on October 28, 2012
I've read some of the bad reviews, and they seem focused on a few things: 1) Scary scenes, 2) Nudity, 3) Lack of romance. Well, my three year old is super brave so I do agree that a lot of sensitive littles may have an issue with the movie, but it's not really an issue in our household. Nudity? Well, that's kind of laughable as it's an animated movie. I guess some people would rather hear fart humor and characters calling each other jackass ("Shrek"), and if that's you then skip this one, but it's really just two quick scenes and not in a scandalous way. And about that lack of romance... one of the reasons I love this movie for my daughter is the lack of romance for the main character. In fact, the whole plot is about teenager Merida trying to change her "fate" which is to get married before she's ready. She passionately pleads during one speech to the parents of her suitors to let their children decide when they are ready for marriage and to choose their own spouses. This is beyond refreshing after decades of Disney princess schlock where the all too young princess gets into a scrape and must be rescued by a man and then lives "happily ever after". Also, I found the romantic sparks between Merida's parents to be pretty sweet.
If you're raising an independent daughter you want to think for herself and not think girls are meant to be saved by boyfriends, don't skip this movie. (If she's sensitive and scares easily, wait until she's at least school age, though.)
on June 24, 2012
Pixar Animation Studios has always been known for their unique approach to filmmaking. They have always put the story first and foremost, something that so many other studios seem to take for granted. They also know the rest of the ingredients to add to make their films stand out from the rest: Great characters, lots of heart, and a goodly quantity of humor.
While not continuing the 21st century tradition of turning the fairy-tale on its head, as in the case of "Shrek", "Brave", feels like a rediscovered story by Grimm's with an unmistakably Pixarian flavor. Legends and myths abound in Scots folklore, and the writers at Pixar didn't have far to go in order to come up with their own story, one that is at once relevant, quite original, and yet entirely congruous with one's expectations of the perfect fairy-tale. As fresh and surprising as any of the studio's previous successes, I enjoyed it immensely, and could watch it many times over without growing tired of it. It's hard to find a real family film that everyone can enjoy together, but this one comes pretty to close to that ideal.
In the ultimate cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for, the film, set in 10th century Scotland, concerns Princess Merida, a feisty, strong-willed, adventure-seeking lass, skilled with both a sword and a bow and arrow, who would rather practice archery and ride through the woods with her horse, Angus, than follow the path desired for her by her parents; or more specifically, her mother. Determined to avoid her fate, she runs away, and manages to find a way to alter her destiny. To make a long story short, this ill-chosen wish sets off a chain of events that threaten to destroy everything Merida holds dear and the entire kingdom of DunBroch along with it.
This fresh take on a typical princess character pleasantly surprised me, as well as the fact that the emotional core of the film, as well as most of the plot, stems not from a romantic relationship between prince and princess, but from the mother/daughter relationship between Merida and Queen Elinor. Anyone who is a daughter like I am will easily relate to how complicated the bond can be between a mother and her child, and this film portrays that unique bond beautifully. Without giving too much away, it is their love for each other and their clashing of personalities that ultimately moves the entire film forward, and the changes they both experience throughout the course of the film give them both a better understanding of each other, and emphasize the importance of empathy, bravery, courage, family, and love.
Not content with just being an entertaining theatrical experience, the film goes into a level of moral and emotional depth that even fans of Pixar may be unfamiliar with. It takes a very special film to bring me to tears, and I was moved quite often. Not to say that "Brave" is strictly a tear-jerker, because it is not. I'd estimate that there is more action, adventure, and humor than in any other Pixar movie to date.
There is no doubt that "Brave" is one of Pixar's most beautifully animated films. The amount of detail is simply brilliant, and computer technology being what it is today, there are times when the visuals on screen almost rival the real world. I've never been to Scotland, but the richness and beauty of the country expressed in the film makes me feel as if I had. The landscapes are simply breathtaking, and so photo-realistic you might feel as if you've just fallen into the wilds of the Highlands; I'm sure that more than one viewing would be needed to absorb it all. The rendering on the hair and fabric is especially lifelike, and certain scenes involving non-human characters might make you do a double-take, they appear so true-to-life!
