that’s right I got opinions
Here’s what you need to know about Brave; it’s not Pixar. Oh, they made it, and it’s lush and beautiful and gorgeously animated and so on and so forth, but the story, the characters, the things that matter? They’re Disney through and through. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not a great thing either. And that’s what I expect from Pixar; greatness. Brave doesn’t give you that. What it gives you is, well, Disney. Rebellious Teen defies Authority Figure and enlists the help of Magical Person to Change Destiny but of course Things Go Wrong and blah blah blah, it does nothing new and nothing interesting. There isn’t a single thing in the story that will make you sit up and go “Wait, what?”, nothing that you won’t see coming a mile off, nothing exceptional. If I sound harsh it’s only because I expect more of Pixar. Story Is King, but in this case it felt like they’d missed the mark.
The first act is great. Really good. That bit from the trailer, Merida claiming her own hand? That amazing bit with her turning to match glares with her mother? The lead up to that is excellent, and in fact that’s the best scene in the entire movie. Unfortunately it’s all a bit downhill from there. Things devolve into a low-stakes relatively conflict-free muddle of missed opportunities and (especially surprising for Pixar) storytelling gaffs. But as I said, it’s not Pixar. It’s Disney. Disney Disney Disney. There’s a “heartwarming”/”hilarious” musical montage, for goodness sake.
The tone of the film is odd, too. Take the part where Merida’s mother is turned into a bear. What a horrible, traumatic experience, for such a precise, elegant woman to be suddenly given this enormous, too-powerful body, to be destroying everything she touches, to inspire fear in those who see her … and yet the movie plays it for laughs. There were moments where this did work—for example, the contrast between her bear-form’s bestial nature and her ingrained manners and delicacy, that kind of thing worked very well. But stumbling around crushing everything in her path wasn’t funny. It was sad, it had pathos, it was, in a very real sense, horrific. You can’t just gloss over that sort of thing. It has to be addressed. Making it into a joke felt flimsy and wrong. Uncomfortable, even. In fact, the whole transformation plot felt wrong—what if, I couldn’t help thinking, there had been an attack during the archery competition? What if Merida and her mother were forced into a dangerous situation, forced to rely on each other, forced to grow to respect each other in that way? It could’ve been a powerful adventure, rather than the muddled thing that it is. That was my biggest problem with the movie, I just kept thinking, “Is this really the best story you could be telling?”. In a lot of interviews with Pixar staff they mention how, while developing movies, they often hit a point where they go “Wait, this isn’t the story we should be telling! THIS is the direction in which we should be taking this!”. Brave reeeeally could’ve done with one of those moments.
It was missing a lot of the Pixar attention to detail, too. Little things, like Merida’s bow. It was a present from her father, it symbolises her independence, she carves a design into it, it’s her most precious possession, so when her mother throws it in the fire and it gets burnt, it’s a big dramatic moment … but then when she needs a bow she’s suddenly got another one. Nothing is said about the burning, nothing is made of this. That’s not like Pixar at all. The witch, too, she gets a scene and then she’s gone and that’s it. It’s not clever, that’s the real problem. Which is not to say it’s stupid. It just never feels like it’s doing all it could be doing.
Brave isn’t a bad film. Far from it. But like I said, I expected more. So, all in all, Merida’s hair gets a 10/10. The actual movie? 7/10 at best.