Set in the 10th century highlands of Scotland, Brave tells the story of a royal family; young Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald) lives with her mother (Emma Thompson) and father (Billy Connolly), who also happen to be the queen and king, and a set of mischievous triplet younger brothers. Feeling overwhelmed by some of the pressures associated with the traditions of a princess, Merida seeks to change her fate of an arranged marriage, a fate strongly encouraged by her mother. Upset that her mother refuses to listen to her desires, Merida flees the castle in tears on her horse. After traveling through the forest, magical “wisps”, which legend says will lead you to your destiny, guide Merida to a witch/woodworker’s hut. Granted one wish, Merida believes this is her chance to change her mother, assuming that will change her fate. But without many other specifications of how she’d like her mother changed, the witch prepares a magical cake for Merida’s mom to eat and sends her on her way. Soon her mother eats the cake, but the spell doesn’t go quite as Merida had expected. Realizing the error of her ways, Merida now seeks to undo the spell, but cannot find the witch again. She must race against time before the spell becomes permanent.
Standing Up for What You Believe In:
Tradition serves as one of the main themes for the royal family, and in Princess Merida’s case, a lack of freedom. Merida’s mother is adamant that she follow the family’s long history of letting men compete through a sporting event in order to win her heart. But Merida feels she isn’t ready for a husband — she’s enjoying her youth and freedom. In today’s society going against your parents’ wishes is considered “disrespectful”, despite how ridiculous their wishes may seem (i.e. an arranged marriage) . Whether it’s religious beliefs, cultural beliefs, or just personal preference, parents can often have an agenda for their child that isn’t always in the child’s best interest. But I have to hand it to Disney/Pixar, not only does the Princess not back down, but Queen Elinor actually sees that her daughter’s happiness is more important than their family’s tradition. I’m interested to see if they’ll be any backlash from some more conservative/religious parents who don’t think their children should talk back to their parents like the admirable Princess Merida.But regardless of what anyone thinks, the film definitely shows that standing up for yourself is more important than pleasing your parents, and that’s a message I can support.
An Unexpected Twist:
Without giving too much away, the witch’s spell was certainly something I didn’t see coming. While it definitely changes the mother, as the princess had hoped, the way in which she changed was not at all what I expected. I found it a very unique way to put the princess and her mother together in a different relationship, so that each one got a better feel for the other’s intentions. The spell gives new meaning to the relationship between the mother and daughter, and without it I don’t see how either character would’ve come to understand the other’s point of view.
Hair for Days:
Merida’s gorgeous, wild and curly red hair was easily the most striking visual in the 3-d animated Disney/Pixar film. The film includes scenes of her as a little girl during which her hair is truly astounding. There are several different types of curls, from tight ringlets to loose waves, and many shades of oranges and reds. Her hair flows marvelously when she’s riding her horse through the forest and when she whips out her archery bow. While there were many other beautiful scenes and imagery, Merida’s hair truly stole the show and is unlike any hair you’ve ever seen created. In fact, in order to make their visuals even more stunning, Pixar rewrote their animation system for the first time in 25 years, and it was well worth it.
Breaking the Spell
When Merida goes back to the witch’s hut after the spell has gone haywire, she finds not the witch, but a set of potions, one addressed directly to her. After pouring the potion into the witch’s cauldron, the witch leaves a message noting that the spell must be broken before the second sunrise or it will become permanent. She also gives Merida a riddle mentioning that a bond must be repaired in order to break the spell. Previously in the film, Queen Elinor made a tapestry depicting her, the king and the princess, which, in a fit of rage, Princess Merida ripped. Somehow, Merida makes the connection that she must sew the tapestry back up in order to break the spell. Despite other notions of legend and magic in the film, this part seemed most awkward and out of place. There should’ve been more of a Freaky Friday way to break the spell, where mother and daughter have to learn to accept one another before the spell can be broken. The tapestry concept was unrelated to anything else in the movie. There are several other very unique, interesting, and quite creative aspects and twists to the film, but in comparison having to stitch up the tapestry seemed like an afterthought. The tapestry was just something the queen had sewn, it didn’t really have any importance to the story and that’s why I felt they could’ve broken the spell in another way that was more related to the story.
Slow Down There Pixar!
As an animation and interactive design student, I definitely know how difficult it can be to get everything timed right. The more elements, textures, and rigging involved in a project means longer rendering time and more room for issues. The film included pans of scenery, moving close ups and many other camera angles and shots, but more often than not, they were just a little too fast, distorting some of the imagery and causing a bit of uncomfortable eye-ache for the audience. In the portrayal of Scottish hillsides there’s certainly a lot of greenery, and when the camera moves too fast everything starts to blend together. While the average movie goer might not notice some of the static created by the quick camera pans, it’s definitely something that could be improved upon.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Overall, Brave was truly an excellent film. From the well developed characters, to the beautifully designed scenery and the often hilarious antics of the King, Brave is a movie for all ages. The film certainly seemed a bit more experimental than many Pixar films, involving legend and magic, but that only added to the adventurous and exciting plot. The film was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, ranging from sentimental family moments, to scary life-threatening scenes and the laugh out loud script that often had me in tears of laugher. The film joins the ranks of similarly epic Pixar films like Up and Wall-E, two films that boast a good message. I would say it’s definitely worth seeing in theaters so you can get a real sense of the amazing scenery (it’s hard to imagine that the entire world was created from scratch). But like any Pixar film, imagination and creativity reign in Brave which makes it a truly spectacular feat.
‘Brave’ Movie Trailer: