Sleeper, hold the hit.
I can't recall another film I have been as mind numbingly bored watching as this one. The dialogue, characters, and plot are so unexciting that it was almost physically painful to watch. Part of this may be because the trailer promised an entirely different film—an epic adventure, with a protagonist with character. Instead, I found a soap opera, with characters as flat and charmless as a cardboard cutout. The king was the one exception to this, a diamond in the rough. But can't fix the lack of inspiration this clearly suffered from.
The definition of "Idiot Hero".
Brave is a very average, borderline boring film. It's a story told about a hundred times before and it's nothing like what they promoted it to be. But the main issue I have with the film is the main character, Merida. Merida is one of the most obnoxious film protagonists ever animated, and is a good candidate for an Idiot Hero. First of all, she wanders off into the woods and finds a shack with a clearly insane witch inside it. She decides, since she and her mom don't see eye to eye, to ask the witch to "change her mum". So here's the problem, she tells the insane witch to curse her mom, giving no context or instruction beyond the word "change" and doesn't expect anything to go wrong. The witch even warns her several times and Merida has none of it. Second, after this happens and her mom turns into a bear, she admits straight out that she went to a witch, but even then, she refuses to take any blame whatsoever. "Oh, I went to a witch's house and told her to curse you, but it's not MY fault!". Then she leaves the damn cake out in the open and her brothers get it. Next, she encourages her Mom to act more like a bear, which in turn causes Mom to start losing her mind. That's not all, her bitching and moaning nearly causes a war between the four clans. The biggest problem with Merida, and the story in general, is that if Merida had owed up to the fact that she screwed up earlier, this entire thing could have been completely avoided. All she has to do is say "Oh, crap, sorry I turned you into a bear, Mom. My bad." and bam. Problem solved. But no, "Mend the Bond Torn By Pride" obviously means "Fix a Tapestry." not "Quit being such an idiot and apologize for turning your mom into a bear."
Several missed opertunities and some serious logic holes
Brave has a strong pedigree and could easily have been a great film if it resembled the film they tried to advertise it as. As it is it is a mostly paint by numbers affair about family and the unintended consequences of wishes. So far, so average. Now don't get me wrong, there are several good aspects. The film is gorgeous and well-acted, the witch is hilarious and the setting just reeks of Scotland. But I couldn't get my head around the massive hole in the logic of this film. This film has, at its heart, the idea that new ideas and ideals should be given preference over tradition when the two come into conflict, particularly when it comes to love. A more standard and worn out Aesop we can't find. Setting aside the fact that any historical dynasty that handled marriage either by free choice or the way presented here would have nothing but political chaos to deal with, this is a film after all, at the climax we find out that this ancient tradition of marrying the daughter off to the son of a vassal who wins at a feet of martial skill, is brand new. Brand new. What? How is this ancient if the kingdom was founded in response to foreign invaders within the king's lifetime and how is it even a tradition of this is his eldest child? In addition this is taking place in one of the least logical settings imaginable. Of all the ancient civilisations they could have chosen for a standard passion forward, women need a say in their lives Aesop the Celtic cultures (and this is generic celtic culture stew we are being served) are near the bottom of the list. Itís like teaching the roman republic about the evils of monarchy!
First things first: I found the faces in Brave incredibly creepy. Especially Merda's. And this is really the first time the faces in an animated feature have bothered me like this. Sorry, that's an entirely subjective thing, but I just wanted to get that out there. Anyways, on with the review. Brave is not the dark, epic fantasy that pixar tried to pass it off as. Yeah, it is a fantasy, but the fantasy aspects are very underplayed when they could have been great. The underplaying of the fantasy also hurts the epic part of it. And dark? Sure, the palet choices for the film were often pointlessly gloomy. (Note: don't watch it in 3d. The glasses darken an already dark looking film.) Still, the actual plot of the movie isn't really that grim at all. So yeah, it's not a dark epic fantasy. it's a mother daughter bonding flick. But, y'know, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. If anyone could make that work it's Pixar, they're pretty good with character driven stuff like that. But... they don't make it work. And don't get me wrong, there is some good stuff in the film. Unfortunately, it is all contained in a bland, vague shell that just stinks of them not caring. And you know what? I think that's the problem. When they were conceptualizing Brave they were conceptualizing it as "a film with a female protagonist." Not how they should have conceptualized it, as y'know, "a good film." It was really important that it had a female protagonist! That was the main focus of the film! So, of course, when developing the film the reached for stereotypical female plots and the film fell into all these formulaic clichťs based around the fact that the PROTAGONIST was FEMALE! Because they cared more about the protagonist being female than the film being good. So the result just feels... Empty.
