Matt Reads a Thing: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

So in preparation for a project I’m doing (See the Patreon), I decided I needed to (re)read the Secret of NIMH. I’m not sure if I’d read it before, but I had seen the movie a lot, and figured that might count. And I think it does. While the movie went to some random, mystic place, the book did not. The book was really short, actually, with only a few twists. I think it was written to be a really good book for early readers, and that my bafflement at its simplicity is because I was expecting something a bit more, idk, involved.

10 Point Summary

  1. Did I like it? Yes
  2. Did I like the Main Character? Yeah, I think she was a great character.
  3. Did I like the Villain? Was there a villain? Not really? Dr. Schultz? Man? Complacency? I think the threat felt real, so I’ll give a point.
  4. Did I like the side characters? Yeah. they didn’t get much spotlight or depth, but none of them turned me off.
  5. Did I like the Plot? It was interesting, because I knew a lot of the plot, but was on tenterhooks, because I knew at some point, there would be differences. It was simple, but I liked it
  6. Did I like the Resolution? I think it was fine.
  7. Did I like the Creative Choices? Yeah. For what it was. I can see why Don Bluth thought to make a movie of it.
  8. Was I immersed? I’ll dock this point for essentially it being a children’s book.
  9. Proper Emotional Response? Yeah, I think so.
  10. Would I Read It Again? Probably not for myself, but I can picture reading it to my niece.

So that’s a 9 out of 10

Longer Review

Intelligent Mice living in a human’s world. That was what I was researching. This wasn’t what I expected.

Here’s the thing: whoever wrote the screenplay for the film essentially DOUBLED the amount of plot. The stuff about evil rats? The lady crow? The cat, Dragon, actually doing anything? The dramatic scenes with the storms and the mud and all of that? All new. And the movie is better for it.

Random unexplained magic amulet? Not in the book and idk if it helped the movie at all. Not sure what it was trying to do.

Apparently, the film was up against The Dark Crystal and E.T. for awards that year. Stiff competition.

Anyway, in the book, problems are pretty straight forward. There’s not a lot of… failure, actually. that’s what the story doesn’t have. No false paths, where the characters try something, it fails, so they have to try something else. It felt really monotonous. And I think that’s a big take away. It’s okay for characters to fail, and lose things, some times.

Actually, let me give you an example from the book and from the movie. At the start of this scene, Mrs Frisby is captured, and trapped in a bird cage.

In the book:

It’s night and Mrs Frisby is wondering how to get out. Then, the helpful Adonis rat shows up with a buglar’s kit, and instead of picking the lock, he busts a hinge so it looks plausible she could have gotten out on her own. Then they leave together, as she gives the rats a warning.

In the movie:

It’s night and Mrs Brisby is wondering how to get out.She tries the door, it’s locked. There’s wire holding it in place. She tries to twist the wire to open it, but it slips and cuts her am. She soaks the cut in the bird drinking thing. Then she realized that the water thing is designed to be removed and refilled from the outside. She shoves, it doesn’t give. She gives it a running tackle, it spills water, and moves a bit. After a few tries, it falls to the floor and she almost falls out! She then makes her way down to give the rats a warning.

The scene itself, in terms of the plot, is identical. Mrs. Frisby (or Brisby in the movie, renamed so that the flying disc people wouldn’t sue) overhears the important information, and the story moves on. But in the movie, Mrs Frisby is dynamic, empowered, imperiled, fails, learns, and THEN succeeds. And it hits in a different way.

There’s probably some things about writing and D&D to take from that. Not sure what they are, really, but might be worth pondering. (Part of this new blogging focus is to NOT finish all the thoughts before posting)

I did mention that there’s a project I’m doing, and you can take a survey and generate a mouse for a story that may remind you of the Secret of NIMH, but I can now 100% guarantee that it’s not.


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