Ok it's time for some Pixar magic. Brave's trailer
by most people's translation has been pre labeled as being an epic, large movie
while also taking a very dark edge to it. Sorry to say but that
interpretation is dead wrong. Brave is a very small-scale Pixar film with a
more comedic edge to it. But I had basically already guessed that from the
trailer where there are three little bears sticking their tongues out at the
camera. Seriously... also, not to brag but I kinda already figured out the
story of the movie just from the trailer so I had basically prepared myself
knowing what story I was gonna get. So to get it out of the way, is Brave good?
Yes. The best? Hell no. Brave is a very below average Pixar film let down by a few missteps
in, surprisingly, the writing department. Let's find out what these missteps
In this tale we go to the green isles in good ol'
Scotland where we have our newest Disney Princess Merida (Kelly
Macdonald). The very first Pixar Heroine and whom I consider the newest member
of the Disney Princesses. The story is very simple, Merida is the free spirited
teen that just wants freedom and to do whatever she wants and her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), is her very controlling mother. Elenor controls
everything in Merida's life to prepare her for a ceremony where she must choose
a suitor to marry from her father's, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), three lords'
sons. Obviously Merida doesn't like this and visits a witch and gets her to
cast a curse to change her fate by changing her mother. Okay I won't state what
the curse is exactly but let’s just say Disney has already created a premise
“similar” to this before *cough* Brother Bear *cough*. So, now Merida and
Elenor have 24 hours until the curse is irreversible.
Just by that you can tell that Brave is more Pixar's answer to a Disney
Princess film than any form of pure epicness and they pulled it off quite well
all things considered. There are quite a few problems with this movie but let’s
start off with something I liked, the relationship between Merida and Elenor.
While it goes through the motions of showing Elinor be the snooty, and highbrow
queen practically molding the free spirited Merida into queen material we do
get to see some awesome character building scenes. My two favorites would have
to be the in two different places discussion that the two girls have concerning
their feelings in the marriage ceremony. While it’s a bit play out their
frustration and love made them seem more three-dimensional. The other scene I
won’t spoil because this is RIGHT before the curse is cast let’s just describe
it as Elinor and Merida’s breaking points. Their frustrations have boiled over
and they both say pretty nasty things but it’s there actions afterwards that
show how grief stricken they are over their mistakes. That was just amazing to
watch for me.
Next to make this article into a more manageable sandwich of criticism
onto the bad parts of Brave. I already stated the plot is nothing special;
Princess wants more, her wish screws her over and now she has to fix it yada
yada yada. But there’s also a real problem with theming… and how it’s WAY to in
your face. If you seen the trailer you can kinda gather this film has it’s
sight set on bears and the film quadruples the amount of bears. I get that the
bear is the main theme of the movie but come on by the time they had the joke
where they were TRYING to play off how bear crazy the film is it wasn’t as
affective because by that point bears had been shoved down our throats. Not to
mention the similar premise to Brother Bear.
Sadly it’s time to talk more about this films poor writing choices. First
being the sheer number of side characters that get practically zero screen
time. A great portion of the movie is spent with Elinor and Merida like it
obviously should but we never see how the rest of their family feels about
their disappearance. We never see this and it just comes off that the Great
Bear King Fergus forgot completely about his wife and daughter.
The lords and their sons are nothing more then tools to have the story
be more tense and might I add how this movie uses them to build tension feels
so artificial and plain that it feels we missed half the conflict while we were
focusing on Elinor and Merida.
Last but certainly not least for the side characters that were grossly
mishandled is the demon bear Mor’du. Let’s put it this way have you ever seen a
zombie movie where when zombies attacks you get the feeling the writer wrote
that just to make the scene tenser? That’s Mor’du. Another tool to create
tension but sadly this demon bear's importance to the store was grossly over-exaggerated because
of the trailer. He barely has anything to do with the movie except help our
heroes figure out the curse. Other then that his only true purpose is just
adding tension to the climax. Nothing more.
Then there is the plot moving Will-o'-the-wisp. In Scottish lore a
wisp is a ghostly light seen by travellers at night, especially over bogs,
swamps or marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if
approached, drawing travellers from the safe paths. Obviously not the best
guides but they are also known for getting people out of danger… sometimes.
Anyway excluding that, in this movie wisps are used mainly to lead our
heroes to all the set pieces in the movie. It just gets plain silly when the
wisps leads Merida to a place where she was obviously gonna go if she just used
those flaps on the side of her head to HEAR where the commotion was coming from.
I get the first two times but I felt if this movie is all about changing your fate
wouldn’t Merida follow her own path not the path laid out by the wisps? Maybe
if this took the more cross country aspect of Brother Bear the wisps wouldn’t
feel so contrived seeing as how they lead our heroes back to the same spot
every single time they appear.
Actually the cross-country idea could have worked pretty well. Then we
could have cut to Fergus, the lords and their sons throughout the movie maybe hunting
down where Elinor and Merida disappeared to and then we could see them grow as
characters as well and not just Merida and Elinor.
OK. Enough negativity time to end this sandwich with what I REALLY liked
about this movie. Surprisingly it’s in the writing the aspect I love so much.
The simple writing of humor through action rather through dialogue. Yes, Pixar
has done this before with movies like Wall-E where the characters had almost
zero speaking lines but it’s just honestly my favorite type of animated humor.
Telling the joke through visuals and actions has always been a love of mine in
animation. One of my favorite episodes of ANY series was “Reef Blower” from
Spongebob Squarepants, which had zero dialogue.
Brave’s main comic reliefs, Merida’s three identical twin brothers, have
zero spoken dialogue. No noise comes out of these three boys mouths but through
mannerism and action we see true character out of these boys. That goes the
same for Elinor after the curse zero dialogue but the actions of her new form
make the film hilarious to watch. This was undoubtedly my favorite aspect of the
movie and helped in me forgiving the other missteps.
But that was also helped by how beautiful Brave looked. Thanks to a
newly optimized and developed animation system Pixar’s animation now looks so
beautiful it could bring tears to one’s eyes… well if you are an artist… maybe.
Anyway the setting of Scotland while taking place in a very limited area looks
detailed and immense. The character models are all distinct and flow
magnificently through their animations. Simply this is one of the most
beautiful Pixar movies I’ve seen.
Is the movie perfect? Hell no. As a Pixar film it surprisingly is very
mishandled in the writing department, the side characters and supposed villain
are thrown in the dirt somewhat, and the story overall is very standard and
reminiscent of Brother Bear. This is why I say this is JUST a decent film.
There is NOTHING in this film that is awful or groan worthy but it is a weaker
film than the great majority of the Pixar films. For adult Pixar fans it’s
probably worth a pass on this one unfortunately unless you like more simple
princess stories. As for kids, while I don’t approve of Pixar half-assing some
of their writing, they will like this movie’s charm and humor. Simply put if
you thought Brother Bear wasn’t that great than Brave improves upon that or you
can say this is a weak Disney princess movie made by Pixar.
PS. Fun Fact did you know Brave was originally gonna be called The Bear and The Bow. Probably a more suitable title but I understand why they changed it to avoid any more comparisons to Brother Bear.
NEXT TIME: The Great Dictator
Illustration by Jordan Tucker
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