What do you get when you cross Freaky Friday with a Disney princess movie? With a title like "Brave" and a trailer showing a feisty princess shooting arrows and pissing off a bunch of warlords as she tries to change fate, I went into this movie expecting an action-packed adventure as our heroine became the warrior she'd always wanted to be. Instead, I got the above setup for a joke. It's not that Brave is bad. It's just disappointing for a Pixar film, and it can be mostly blamed on the story. I'd seen this movie a dozen times before I sat down for Brave: a straight-laced mother and rebellious daughter have a falling out when the daughter refuses to do what the mother wants. Hijinks ensue as a magical mishap forces the pair to find a new respect and remember their love for one another to break the curse. The plot fits perfectly within the standard Disney princess plot, too, except instead of finding her true love when she refuses the arranged marriage, the princess bonds with her mom. Furthering the disappointment, the film simply didn't do enough with the setting and transformation. This story could have taken place anywhere or anywhen else, and any other condition could have driven the mother and daughter together without losing anything from the story. Turning the mother into a bear simply reduced her to animal sidekick status rather than developing her character, so we never really learn anything new about her after the first third of the movie. I didn't hate this movie at all. I didn't even dislike it. I liked if not loved the characters, and would watch another movie about them in a heartbeat. The setting was gorgeous eye candy, and the animation was nothing less than the excellence I expect from Pixar (on that note, whoever was responsible for animating that gigantic mass of perpetually moving red curls deserves a goddamn medal), but sadly it was all weighed down by the tired and predictable plot. This movie had a ton of potential. I just wish it had lived up to it.
Not all bad
I saw this movie a while ago, but I haven't gotten to writing down my thoughts. The Good:
- Merida not having a love interest: That's not done that often. Merida's chief relationship is one with her mother.
- The Mother Daughter Relationship was also very interesting, A Disney/Pixar character with both parents, not that common actually. Both had faults, but both overcame them.
- Being a princess isn't about finding love, it's about politics, and soothing the infighting in the kingdom (Granted, the infighting would probably not be taken seriously, as the lords are all buffoons).
- Soundtrack: Loved it, the string instruments and "Mordu" were excellent.
- King Fergus I loved his personality.
- Animation: Amazing, the castle, the forest, the hair (Look at that hair!), all wonderful.
- La Luna: I dislike saccharine shows, this was cute, but not Saccharine, It was very entertaining, a boy finding his place and his role with his father and grandfather, it was adorable and heartwarming.
- The Story could have used a bit more originality. Rebellious princess learning to accept her role and her family learning to accept who she is. It did have some good moments, but it could have been better.
- Mordu has to be one of the worst villains ever. He's intimidating but he barely does anything, just show up randomly and attacks the protagonists.
- My biggest problem with Mordu was brought up by Dr. Psyche: Show son't tell. Most of Mordu's backstory should have been shown to us, not just told. Maybe we could have seen his past, and how his rebellious mistakes lead to disaster, and tying that into Merida's story. Show Don't tell also applies to how the lords talked about the battle they fought together.
- On a minor note, the triplets demanding desert for sneaking their mother out. They know how their father feels about Bears, and they are pretty smart for their ages, yet they demand food in exchange for helping*.
- The Wisps: They look so other worldly in their animation and sounds. They've got an alien beauty. But... Magical Plot fairies is a term I've heard from the internet, can't say it's incorrect.