Composer Patrick Doyle's score is appropriately Scottish in flavor, combining the expected Gaelic melodies (jigs, reels, and such like), with more modern, atmospheric, incidental scoring. Sprightly where it needs to be and brooding where it doesn't, it perfectly enhances the movie to the point that it feels as organic as the moss on the trees. The gentle lullaby, "A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal", sung by Emma Thompson, is one of the stand-out pieces, and serves as the kind of musical representation of the love between Merida and Elinor. I also quite enjoyed "Song of Mor'du", a sort of Scotch drinking song, heard mainly in the background, but reiterated often throughout the rest of the score. There are also three other songs: "Touch The Sky" and "Into The Open Air", performed by Scots songstress Julie Fowlis, and "Learn Me Right", sung by Birdy, with Mumford and Sons, which, while not written by Doyle, fit expertly into their places in the story and aptly enhance the film.
Now, a good animated character needs a good voice to bring them to life, and the entire cast is all very well-chosen and very well-acted. Comprised mainly of Scottish and English actors, including Billy Connolly as King Fergus, Emma Thompson as Queen Elinor, Robbie Coltrane as Lord Dingwall, Julie Walters as the Witch, and the incomparable Kelly Macdonald as Merida herself, it would be hard to find another group of people so perfect in their roles. Macdonald is wonderful as the flame-haired heroine, and Thompson simply shines as the equally obstinate but caring mother. Billy Connolly is a great counterpoint to her more level-headed and dutiful Queen, but gets far less screen time than either of the two female protagonists.
To sum it all up, "Brave" is a beautiful, touching, exciting, and refreshingly original film, one that is entertaining on so many levels and can stand proudly alongside any of Pixar's previous masterpieces. I would rank it as one of my favorite (if not my favorite) Pixar film, and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
I'm a bit worried about Pixar of late... they seem to be having a hard time finding their way since UP, which was followed by the overestimated TOY STORY 3, and the "let's never mention this again" CARS 2 ... BRAVE seemed like a shot at returning to form with a new original story.
And there is much to admire here. The animation is, of course, outstanding - reportedly a new software upgrade was required for handling the heroine's fiery red hair, and it shows. Pixar has yet to falter in the graphics department, and BRAVE is a stunning and beautiful film to behold! The voice acting is typically top shelf as well, with the likes of Emma Thompson, Kelly McDonald, and Bill Connoly leading the cast. And the underlying theme of learning how to swallow your pride and admit mistakes is a very good one to share with the youngsters.
With a strong foundation such as this, it is a shame that the movie ends up feeling so ... bland. The problem here is that there really isn't anything new to sink your teeth into. Perhaps we hold Pixar to too high of a standard now after one major innovative story after another. I have long bragged over Pixar's ability to avoid the commonalities of Disney and other animated features - but here things are about as rudimentary as they come.
So how many over-worn story elements you can find here:
We have a young princess (check) who has a problem with her parents authority (check) who decides to follow her own path (check) which leads her to making a deal with a witch (check) that ends up backfiring and hurting those she loves (check), requiring her to mature in order to solve the problem (check) - but in doing so, she still ultimately kind of gets what she originally wanted (check and check).
Supposedly there was originally an intention to make this more of an adventure story of the "good vs. evil" kind, and you can see in the build up of the heroine how this might have been. She is an expert archer in the medieval days of Scotland - a setting rife with possibilities for adventure. But, midway through you can sense the script being wrested out of one pair of hands and into another as the story takes a right turn into fable territory... one wonders how this setup might have functioned as more of an adventure.
But as I said, the theme overall is a good one, and the relationship that builds between Merida and her mother is a very touching and positive one. There is certainly a strong pro-family message here, which is always nice.
However, there are also the typical ongoing tropes that are, sadly, rampant in Disney's films of late - adult responsibility is not as important as personal freedom, men are immature idiots while woman must take up their slack, etc...
