June 25, 2012

Spoiler Free Review: Brave - A Delightful Folktale About Family

I made a mistake before seeing Brave: my expectations were very, very high. I've been looking forward to this movie, and I already thought Merida was amazing from the trailers. To the point of buying a Merida pin at Disneyland and perhaps ordering a Merida costume. Ahem. I couldn't help myself! Finally, a Pixar / Disney movie about a girl taking charge and absolutely no prince or love story?! This film was long overdue. I'm happy to report that it delivered in every possible way.

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!

7 comments:

  1. I would say it's Pixar's most Disney-esque movie so far. You can see the influence of that side throughout the movie.

    Rod Salm
    Death At Your Door, a weekly webcomic about Death trying to live a life.

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  2. I really enjoyed Brave as well, for many of the reasons detailed here. I'd like to view it with The Secret of Kells as a double feature.

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  3. "Small"? What the heck is a "small" story? Doesn't span the globe? Doesn't involve the fate of humanity? Is better suited for a short film? Has a cast of less than thousands? It's not the only annoyingly vague term used in conjunction with this movie, but it might be the most nonsensical.

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  4. I can't wait to see it. Brave seems wonderful.

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  5. Saw it last night...it was soooo good! I have mommy issues, so I was bawling like the little kid in front of me. :P And thanks for the tip about the Easter egg...clearly word hasn't gotten around, because only a handful of people stayed.

    Such a good movie...I don't know what all the nay saying is about!

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  6. I've no idea, either. I saw it last night as well, and loved it. Best guesses now regarding "small movie": The plot is unrushed and uncomplicated; or, the action takes place in a fairly limited geographical area.

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  7. just saw it earlier this afternoon. I'd say the story might be just a little on the simplistic side, but not at all in a bad way. Pixar could have tried for a deeper story, and I can see how it could have gone very wrong. But I did love it, visually and musically it was just brilliant, and the story was just right for what it was.

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