This movie was a let down to me. That doesn't mean that this was the worst movie I've seen this year, no, that's the Lorax. Let's get to it. The good.
- The Animation is very beautiful, even for Pixar. Lot's of mention has gone to the detailing of Merida's hair, and it shows. The water, the country, it all looks good. The Willow-wisps also look amazing.
- Music: the Scottish music was very good, I love that Genre.
- Not Giving Merida a love interest was a pretty fresh take (Is she a Lesbian? I honestly don't care.)
- The Mother-daughter relationship was touching, and a very original direction for a Disney/Pixar movie.
- The plot, that's where the movie failed. The trailers don't say what the plot is, there's princess who is dissatisfied with life, and an evil bear. The Princess dissatisfied with life has been done to death, and this movie, did not have the interesting spin to make the premise not groan worthy. It's very generic in that regard. The movie is billed as the first dark-fantasy of Pixar, and that's why I was so hyped up (So Hype Backlash, but it's not that big a deal in the long run). The movie did have some very scary scenes, but too many other scenes were played for slapstick, some was funny, some felt like padding.
- I expected an epic, the trailers, the hype, it all told me Epic (Not necessarily dark, but broad). The movie itself was pretty contained, there was no really big journey (there was a journey, taken about 3 times), and the plot really ran on misconceptions, rather than tension.
- The Climax ran on a big misconception, and I knew how it, and much of the plot would play out. The very fact that the climax was based on the misconception really took away most of the suspense, and when battle with the main villain came up, I almost screamed anti-climax in the crowded theater.
- The supporting cast were all comprised of one note jokes. Any potential tension from conflict between the lords was lost on me as it would just end up as more slapstick.
- Show don't tell. You'll know this when you see it. I'm not spoiling anything, but when the Lords talk about how they bonded, and the origin of the bear, they should have showed it, not explained it. The Four prince's story was only partially shown. This was one of my biggest complaints.
Excellent! Really dont get the hate
Unlike, Im guesing, a lot of people, I saw Brave without expectations, having seen the trailer once or twice. I was pleasantly suprised by a warm, emotionally complex film. Merida is entertaining, all characters are grounded in real emotions and there are no hammy villians with nonsense motives. In fact, there are no true villians, only people that made eveything worse by not explaining themselves properly. I read a lot of reviews calling Merida's badassery into question. Maybe it doesn't seem badass because Merida is a realistic brave girl, not a superhero, and that in this universe, royal actions really have royal consequences for all the kingdom, and that means almost starting a war of succesion, something Ariel never had to face after she ran off with a guy she'd known for 3 days. If The Little Mermaid were remade by Pixar, they would actually explore a bit what it actually means to pull Ariel's stunt and think of the implications. Merida IS a princess but in real terms; she has to be queen and actually rule a kingdom, and that means politics and taking the long view. That's the lesson Merida has to learn when she realises she's being selfish. But her mom also learns to listen and to explain herself, not just impose her will, nillywilly. Mom hadn't explained the politics behind her decitions, only sewing and good manners. That's not good enough for a future queen. I know a lot of reviewers expected epic battles, but I think "Braves" shows that brute force only takes you so far. Being aware of consequences and thinking 3 steps ahead is a better lesson to learn, but not as showy as fancy batttles. I know its a heavy lesson in an amimated movies, but still. Humans don't kill dragons, but they do navigate through an emotionally complex world, and that's more dangerous than a dragon and requires a different kind of bravery. Its not as simple as crying "independent woman with a bow, fuck yeah!" and calling it a day. I think people expected more escapism from Pixar, but their real bread and butter have always been complex relationships, only they are dressed up as superheroes and fish. Needless to say, I think this is my favorite Pixar movie. The real fault might be marketing, because stading alone, its belongs up there with er, 'Up' and 'Toy Story 3'. PS "Cars" still sucks.
