Home > Reviews > BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA – Aaron Zigman


February 16, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Since first emerging as a film music composer in 2002, with his score for John Q, Aaron Zigman has quickly – and somewhat unexpectedly – become a film music everyman, this decade’s version of John Debney, Marc Shaiman or Randy Edelman: a composer who can be relied upon to deliver the goods with the minimum of fuss, but never really drawing attention to himself or his work in the wider world. In 2006 alone Zigman scored an astonishing six movies, including the moderately successful Step Up, Take the Lead and ATL, and shows no sign of slowing down in 2007, with three fairly major studio assignments already in the first couple of months of the year. The second of this trio is Bridge to Terabithia, a new fantasy adventure based on the popular novel by Katherine Paterson.

The film, which marks the live-action debut of the successful animation director Gabor Csupo, is a testament to the power of friendship and imagination. Jesse Aaron (Josh Hutcherson), an idealistic young schoolboy, dreams of nothing else than being the fastest runner in his grade. However, when on the first day of school a new girl named Leslie Burke (Annasophia Robb, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) runs faster than everyone – including Jesse – he fears that his dreams have been shattered. Somewhat surprisingly, Jesse and Leslie quickly become best friends, and it soon becomes apparent that neither child’s life is as rosy as they claim – both are beset by school bullies, neglectful parents, and a multitude of other issues which dog at everyone’s childhood. As a way of coping with their problems and traumas, the children imagine themselves in a magical kingdom named Terabithia (which in reality is a dry creek bed and an old apple tree). In Terabithia, Aaron and Jesse are kings and queens, and rule over a domain populated by monsters, trolls, ogres, and giants. However, even in Terabithia, they find that they are not totally immune from danger… The film counts Zooey Deschanel and Robert Patrick among the supporting cast, and has been the recipient of a great deal of praise from critics, as well as a healthy box office return.

The accompanying soundtrack, on Hollywood Records, features four cues from Zigman’s score alongside a cadre of inoffensive songs straight out of the Avril Lavigne school of pop performances. Miley Cyrus, Everlife, Bethany Dillon and actresses Annasophia Robb and Hayden Panettiere do their level best to mimic to Canadian skater boy princess, right down to some of the vocal inflections, while the virtually identical rock arrangements ensure that each and every song is completely interchangeable and suitable for the album’s target demographic – pre-teen and teenage girls.

Of much more interest are the four cues from Aaron Zigman’s lush and emotional score, which makes superb use of a 100-piece orchestra and choir to give a musical voice to the extraordinary world of Terabithia, and amounts to just under fifteen minutes of music. The opening “Seeing Terabithia” has all the grandeur and sense of awe one would expect, with a powerful major-key theme accompanied by an ooh-aah choir and the usual ‘magical’ orchestrations – harp glissandi, tinkling chimes, and the like. The main theme returns in the delightfully evocative “Into the Forest”, which again piles on the feelings of child-like wonder and magical mystery with more cooing choirs, although Zigman does embark on some slightly darker and more menacing material half way through. The cue ends with the same folksy guitar-driven Americana textures Zigman used so effectively in Flicka last year, and which were clearly inspired by Thomas Newman’s scores for The Horse Whisperer and Oscar & Lucinda.

“The Battle” sees Zigman writing fantasy-action music on a grand scale, and features flashy string figures which swirl and churn flamboyantly, chanting choirs, heroic brass fanfares, and a breathlessly exciting pace. I’ve never heard Zigman write action music like this before, and although he owes a great debt to John Williams in the way some of the music here is structured and orchestrated, it nevertheless shows off a hitherto unheralded talent for writing this kind of thing. It may not be in any way original, and it may even appear clichéd at times, but there is just something wholesome and uplifting about film music when a composer uses this sound, on scale, to score a film of this type, and does it with the heart and sincerity Zigman shows here.

In addition to the regular album release, there also exists a 21-track score-only promo, which includes all the highlights from the commercial CD, but also expands and builds upon the themes and motifs to excellent effect. Cues such as “Crossing the River” recapitulate the choral elements, while “Janice Down”, “At the Museum”, “Building the Fort” and others feature excellent contemporary writing showcasing George Doering’s guitar. More light-hearted material appears in the sprightly “Troll Hunting”, the mischievous “Trap Goes Off” and the wonderfully free-wheeling “Run Across the Paddock”, but this are counterbalanced by restatements of the powerfully energetic action material in “The Darkmaster” and “Squorges”. One of the film’s moment of significant emotional resonance is treated subtly and respectfully by Zigman in “Paying Respects”.

When it comes down to it, Bridge to Terabithia is a wonderfully imaginative and enjoyable piece of orchestral escapism, which adheres to every “fantasy” movie music cliché, but nevertheless remains captivating from start to finish due to Aaron Zigman’s obvious love of the project. My recommendation: buy the commercial CD (or download the score tracks from iTunes) at the least; and absolutely seek out the promo if you can find it.

Rating: ****

Commercial CD Track Listing:

  • I Learned From You (written by Matthew Gerrard and Steve Diamond, performed by Miley Cyrus) (3:24)
  • Try (written by Matthew Gerrard, Robbie Nevil and Mike Kompass, performed by Hayden Panettiere) (3:19)
  • Keep Your Mind Wide Open (written by Dave Bassett and Michelle Featherstone, performed by Anna Sophia Robb) (3:37)
  • A Place For Us (written by Bryan Adams, Eliot Kennedy and Aaron Zigman, performed by Leigh Nash and Tyler James) (4:02)
  • Another Layer (written by Jon McLaughlin and Jamie Houston, performed by Jon McLaughlin) (3:30)
  • Shine (written by Rob Benfiglio, performed by The Skies of America) (3:53)
  • Look Through My Eyes (written by Phil Collins, performed by Everlife) (3:12)
  • Right Here (written and performed by Jeremy Camp) (4:13)
  • When You Love Someone (written by Bethany Dillon and Ed Cash, performed by Bethany Dillon) (3:30)
  • Seeing Terabithia (1:07)
  • Into The Forest (6:00)
  • The Battle (6:13)
  • Jesse’s Bridge (1:35)

Promo CD Track Listing:

  • Main Title (2:39)
  • The Battle (4:10)
  • Entering the Forest (6:57)
  • Crossing the River (2:19)
  • Seeing Terabithia (1:17)
  • Troll Hunting (3:02)
  • The Darkmaster (1:37)
  • Jesse’s Bridge (1:42)
  • Janice Down (2:01)
  • End Title (3:50)
  • Squorges (1:04)
  • Trap Goes Off (1:21)
  • At the Museum (1:27)
  • To the Museum (0:58)
  • Running Across the Paddocks (1:06)
  • Building the Fort (1:19)
  • Jesse Grieves (2:16)
  • Leslie’s Diving Story (1:01)
  • The Race (2:01)
  • Paying Respects (2:17)
  • Janice the Bully (0:21)

Running Time: 47 minutes 22 seconds (commercial CD)
Running Time: 44 minutes 21 seconds (score promo)

Hollywood Records D000011102 (2007)

Music composed and conducted by Aaron Zigman. Orchestrations by Aaron Zigman, Jerry Hey and Brad Warnaar. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Dina Eaton. Album produced by Aaron Zigman, Mitchell Lieb, Lindsay Fellows and Kaylin Frank.

  1. June 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts and
    I will be waiting for your next write ups thanks once again.

  2. July 6, 2013 at 11:17 am

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and
    now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment.

    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Thank you!

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