And most annoying of all, nearly every shot of the movie has to have someone bumping into something, or being hit by something, or screaming, or falling, or laughing uproariously. It's as if the filmmakers are afraid of losing the kids' interest for a split second, so they had to dress up every shot with some overly kinetic movement. Add to this the over-animation of the characters. Merida cannot simply bob her head as she utters a line - she has to sweep her hair up, or fall onto a bed and then roll off, or bulge her eyes, or something... these are the elements that are common among Disney films, but have not plagued the Pixar movies of the past.
Overall, BRAVE is a passable piece of entertainment - but it quickly leaves you once you've walked away. Enjoyable? Sure... but BEST ANIMATED FEATURE? Hardly! The handful of children I know of who have seen it have expressed no interest in seeing it again. That's your target audience, Pixar - I hope you're paying attention!
I'm not excited about Pixar continuing this year with the "franchise development" mentality in delivering a MONSTERS, INC prequel ... I really want to see them getting back to groundbreaking and innovative storytelling - and keeping away from the commonalities of children's animation - here's hoping the best animation studio in the business will remember it's roots!!
on July 31, 2013
It's not that this movie is bad, I just find it too questionable. What exactly was Pixar trying to get across in this film? The characters say something about changing their fates, but no one knows what their fate will be. We can only change our fates when we know them, or at least sometime we can. The accents...don't exactly help. And the story is just a little dissapointing. I was hoping this would be a "Mulan" kind of story where Merida goes into a war, or she could go on a quest, but instead we get...turning her mother into a bear. Yeah, bears are not exactly that interesting, and they let Pixar throw away a great opportunity for a film set in medieval Scotland. Also, the villain is yet another ferocious animal, with no actual evil plot. Yeah, villains who are downplayed like this just don't fascinate me very well. I mean there are some good things about this film, particularly the triplet brothers. They may not speak, but their comical actions speak loud enough. Also, I guess it is rare to see a strained relationship with a mother. It's usually the father whom the main characters argue with. Was this movie meant to teach a lesson to mothers and daughters? Eh, possibly. Merida's design is not that beautiful and I feel as though she's the black sheep of the Disney Princesses. SHe just doesn't do anything that remarkable. I am DREADING a bunch of complaints from my sister when she figures THAT out. I'd say the only time I felt annoyed at this film was when it won the Academy Award for Best ANimated Film instead of "Wreck-It Ralph" which I thought told a better story and should have been a Pixar film. I guess this film is okay for what is is, but I would still like to see something a little stronger.
on August 6, 2012
I like Pixar films. I like those lovely and likable characters this animation studio continues to create - Woody and Buzz, Sulley and Mike, Lightning McQueen and Remy the gourmet mouse chef. I also like Merida, the heroine of Pixar's new film "Brave." (She is the first female protagonist of the company's films.) And I tried to like the film itself, which is certainly entertaining, but fails to offer a story that this brave and independent heroine really needs. In short, Merida deserves a better story.
The story begins promisingly. Merida is a princess of a Scottish clan, with formidable skills with a bow and arrow. Being dissatisfied with a marriage arranged by her parents, she obtains a magic spell from a witch living in the woods so that she can thwart the marriage plan. As you expect, Merida's conduct results in a terrible disaster that she must somehow fix on her own.
The best part of the film is its visuals, especially those of Merida and her hair. Voice acting is also wonderful. Kelly Macdonald captures the spirit of strong-mined Princess Merida. Another good point is that the film sometimes seems having fun with genre conventions.. Witches are often depicted in a negative light, but in "Brave" the Witch (voice by Julie Walters) may be strange, but definitely not evil.
But the weak storyline needs improvement. That Merida looks often selfish didn't bother me. We know she will change, and she actually does, but the point is how she changes. "Brave" does not give the heroine a real challenge. A big bad bear is not good enough. A considerable portion of the film's second half is spent on silly slapstick involving her young brothers. Curiously Merida, a skilled archer, is not given enough chance to show what she can do.
"Brave" is better than last years' disappointment "Cars 2," but the film, despite its interesting heroine, is still a letdown.