Points for originality, but suffers from ironic lack of ambiguity
I'm going to begin by praising the film's courage to do something completely different. In almost every Western film ever, the person who defies tradition is always seen as the hero. So, when Pixar decided that defying tradition was a villainous act, that was a good way for me to learn something new from this film. Where I think the film suffers is as follows: it subverted the black-and-white thinking of previous films, such as the Little Mermaid as one reviewer below commented...but ironically, it just ends up being black-and-white thinking the other way! In my opinion, that doesn't work. Both Elinor and Merida were behaving very badly. They both have to learn to make some compromises. The problem, however, is that since the film focuses on Merida's actions, most of the character development is on Merida's part and on Merida's flaws. The only change Elinor has to make is that she ends up allowing Merida to choose her own husband. I'm not diminishing Elinor's part in solving the conflicts of the film; my problem is with the "pacing". We get oodles and oodles of scenes of Merida learning she was wrong, but Elinor admits she was wrong only once. It's admittedly quite an admission, but it's still a lopsided picture the film is presenting us with. I'm really referring to a mathematical balance, not an "argument balance." The audience walks away with the impression of Merida as a brat, because instead of portraying tradition as an ambiguous affair as opposed to the tradition-defying heroes of the past, Pixar presents us with a very black-and-white picture, but the other way around! The lesson audiences walk away with, if not the lesson Pixar intended, is clear-cut: If you defy tradition for any reason, you're childish and you need to have your will and your spirit crushed. It's sort of like if I decided Superman wasn't perfect, but I worship Lex Luthor instead. That only provides an illusion of complexity; my point of view is still narrow, I've merely exchanged one set of blinders for another one. I'm not criticizing the main premise of this movie. It needed to be done, and it was a courageous step to take. I merely have a problem with the way it was executed.
Great art in a tacky frame
I really enjoyed Brave. It had a happy ending without a marriage, but since that wasnít the point of the story, itís no big deal, that that wasnít there. Itís a mother-daughter story, which we just donít get to see very often. The introduction was so sweet, a beautiful picnic for the birthday girl. We see the love Eleanor has for Merida and her need for propriety. And who would expect an ancient legend to step out of the woods just then. Then we go to princess lessons, which really arenít that awful, though Merida thinks they are. Especially when compared to the kind of day she prefers having. Merida does come off as a bratty, rebellious teenager, which is not a surprise. Eleanor looks like the perfect queen, but by the end we know Eleanor doesnít feel that way, she is trying so hard to be a good queen and she is trying to teach Merida to be the perfect princess so Merida doesnít have to feel like she does. That is what makes the dressing scene so touching, for a moment Eleanor has that perfect moment she is the loving mom again, even Merida feels it, but of course the Mom hides behind the Queen, because that is who she is supposed to be. We then get to the conflict and itís the Queen versus the Teenager. And it is awful. Heartbreaking really, because you know they donít really want this. They talked it out, though not in the same room. From the trailers I knew there was going to be a terrible falling out. I just didnít think it would go so far. It needed to to get Merida to the witchís hut, but it was hard to watch. So Merida gets the spell, that was supposed to change her motherís mind about the wedding. Which doesnít work like she expects. But she cares. They both do. But the most tragic scene was the Queen putting her crown on. It shows us just how invested she was in being the perfect queen and now she was as far from that as you could be. The one scene that felt like it was too drawn out was the stream. They are on a timer, they know they are on a timer and they are stopping to eat!? And thatís another thing, the movie was a great story that was honestly funny in places but there were so many bad jokes shoehorned in, it was frankly distracting. Brave makes a powerful fairy tale, about another kind of true love, the love of family, which is a good thing right now.
