Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Musings: O'Brien Read/Watch: The Secret of NIMH

I'm going to treat this post as something more like a running commentary than an actual review. What follows are my thoughts as I watched the movie The Secret of NIMH for the first time in (at least) 7 years.



Wow. There's magic from the first scene of this movie. Which is based on a science fiction novel. Arthur C. Clarke, where are you?

Nicodemus is a bit creepy with the warts and such, but I like introducing the mystery of Jonathan's connection to the rats this early.

Nicodemus' book sets Jenner's character up and mentions Thorn Valley, though you can't read it all without pausing. (I had to go back because I missed some of the dialogue in this quiet scene.)

Mr. Ages' house got moved from an old farmhouse in the book to an old combine in the movie. That's mostly an atmospheric change, I think, but it fits with the technological advancements of the rats.

"Great Jupiter, woman!" <-- don="" exclamations="" have="" like="" p="" t="" this="" today="" we="" why="">

Mr. Ages is far more cantankerous here than in the book.

"—but you can die from it!" – I remembered this line from my first viewing of this movie. o_O It's amazing what little bits of this film haven't faded with time.

The movements are wonderful -- the mice actually seem like mice.

What's with the sparks in the powder for Timothy? Mr. Ages isn't supposed to be magical, is he?

It's fun how they fit details like Timmy's spider bite into the dialogue without having to give all the long story of it. I like that they took that effort to put in the bits of the book that wouldn't translate well to the film.

"Bless yourself. You'll need it." <-- is="" one.="" p="" snark="" strong="" the="" this="" with="">

Dom DeLuise <3 p="">

Jeremy is a bit sillier than in the book. He's not the young but knowledgeable crow from near the farm, but an older bachelor who doesn't have the sense God gave a billy goat.

Sudden hellish glow is subtle. :P

Dragon is also not the basic yellow-orange farm cat of the books. He's much more in line with Don Bluth's demonic villains (setting up for An American Tail and the Cossack cats, I think).

The first Jeremy sequence is definitely more exciting here than in the book, but it has much of the book's flavor.

The children are pretty much on point, though Martin is slightly more filled with bravado and attitude.

"Auntie Shrew" is a bit more prominent and larger than life. She gets two quick scenes in the book.

NIMH comes in sooner for the Fitzgibbons and the rats moving the cable is in the night, without Mrs. Brisby's seeing. It certainly makes the rats seem more ominous.

Oh look! A rabbit that looks like Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh. Surely that has nothing to do with Bluth and his colleagues working for Disney.

The shrew is definitely a histrionic personality. It would be funny if we all didn't know someone just like her.

Interesting that they chose sabotage instead of typical mechanical wear to cause the tractor's delay. I guess they had to make the plot more tense.

The shrew suggests the owl instead of Jeremy -- not sure why this change, but it fits with the expansion of the shrew's character and the sillier take on Jeremy.

Did they just imply that Nicodemus caused her to go to the owl? He's like a morally ambiguous wizard at this point with his electric magic mirror.

Random wolf howl in the forest?

"That must be the owl's tree" –Another one of the lines I remembered.

I love the animation on the cobwebs for the owl's house. It feels so real and creepy. A bit like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Jeremy is definitely more of a coward here.

John Carradine's voice is perfect for the owl.

"Step inside or go away." – That's a wonderful line from the book. I'm glad they kept it.

How big IS this tree?! In the book she barely had room to move around the owl, and here she's walking across bridges and through multiple rooms.

How the heck did the owl have his head upside down? o_O

The owl and Nicodemus are obviously designed by the same artist – the flowing mustaches and robes/feathers, the glowing eyes, etc.

"His name is not unknown in these woods." – Another line from the book, but I remembered it in Carradine's voice for all these years.

The Owl only mentions Nicodemus, not Justin. He's much less informative than in the book, I think.

"The lee of the stone" feels like such a more important phrase than in the book, possibly because of the red stone Nicodemus had in the opener.

Mrs. Brisby's tricking Jeremy into leaving is funny. Never mind the fact she's basically using feminine wiles on him.

Jeremy doesn't remember where she lives after the first time she told him? Just how dumb did they make him?

The door into the rosebush is almost like the book's description. (To be fair, it's very close to the book's description, just not how I pictured it. I wanted an actual door of thorns.)

The electrical buzzing and flashing are certainly very creepy, as are the random vines reaching out as Mrs. Brisby enters the rosebush.

What's with the random red skull?

Random bright and shiny place at the heart of the bush. It's the Great Valley! (Oh wait, wrong Bluth film.)

An electrified spear is mighty dangerous in the water, dude.

Mr. Ages is far more secretive here, and he makes the owl out to be much more fearsome than the book. "No one sees the owl and lives to tell about it!"

Where is my friendly Brutus who was just doing his duty as a young rat? He's gone, replaced by this silent creepy watchdog.

Jenner is still here, and is obviously a villain, as opposed to the book where he'd already left.

And the amulet is given importance again.

The bulbs look like they have fire in them, not electricity.

Forced creepy entrance for Justin making way for a revelation that he's a friend. Typical change in the tone of his animation. Not sure how I feel about it.

