lunes, 2 de febrero de 2015

I just watched The Secret of NIMH for the first time

So, I finally watched this classic known as «The Secret of NIMH» and I’m gonna talk about the experience.

You see, this wasn’t just a long-hauled deal to me, but it was also my FIRST movie by Don Bluth (whose work I had been wanting to check out for quite some time now -and yes, the weather is really nice under this rock-). Now, I know what you are thinking... how could I have possibly missed the work of such amazing director for so long? I don’t know how to answer that, but I will say that I’m actually glad I did it, because this utter ignorance and lack of luck in order to catch up with his movies has given me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received: been able to watch this flick within the same mind-frame of those who walked to the theater in 1982, without knowing what to expect, being totally unaware of the director and his tricks -this was Bluth’s first movie- and overall having a great room for surprises was glorious. I’m not even familiar with the book in which this flick is based on, and that only added up to my already HUGE ignorance on the subject. The result was something unique and a blessing at the same time, given my love for cartoons and the size of my collection, I never thought I was going to be surprised in this level again... and I loved every second of it.

The first thing that earned this movie a special place in my hearth was its protagonists, Mrs Brisby, and I’m gonna tell you why.

One thing that has always bothered me about cartoons in general is that, at the time of creating female characters, most cartoon makers simply go thru the motions, delivering unrealistic characters in the process... you know, the kind that uses a broadsword to cut her steak or resembles Sophia Hapgood in every other way (which is not bad if presented with class, but that often isn’t the case). Some designers go even further on this and they end up with a character that is NOTHING but action. Again, this is not bad if presented in something like Kim Possible, but they do it anyway with most characters, with far less effective results. Mrs Brisby on the other hand, it’s exactly what you would expect from a character like her (which actually makes her a likeable protagonist). She is only a sweet widow who looks after those she cares for and would do everything to help them, going as far as to risk her neck -repeatedly- in order to give them a hand... but that’s not what makes her such a great character in my opinion. The thing that REALLY makes her stand out amongst most other characters I have met so far in my «cartoonish» life is that she spends most of the film being verbally abused (not insulted but definitely feeling unwelcome wherever she goes) and doing nothing to reply to this, not even raising her tone, because she doesn’t want to ruin this up... all because she loves her family so much that she would tolerate wave after wave of rude idiots (but if this works, it is in large part due to the great talent of Elizabeth Hartman, her voice actress, who really gave her the exact tone. I can’t honestly think of a better person to do the job). Also, most of the film has her being scared to death, which is actually pretty nice to see, because I’m SO TIRED of those characters that seem incapable of feeling fear and the like. All of this makes her a really interesting and deeper character that you would initially think, and the results are something that I can only qualify as «awesome».

At first, I felt sorry for her and her quest to get medicine for her kid, but as the movie was progressing, I actually started to root for her. She is not the kind of character that you would like to see suffering and there are many instances in which being able to see her overcome her fears or walk away victorious from a dangerous situation are the highlights of the movie, and by the time she gets to the owl’s nest, the whole thing has become a really exciting adventure.

And speaking about the owl’s nest, the animation in this flick is really good, borderline incredible, but sometimes, it goes way over the top. This was the part in which I seriously considered to stop watching because the camera seemed a little too attached to a gigantic spider that was crawling in the dark there. The thing was bigger than Mrs Brisby herself (imagine that!) and was approached by several camera angles. That’s exactly the kind of thing that an ARACHNOPHOBIC such as I, would love to see, right? That was an extremely unpleasant part and I think that I’m gonna skip it the next time I sit thru this. But aside for that, the rest of the animation is really good and it is clear that a lot of love and care was put into every background and every cel; resulting in a very attractive movie (in fact, some of the backgrounds are so well done that the separation between them and the characters is -almost- seamless). The movie is really appealing to look at, and no one should be disappointed with what it has to offer in that department (plus, some of the quicker scenes feature an extremely slick animation that has yet to be matched).

Now, here’s something I DON’T like: really early in the movie, our brave mouse Mrs Brisby befriends a crow named Jeremy... and honestly, all I can think about him whenever I see him is Kehaar from Watership Down. They might not look alike, but they definitely act in similar ways, being all clumsy and a little annoying to their friends (friend, in this case). This is not as bad as it sounds, but darn it is distracting. And to make it worst, just because I watched the 1999 Watership Down TV Series before this, the resemblance with said bird results even stronger, seeing how, in the show, he actually has a female mouse as a friend... and their relationship is quite alike too. To me, there are no differences in between Brisby/Jeremy and Kehaar/Hannah (but of course, said TV show came out several years later, so it is an odd comparison).

Another thing that I feel could have been done better is the farm’s cat: Dragon. They keep depicting him as to be «a great menace» and «a dangerous thing» and yet, he does almost nothing during the whole movie. Maybe pet peeves, but everything has to be said.

Let’s talk about the plot, shall we? I really liked what this movie had to offer, but I couldn’t help but notice that, even when the flick was mostly directed at kids, only mayor kids would be able to actually see the movie in its entirety. The plot is told in such a relaxed way that only those with a great attention span could actually comprehend it entirely on the first run. This is unfortunate because with a slightly better pacing this could have been an even greater movie, but what we have here is still pretty good.

All in all, I really liked this movie and I can assure you that it won’t be my last of Bluth’s movies. I liked it so much that I won’t hesitate again when I see his name on a cover (and I know that I won’t be disappointed either).

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