I won't give away any of the plot because I feel the element of surprise is key to this movie. Not that you'd love it less if you knew what was going to happen, but it's so unexpected that I don't want to take away that moment away from you. The basics, as pretty much outlined in the trailers: Merida is being groomed by her mother, Queen Elinor, to be the perfect princess. However, Merida would much rather be controlling her own fate rather than playing by traditional rules. It all comes to a head when her mother summons the clans to compete for Merida's hand. Then... things happen. Magical, wonderful, and sometimes scary things.
This movie is about Merida's journey and then Merida and the relationship with her mother. Overall, it is about the bonds of family. I don't understand why some folks are saying the story isn't about Merida. We follow her throughout - her problems, her trials, her outward and inward struggles, and her resolution. The rest of the film pushes in and leads to her, and her actions influence everyone else's. Completely about her.
And she is quite the role model to look up to. Sure, she makes a few rash decisions. What teenager doesn't? But she also has a take charge attitude and is not only brave in action but also in spirit. She definitely doesn't need any prince to rescue her either. While I love the classic Disney princess stories, to have a movie without a love story where a princess just takes care of herself? It was refreshing and needed.
The movie presents all of the above as a folktale, and the story it weaves is so natural and so right that I've overheard people (on Twitter and in real life) discussing which story the movie is pulling from. It just feels like a tale you know and have heard for ages. Not in the unoriginal way, but in the "this has always been here" way. One friend didn't believe me when I said it was an original story. I take that as a mark of success.
I see some people who are saying Brave is just mediocre and not Pixar's best. I have a couple of thoughts about that. Brave is Pixar's first fairy tale. I felt that was pretty clear going in even though I didn't know the story specifics. Perhaps some people were disappointed by that direction and felt like it's just been done too much. I've read some reviews where people claim to dislike it because it's "small" for a Pixar story. I don't get that at all. The story is universal and has such heart; the struggles of growing up, balancing responsibilities with desire, and squishing that all together with family... well, can't most of us relate to that? And just from the physical location, I'd say this movie is huge in scope. We explore vast swaths of Scotland, and the landscapes aren't like anything you've seen before in a Pixar movie.
And really, at this point isn't a movie that's not among Pixar's best still one of the better movies out there?
It certainly packed the emotional punch we've all come to expect from Pixar. I laughed, I cried not a tiny amount, and this grown-up felt genuinely scared to the point of shrinking in my seat a couple of times. I mean, I'm a complete wimp, but I still think it says a lot when animated characters make me want to hide behind my purse.
I was also completely blown away by the visual aspects of Brave. Scotland and its forests and rocks and weather were practically a character in this movie. The landscapes are almost photo realistic but still retain that stylized, amazing look. As usual with Pixar, no detail is overlooked. They used a new version of their animating system on Pixar, and it is very apparent right down to the fibers of the kilts to every strand of Merida's wild hair. Every artist who worked on this film should be incredibly proud of the world they built and the characters they put in it.
Brave, I adore you. I can't wait to see you again.
Remember to arrive early to ensure you see Pixar's charming new short, La Luna, and don't forget to stay after the credits for a quick but funny scene!