Should be judged on its merits
Animation: gorgeous. Voice acting: excellent. Two things no one should really have doubted. The film is the short for a Pixar film, so the team had to make every moment count, and I believe they succeeded. Everything in the film fed into the plot and characterization. The lords seem to be mere caricatures, and for the most part they are. Their children hardly get any screen time, but the film takes an important moment to establish that it is not just girls who want to be free, the boys out there do too and should also be given that chance. The film's main theme is about selflessness and accepting that you do have responsibilities, even if you do not like them. There are some things that you cannot avoid, but you also do not have to face them alone. There is no set villain in the film, much like Finding Nemo. This is a Pixar film, so the main focus is on the relationships. The focus of the film is on Merida's inner demons—her selfishness, and how she allows that to affect those around her. It is also about Elinor who, for all of her attempts at controlling Merida, does love her daughter, she just does not listen to her and that causes problems of its own. While the film was focused primarily on Merida coming to her own realizations, there is plenty of action and humor dotted throughout. But make no mistake, this is not an action movie. It is a relationship movie that tries, and I believe succeeds, to build a relationship between these characters and tell the story it wants to tell. My main complaint is its length: it is too short. There are moments that could have dug deeper into a few ideas the script brought up. The story is simple and can seem a bit preachy sometimes, but it is a solid take on the idea that there is more than one kind of "true love" than the "romantic" love of so many fairy tales, and also that responsibilities will always exist no matter how much we wish to avoid them sometimes. I was satisfied with the time I spent with this film, and I believe that it should be judged for what it was, not what it could have been.
Bit schizophrenic, but good moments
I haven't watched many films that switched directors, so I can't really say "You can change directors and still make a good film". The switch is very blatantly there, so a lot of Brave's problems (pacing, how dark it is, Merida's character swinging from brat to feminist icon to lonely teenager) could be blamed on the fact that Brenda Chapman was at the helm for half the movie, and Mark Andrews for the other half. It's really dissonant and thus doesn't seem like a very good film, especially by Pixar standards. However you can take this to the logical conclusion, and a lot of the good moments of the film are by themselves. The holding the floor scene, for example, showed an excellent degree of character development in both Merida and Elinor, displayed some hidden depths in the sons of the lords, who were formerly just caricatures, and added some decent humor in the form of Elinor's classic comedy attempt to disguise herself as a statue while playing charades with her daughter. Another good example is the scene where Merida is trapped in the castle. It's a classic horror scene, and not only that, it's DARK. Dark as in "the prince turned into a bear and killed his entire family, and was powerless to stop it". It's probably the most horrifying scene in the movie. And as a final example, the entire tapestry plot. Is it the tapestry that needs to be mended, or is it the bond between Merida and Elinor? Is it both? Is it neither, and she would have turned back anyway like the twins did? It's never answered, and that is exactly the way it should be. None of the magic is explained, from the Wisps to the Standing Stones, and that creates a great atmosphere. All in all, it's a decent movie with excellent parts. If they'd stayed with one director all the way through, it would have been a Pixar classic. As such, it's dissonant overall, but since the bits by themselves are so good, it convinced this troper that it could have been a masterpiece. And when there's only one real problem with it (and for all you know, it could have been unavoidable), it's definitely worth a watch. 4/5 stars overall.
Good, not Great
First off, this film was visually delightful. The panoramas of mythic Highlands, atmospheric forest scenes, and above all Merida's fiery corona of hair are breathtaking to watch. Unfortunately, I watch films for the story, not the eye candy. And unlike Pixar predecessors "Finding Nemo" and "Up", the story of "Brave" never lives up to its stunning visuals. The story centers around Merida, a princess in the rebellious tradition. The film's portrayal of Merida isn't quite sure what it wants to be, or maybe it wants to be too many things at the same time. Is she a butt-kicking Action Girl? A strong female standing up to sexist tradition? A misunderstood teenager? A spoiled brat in need of some growing up? As Pixar's first female protagonist, there's a lot of pressure, but in trying to be all things to all people, it comes across rather forced. For example, Merida is an excellent archer (and a fearless horsewoman)...but in the crucial action sequences her archery has little effect, and she ends up needing to be rescued (although not by a prince). In the conflict between her and her mother, the strait-laced Queen Elinor, Merida raises some points that are hard to argue with from a modern pov—she doesn't want to wear dresses so tight she can't breathe or marry a man she hasn't met—but she goes about it in such a immature way that I sympathized with her harassed mother instead. Some of her actions are so selfish and short-sighted that I cringed in my seat. True, she grows throughout the film, but there was not enough time spent on HOW she grew. Queen Elinor, likewise, has to go through a transformation (in more ways than one), but the onscreen development didn't seem to match the amount of change she goes through. While the story is more a mother-daughter bonding piece than the epic adventure promised by trailers, it still suffers from a lack of driving plot. Storylines enter, meander a bit, and then languish until they are patched back in for the resolution. The characters are decently interesting, but much less three-dimensional than Pixar's usual fare. The jokes are surprisingly crude for Disney/Pixar and lack the cleverness I would expect from the latter. Overall, "Brave" is a good film, that many companies could be proud of. Just not Pixar. I don't expect good from Pixar; I expect great. And this film just wasn't it.
