If you’re a fan of Pixar films, you will find “Brave” may not live up to Pixar’s high standards, but it certainly isn’t their worst. It’s definitely worth a viewing because, like any other Pixar film, you are bound to have a great time with the character, setting and story.
Before the film even begins, you’re treated to yet another one of Pixar’s animated shorts, “La Luna,” a story about a young boy spending time with his father and grandfather on a starry night, followed by a rather mystic yet artistic experience.
Even if I were to tell the whole story, I wouldn’t be able to translate the beauty of it with words alone, for much of the impact from the short is in the animation and visuals. Hardly a word is ever spoken, but sufficient cues and actions are provided to move the story along, and it’s done in such a simple yet stylistic way that anyone of any age can get something from it.
What Pixar does in “Brave” is what Pixar does best: Storytelling. “Brave” is the story of a young scottish girl, Merida (Kelly Macdonald), who is expected to live the typical life of a princess at the constant lecturing of her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). However, she despises the lifestyle, as she prefers to be more adventurous.
On top of that, Merida’s hand in marriage is highly sought after by three other Scottish tribes, each led by an eccentric leader: Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Each tribe has one of their sons competing to be Merida’s groom. However, she has no desire to have her marriage arranged for her, and amidst it all, decides to change her own fate, and starts defying her mother. The way she goes about it though, results in consequences that she had not intended, and much of the story is about Merida trying to fix those consequences.
Throughout the film, “Brave” paints a beautiful portrait of Scotland, accompanied with a Celtic soundtrack that not only invigorates the viewer but ultimately adds to the setting and culture of the film. Early on in the film, we see Merida venturing out through the landscape of 10th century Scotland, riding her horse through gorgeous scenery and showing off her archery skills. It’s easy to enjoy this fun romp through the woods as it sets up for the overall tone of the film.
One of the few things that didn’t sit well with me throughout the film was that I could tell that there were two directors at work. The movie was originally named “The Bear and the Bow” under the direction of Brenda Chapman, but in October of 2010, Mark Andrews took over as director, due to creative differences among the team.
Although I can’t exactly pinpoint which parts were done by Chapman or Andrews, there were a couple of themes brought up in the film, fate and the relationship between a mother and daughter. While these themes do work hand-in-hand during parts of the film, they more often fight for center-stage.
Merida is working to change her fate that her mother has planned for her, and at the same time, she works to repair the harm she has brought to the relationship with her mother. The mother relationship hinders the theme of fate early on in the movie, and the rest of the film is more accurately focused on the pair as they search for a resolution. What’s particularly confusing is that the theme of bravery wasn’t as abundant in the film as I was led to believe, given that the first trailer had hinted at a darker tone and bigger scale of adventure.
The other thing that bothered me was that the other clans introduced early in the film weren’t as developed as they could have been. More specifically, I wanted to see more of the leaders of each clan, as they each had unique traits and quirks that easily contrasted with each other. While they do provide a good amount of comic relief to the story events, there’s a particular scene near the middle where things are heating up between the clans, and I had a hard time feeling the conflictive atmosphere as the traits of each clan weren’t fully explored.
Despite those few problems, “Brave” is a very entertaining film, providing a great atmosphere to revel in that anyone of any age can enjoy, which is nothing new when it comes to Pixar films. “Brave” gives you a great protagonist, an astonishing setting and a good story, even if some of the characters are a bit lacking and some themes are struggling through the spotlight. This may not be Pixar’s magnum opus, but it’s one of Pixar’s finest.