for Us, much... oh, let's be real... MOST of the Terabithia fanfics offer ways to avoid Leslie's death. While these certainly flex some creative muscles, they're completely different muscles than those of the original author. I wouldn't hesitate to say that these particular fanfics completely miss the point. Once in a blue moon you find someone who does "get it" and who writes something of Jesse's life after Leslie. Sadly, these are the minority by far.

    Keep in mind please that Bridge to Terabithia is, first and foremost, a book. In it, Katherine Paterson is not just telling a story, but imparting a lesson. It is a lesson to be learned, not avoided or wished away. It is also one that is better imparted in its original form. It is a disservice to the author and the fan to dismiss the literature, just as it would be a crime to pass up the opportunity to use the Lord of the Rings films to act as a gateway to the richness of Tolkien's prose.

    The literature takes you places that the movie (either movie) does and can not. Take the name Terabithia, which is evocative of the island of Terabinthia imagined so long ago by C.S. Lewis for the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This takes us to the whole of the Chronicles of Narnia and a completely different world. Leslie would have approved.

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