Listen before you speak, think before you act
A good, well-meaning theme that's undermined by a combination of its own hasty, badly timed follow-through and viewers feeling that their vague expectations were not met. How ironic. I think the biggest shortcoming of this film was that it tried to do too much and went in too many directions. Pixar tried to please everyone and wound up pleasing no one. Elements of Disney princess fairytale, dark fantasy, a realistic family dynamic with a side of wacky humor and cheap movie monster were thrown in a blender. With the glut of recent movies with fantasy and archery themes (How to Train your Dragon, Hunger Games, etc.), sheer bad timing makes everything feel overdone. Everyone was distracted from what they wanted to see by the things that they weren't going to the film for. BUT if you can get past these most glaring flaws, its still a solid film. At its heart is the relationship between mother and daughter. The film tries to make flawed, likable characters in the heroine and her mother, but everyone's just going to wind up feeling far more sympathy for one character than the other. As an example, Merida gets out of her arranged marriage without breaking the originally agreed upon rules in the archery contest which is great, but she does it in such a disrespectful way that she risks starting a war between four kingdoms which isn't fair to anyone else. It can come off as a totally awesome move by an ass-kicking rebellious princess, or a massively selfish one by a spoiled royal brat. You know what, call me cynical, but this sort of ambiguity is kind of hard for North American audiences who are more accustomed to 'clearly defined us vs. them, righteous hero kicks nasty villain's ass while we cheer' type of thing. I think they might have been able to work out some of these issues if they had lengthened the film a bit, but there's no way we'll ever know now. Overall, its not one of Pixar's best, but still a well done, unique, enjoyable film. I applaud their efforts and I'm betting critics will be easier on it in the years to come and that it will be better received overseas.
Brave: Better Than Expected
Brave is the 13th Pixar film and its production had its ups and downs considering Brenda Chapman, the original writer and sole director of the film, was demoted to co-director with Mark Andrews gaining full reign on the directorís position. Not only that, the marketing led you to believe itís sort of a comedy while a few Pixar employees have said that itís a dark and epic story. Everyone who says either is a liar. But hereís the thing, itís a mother-daughter story. Brave takes place in an undetermined place in time around Scotland. Merida and her mother Elinor donít get along to the best of terms and the tipping point is that she is assigned to mary suitors. After an argument in which she won an archery contest which vetos the arranged marriage, she runs away and meets a witch and demands for her fate to be changed. She gets her wishÖonly for it to backfire as her mother turns into a bear. They must bond together and find a way to break the spell. Which is essentially what can probably hold it back a bit from being a complete classic, the story is predictable. It has heart and effort to the max but the story is very basic that anyone could pick up on where things are going to go. Which could be the result of the retooling. Some of the humor might seem low brow even for Pixar to try out but then again, they managed to sneak in a cross dressing joke in Toy Story 3. But what works the most to the point of worth watching completely is the relationship between Merida and Elinor. Their interaction felt natural, neither character was demonized to be point of them being obnoxious like a sitcom character. Nothing felt forced, the actresses played off each other well and the animation was especially well done allowing the emotions to do all the talking. Every scene with them I enjoyed the most because it was that damn good, everything with them left me impressed. Itís not a gamechanger or a groundbreaking animated film but itís a good film, a really strong one and for some of its flaws, itís definitely worth watching especially for the Merida and Elinor scenes. If youíre looking for a film that is usually on the quality of The Incredibles, Up or Toy Story 3, youíre not going to find it here.