Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Movie review: Disney's Brave

Today I review the movie Brave.

First, I saw it in 3D, and I say see it in 3D at least the first time.  In essence, I'm basically saying that the 3D wasn't really necessary for the story, but it is incredible to see the scenery in 3D at least that first time.

Before I critique the movie, it's time for the usual


Movie spoilers ahead!  If you haven't seen the movie Brave and don't want what's in it spoiled for you, then 


You have been warned!

Right off the bat, I will say that I liked the fact that, while the main character is a princess as is usual for female leads in Disney flicks, Merida is not your typical Disney princess. I also enjoyed the fact that she was a believable bratty teenager.  Granted, the very structured life of a princess is difficult - especially in the era of arranged marriages - but at the same time, Merida enjoyed freedoms that the other female teens in the kingdom did not.

Next, the scenery was gorgeous!  It made me want to visit Scotland and see some of those castle ruins for meself!  Er, I mean myself!  It's mainly for this reason that I suggest seeing Brave in 3D at least once.  I also want to look up some Scottish lore just to see if I can spot some of what was portrayed in the movie.

Some of the movie reviews I've read had said that Brave is unlike previous Pixar movies in that it was a tad predictable, which sapped some of the emotion that Pixar movies usually evoke from its viewers.  Consider Toy Story 3, in which I was moved in that final scene in which the college student who was the boy in the first two Toy Story movies gave up his toys to a little girl - even his beloved Woody cowboy action figure.  After having seen Brave for myself, I kinda have to agree with the assessment of those other movie reviewers.

There was one scene in Brave that did draw a tear from me; when Merida was crying in her mother's arms when it looked like her attempt to bring her back from her bear form had failed, but otherwise, this movie was more entertainment than the kind of human interest story that previous Pixar films had been.  I'm not sure what Pixar could have done to make this movie better, but I do have one idea. 

In the trailer, it had suggested that there would be some big showdown between Merida and the huge, huge bear that was the villain in the story, and I thought we were going to have some kind of Mulan-type battle towards the end.  I got this impression from Brave's trailer, and also because the movie is titled "Brave". How much braver can one get than to try to take down a giant bear whose reputation has made its way into the clan's lore? 

In the movie, however, despite Merida being a very skilled archer, her arrows didn't penetrate the huge bear's hide, and I think that is only logical.  Granted, I've never shot a bow in my life, so I don't know a bow's capabilities, nor do I know how thick the hide of a bear is, but the likes of a bear such as the one in the movie - that of a mythic size and strength, it does not seem plausible for mere arrows to penetrate the hide of such a legendary beast.  

But I was expecting to see more of this monster - perhaps a first battle in which Merida barely escapes with her life, and then followed up by the big showdown in which she would have to gather all the wits, courage and skill that she could muster to finally bring him down.  This could have helped to demonstrate even more the sort of myth that has been built around this monstrous bear. 

At the same time, the movie could have made the bear as representing something else, like our own fears of the unknown or something along those lines, like the hyenas in Ernest Hemingway's Snows of Kilimanjaro.  Now, I'm not suggesting that Brave should have had the bear represent something so dark as approaching death like the hyenas were in Hemingway's story, but it could have been along those lines.

Instead, Brave was a typical mother-teenage daughter story - which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the rebellious daughter fighting with her status-seeking mother has been kinda done ad nauseum in most Disney pics.  If they were going to make this some sort of female empowerment movie, then I think it could have been done better; especially since the trailer hinted in that direction. 

Having said all that, the movie was enjoyable, fun and entertaining - if a tad predictable and formulaic.  Like I said, the scenery was gorgeous and the monstrous bear was indeed terrifying and frightening, and I wish more had been shown of it. 

On a scale in which 1 is a bomb and 10 is THE bomb, I give Brave an 8; mainly for the gorgeous scenery and that the story was still entertaining if a bit lacking from what we've come to expect from Pixar. 

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