They kept the "We've had electricity for four years now." "Five." exchange from the book, but Nicodemus said they left NIMH four years ago in the beginning. >_>

I do like the extrapolated city the rats have in the film. It's like they took the ideas of the book and said, "More."

Jenner's reasoning for dissent is the same as in the book, but his appeals to the council like some politician from a Roman epic is odd.

There are female rats in the meeting, but none named. This is not much improvement over the book's take on female rats (and no improvement at all really given they nixed Isabella altogether).

Also, we seem to be laboring under the delusion that the owl is now "the great owl". What makes him so great? ("What do you mean Beethoven wasn't so great?!")

Nicodemus should have the scar and eye patch of the book, not the blind-ish glowing eyes.

The shrew's tying up Jeremy – extrapolated from the shrew's resistance of the rats at the end of the book; only possible because of the lack of them meeting Jeremy before, though Martin figures out Jeremy is the crow who met their mother.

"The poor turkey fell down." XD I'd forgotten how amusing Cynthia was.

Even Jeremy isn't immune to the crazy eyes (the shrew had them in the tractor scene earlier). He looks like Batty from Ferngully in this scene.

Also, Nicodemus is very, very old here.

MAGIC BOOK!

They skipped over Nicodemus's description of Jonathan as a mouse of great courage in his magic book. I realize Mrs. Brisby has a hard time reading, but still -- why did she skip a whole phrase?

NIMH is much more unclean and unethical than in the book.

The change sequence has always been the freakiest part of this movie. It's on par with the boat ride in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

11 mice? There were 8 in the book. And I'm pretty sure the sequel to this movie said 8 as well.

Group C. Really? That was the control group in the book. I expected better of you, Don Bluth.

They certainly sped up the whole learning process. No slow realization of the importance of letters. No mazes. Just "One night, I could read."

"Courage of the heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it's there." – I remember this now; much of this scene, really. Of course, this is a kids' movie so we have to have a moral. *ahem*

"You can unlock any door if you only have the key." -- I like that they kept this line, but I wish they'd kept it as something Jonathan had said to Mrs. Brisby rather than as an inscription on the back of a magic rock.

"I will treasure it always." -- I remembered this line in connection to the previous one.

"Jonathan couldn't tell you about NIMH…" – I also remembered this line.

I also remembered the intense look on Jenner's face when he says the stone will crush Nicodemus' bones and his line about Justin: "Leave him to me … to me … to me." After the change sequence, this was the freakiest part for younger me. Or at least the scariest.

Jeremy's role was so expanded for this movie.

Mrs. Brisby suddenly knows about Thorn Valley though it hasn't been mentioned aloud yet?

Billy and the colander – glad they kept those details from the book.

Justin's infamous "Damn!" (I say infamous because my grandparents were shocked to hear it spoken when I watched this movie with them some years after my first viewing.)

The Shrew's bravado vanishing when she realizes the rats have arrived. Such a classic moment.

They're speeding up the timeline on NIMH's arrival, too. Not a couple of days. In the morning. Increase the tension!

Moving the house was much more logical in the book. They rolled it like sensible mutated rats.

Of course Jenner has a crooked sword. Because eight-year-olds need more visual cues that this is a villain.

I like Mrs. Brisby escaping the cage on her own. It feels more rewarding than Justin appearing to save her in the book.

They're lucky no one else died in that mess besides Nicodemus. The kids might've died being slung about inside the concrete block. The rats holding the wheel might have died being thrown around by the weight. Sheesh, Jenner, you really didn't think this through.

Justin's mourning Nicodemus' death is eerily similar to Cooper mourning Chief's injuries in The Fox and the Hound (that Bluth just happened to work on; just a coincidence, right?).

Just realized Dragon's eye opening inspired Mordred in Albion Academy.

Man, Jenner. You're a real winner, beating up women, assassinating old men. Leader of the Year, folks.

What's a kid's movie without a swordfight over a red background and intense music? Am I right?

Easy confession time! Because Jenner thinks no one else can hear him.

Nice shot for a dying man (or rat), Sullivan (whose name I only know thanks to IMDB; why don't they ever say side character names on screen?).

And there's the last desperate problem – the stone is sinking.

Hey, Brutus gets another mention! Yay!

And the magical solution with the amulet because we can.

Suddenly everyone bows down to Mrs. Brisby -- because she's magic? (I feel like this is not as good a magical deus ex machina as the end of Ferngully.)

Also, the Fitzgibbons don't notice all this shining flashing stuff out in their fields, even at night? I mean, did no one wake up and notice this? Surely on a farm they sleep lightly enough to notice what looks like a fire.

Suddenly they are in what looks like the book's summer home? Or there's a small pond in the garden patch?

Justin takes the amulet because why not?

And Jeremy meets his female equivalent. The love story nobody asked for.

Wow these credits shots are shaky. Like, how has no one fixed this in the DVD age?

Wait. Wil Wheaton and Shannon Doherty were in this?!! How am I just learning this?

And Bruce Timm worked on this movie? This is like the Young Sherlock Holmes of animation.


[After I had typed all of this up, a friend shared this article that gives some background info on the movie, including a couple of things I noticed above.]

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