Release Date: June 22, 2012 (3D/2D theaters)
Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Screenwriter: Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane
Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG (for some scary action and rude humor)
Official Website: Disney.com/Brave
The glories of Scotland can be fully realized in “Brave” to any who’ve never visited the forested land with a rich and vibrant poetic and militaristic history. Since ancient times, the mystical stories of Scotland’s epic battles have leaked through the generational cracks and into the hearts of children to this day. In Pixar’s “Brave,” a new tale unfolds about a young and adventurous girl whose personality and spirit was ahead of its time.
Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is faced with the terrible burden of being raised as royalty. Her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) constantly barks the fact that Merida is a princess who must act accordingly. But Merida refuses to accept her fate, hoping to change it. Defying tradition and destiny, Merida rides out into the woods to the mystical side of the land where she finds an old witch and requests a spell to change her fate. However things are not always as they seem in the world of cinema and Merida is faced with a terrible dilemma that she must rectify before the second sunrise. Time’s a wastin’, and Merida may not be ready to meet the challenge.
To start off, “Brave” marks many firsts for the acclaimed animation studio, most notably having a powerful female lead driving the story forward. Merida’s gorgeous spirit and vibrant personality makes her one of the most intriguing and sensational character’s in animation history, especially with her wavy red hair. But there’s also the princess themed aspect of the story. Pixar’s never taken the typical Disney approach to their films, and making Merida a princess in that same tradition is an interesting move. Not bad, just interesting. This 13th feature for Pixar is also its debut period piece, setting the stage in pre-medieval Scottland. All of which served the film adequately.
As I state in all my reviews of any Pixar film, Brave reminds us why they rule the world of animation with an iron fist. No doubt, Brave is the most beautiful animated film to date. There’s this photo-realistic status that Brave upholds while not forgetting the poetic nature of animating realistically – something Avatar failed to accomplish. There’s a definite attention to detail in the cinematic lighting flowing throughout the film and how it radiates against Merida’s glowing red hair. Likewise, the realistic look of each animal was masterful – Merida’s horse was especially well done. Yet Pixar appropriately animates a certain level of cartoon-styled eyes, lips, and stature in every beast, maintaining its “cartooniness.’ It may look real, but this is still a cartoon, and the animators at Pixar are the masters of combining the two aspects into one beautiful feature length film.
With the release of Up!, containing adult themes and mature content, Pixar was given full license to do whatever they wanted! In Brave we are presented a story as dark as any tale I’ve read or seen before. Mostly radiating from the evil bear, Brave maintains a dark undertone, supported by the misty part of the woods and the mysterious will-o the wisps. In fact, there’s so much about Brave that’s “mysterious” you’ll walk out of that theater wishing you knew more about the film’s side stories. Thus lie the flaws in Brave – the inability to tell the full story.
I fully understand the need to keep certain things anonymous – The major flaw in Tim Burton’s “Batman” was revealing the identity of the Thomas and Martha Wayne shooter as the Joker, forgetting that it was the anonymous nature of the shooter which gave the Batman origin story such a strong will. However, Brave left almost too much open-ended. What was the significance of the wisps besides being the guiding light for Merida? What was the history of the spell given to Merida for her mother? What was the old witch’s story and how was she connected to the four brothers of the ancient kingdom? Is their more to be learned about Mor’Du and his “beastly” condition? This woodland region seems to have a vast history, and 90 minutes wasn’t enough time for it to be fleshed out. So much is yet to be told, which left much of the film in a state of uncertainty. It needed more time.
In addition, the choice of gags and humor in Brave felt cheap and out of place. It’s possible, due to the intense and dark nature of the story, that Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman decided this type of humor was needed to keep the tension at a much lower level as not to scare the kids TOO much. It went into a toggling pattern which followed this – masterfully written story, cheap gags, masterfully written story, cheap gags - and so on and so forth. I suspect many people my age will walk out of the theater trying to figure if they actually enjoyed Brave or not due to this very inconsistent aspect of the script.
There’s also a very unclear purpose within the script. The film has trouble living up to its title, staying on the safe side rather than being brave and taking a few risks. The film had the potential of being Pixar’s best if it weren’t for the constant out of place themes. As funny as it was in the beginning, the slapstick ruckus caused by the men became very cumbersome. Sure, this is how most men want to act, but it was a running gag that became too much of a good thing. Likewise, in the Queen’s transformation from human to bear, I wondered when her constant state of panic would end. These two major thematic aspects of the film were only a fraction of the writing flaws. Most of Pixar’s movies have a glimmer of the unexpected, both in plot and tone. Brave has this, but unlike its predecessors, the film never comes to a comprehensible closure to its side stories. But, again I state, it all had to do with limited screen time.
Please note, parents, that this is a very violent film; Bears are going at it tooth and claw, men are constantly punching each other for the sake of showing who’s the better man, and this film has one of the scariest creatures I’ve ever seen in an animated movie. If you were one of those parents who took issue with Cars 2 and the torture scene, then be careful with this one…you may have another conniption.
Aside from the fact that this is Pixar’s greatest visual achievement in its history, Brave fails to deliver the type of story Pixar has become known for. As far as the script and humor are concerned, Brave reminded me more of a Dreamworks animated film – still enjoyable, yet very dry.
That being said, however, Brave still mops the floor with most other animated films outside the Pixar regime. I guess that’s the trouble you face when you’ve become the standard that every one else tries to mimic.