Sunday, 31 October 2010

Film Ramble: Bridge To Terabithia

It's been a while since I rattled on about a movie here, mainly because it's been a while since I've seen anything both excellent and generally underappreciated enough to warrant the effort.  And it hasn't exactly been a slow news week, either, but the interesting stuff that's been going on is too up in the air for me to talk about - and anyway, Bridge to Terabithia just kicked the emotional hell out of me.

Bridge to Terabithia goes without apology or compromise for themes that have come off as cliches in so many other films: the power of imagination, the scope for fantasy to enrich reality, the possiblities of story to save us from - or arm us for - the harsher aspects of reality.  And it hits every one so well that you wonder how you became so jaded to these concepts in the first place, or how Hollywood has managed to make them seem so trite and absurd. In its better moments - of which there are plenty - it even makes them feel new.  It also strays into some very dark places, and does so honestly and unapologetically.

In its trailer, Bridge to Terabithia was missold as an alternate-world fantasy, perhaps to cash in on the relative success of the Narnia movies.  I've no idea if this worked for Disney, (though I get the impression that Terabithia didn't do great business), but it still seems like a dumb move, since a) it's a blatant fib that's bound to annoy anyone who actually sees the film and b) it fails completely to clue you in on what's great about the movie: its subtletly, its carefully detailed realness, and it's willingness to present a fantasy world as precisely that without, in the end, diminishing its importance one iota.

So if the trailer put you off, give it a go anyway.  Likewise to the fact that it's basically a kids film - after all, kids have to deal with most of the same stuff adults do, as Terabithia so amply illustrates.  It's not perfect - some wonkily integrated CGI from should-know-better effects studio Weta derails a couple of scenes - but it is unexpectedly and consistently great.  It has Zooey Deschanel and a classroom of kids covering Steve Earl's Some Day.  It has some fantastic performances, including a bravely unsympathetic turn from Robert Patrick.  It reminded me of some of the essential reasons I love fantasy as a genre, and why I choose to write it, and by the end, it made me blub like a three year old who'd just had their favourite toy stolen by zombie pirates.

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