I am awed by the marketing tactics used for Bridge To Terabithia.
The trailer (which didn't really impressed me that much, frankly) made this seem as if it's a fluffy adventure fantasy film where two kids went into some fantastical magical world, encountering all kinds of wonders, getting into battles to save this land. And then, lots of emphasis about this film being from the producers of Narnia.
To my horror, this film is FAR from what it is advertised to be.
Although these marketing tactics were necessary to reach a wider audience, it is in fact VERY misleading.
The truth has to be revealed!
Bridge of Terabithia is a coming-of-age drama where all the brief fantastical scenes we saw on the trailer were merely imaginations of the two protagonists. So, this is not an adventure tale! This is a story of a friendship between two kids, Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson, seemingly one of the busier child actors around, last saw him in RV and Zathura) and Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb, who looks eerily like a chibi Keira Knightley!!!!!!), and how their friendship allows them to overcome the many problems children have to face, like school bullies, distant relationship with parents, sibling rivalries. He is an artist, she is a writer, with their imagination, they created a magical land called Terabithia on a dry creek bed with an old crab apple tree, in this land, they can escape from everything miserable and painful about real life, ruling as king and queen, being able to do anything they want.
Befriending this new girl in school (who beat him in a race!), the once-introverted (and spineless) Jesse manages to start bridging a gap between his family and schoolmates, he also has to learn to deal with the sudden and devastating loss of a loved one.
Film is based on a Newbery-winning novel by Katherine Paterson (her son, David Lord Paterson, is one of the film's screenwriters and producers) that I didn't read.
Despite the misleading advertisement, I think this is a really fine film that deserved watching after I left the cinemas. Immensely moving, I actually choked up in certain scenes, but then, noticing that the man sitting next to me in the cinema, along with a few women in front of me were busy sobbing, I felt less embarrassed.
Yet ultimately, this may not be a film that appeal to mainstream tastes (in Malaysia), and people with preconceived notions of the film based on its marketing campaign will be extremely disappointed by its lack of, well, thrills and fight scenes. The man sitting next to me may have wept, but his girlfriend fell asleep, waking up during the end credits and asking what happened.
"Uncultured swine!" I thought.
Later that night, when I had dinner with my friend and his girlfriend, they spoke about the film, telling me that they had just seen it the day before. They thought it was a horrible film, comparing it to... Twins Mission, questioning the logic behind it, declaring that there wasn't a point at all.
Of course, the film's slow pace immediately prevented it from being the kind of film your usual casual movie-goer would really enjoy (... please readers, prove me wrong!) So I can accept his dislike of the film, yet our ongoing discussion made me understand more and more the futility of being an indie filmmaker here. Some points that floated in my mind were once discussed in Yasmin Ahmad's blog.
Why is it that people expect only to see a story when they watch movies? Since when has it become so difficult to feel a movie instead of just watching it? How come plot is considered everything when there are so many different elements of a film that can be appreciated? How about its craftsmanship, for example, the acting, the cinematography, the production values? How about the atmosphere and feeling it evokes? How about looking deeper into the film to find meaning by yourself? Why is it wrong to overanalyze a film?
To me, the whole point of the film is to watch Jesse's growth, Bridge To Terabithia serving also as metaphorical bridges that close the gap between those who were once distant from him (like his dad, his younger sister May Belle, the bully Janice Avery, his teachers, Ms. Edmonds and Mrs. Myers). I was exceptionally moved in a scene with Mrs. Myers reaching out to Jesse after a tragedy occurred, during their conversation outside the classroom. At the beginning of the film, in Jesse's eyes, Mrs. Myers was merely a caricature, a stern, boring teacher. But together with Jesse, we learnt that Mrs. Myers is much more than what we thought she was like.
What is so pointless about a film with such themes? What is so pointless about a film about children learning to deal with loneliness and loss? Must films be solely escapist entertainment? Then what is so wrong about watching two little kids indulge in their own escapist entertainment? It wasn't the imaginary land of Terabithia that was magical, but the moments Jesse and Leslie shared everyday in this imaginary land, right after school, that were magical. Does it even matter that everything was just part of their imagination?
Films like this will most probably slip under everyone's radar (I'm emphasizing Malaysia here, at least in the US, it's doing pretty good business, hovering at the top 5 top-grossing films in the past few weeks, getting really good critical reception, 81% in Rotten Tomatoes now). People will most likely be furious with the misleading ad campaign to appreciate the film for what it is. Which is a pity, considering the fact that one of the oft-repeated quotes in the film, by Leslie Burke, was 'close your eyes, but keep your mind wide open'. Just keep an open mind and check this film out. I recommend it.
By now, you should know what kind of film this is, if it's not your cup of tea, just go watch 300.
I love to hear what others have to say about this film.
Oh, right, here's a music video of the song 'Keep Your Mind Wide Open' by AnnaSophia Robb.
Bridge To Terabithia's MISLEADING trailer!
BTW: I think T-1000 himself, Robert Patrick, is becoming really good in playing dad characters. (WALK THE LINE, that ELVIS miniseries, and now this)