...and boy did it stink. This is the worst Pixar movie I've seen so far, and I've seen them all with the exception of both of the Cars
films as well as A Bug's Life
* What's with all this pointless slapstick?
* Who was the main character?
* How exactly was Merida 'brave'?
* Why ruin otherwise fun quasi-gaelic film score with pointless contemporary singing?
* Why, Steve Purcell, why?!
As with Tangled
, I avoided this film for a long time because I had preconceptions of it, mainly that it was a one-dimensional 'grrrl power' romp with the tired message of 'girls can do whatever boys can do, and maybe even better'... which of course is shit, because in reality it should be looked at what people
can do, and that some people do better than others. Well, it turns out that while it certainly had some elements of this, there were much bigger problems with the story and the direction than that.
Right away, the movie appeared to be visually impressive, which is something you'd expect from a Pixar film from 2012. While I think Toy Story 3
looked noticeably better, Brave
is still a beautiful film. That is, if you just look at the scenery and some of the characters. I didn't like how most of the male characters were designed – no, not because they were all made to look ugly and/or goofy (although that too did bother me), but because they looked more like something out of a non-Pixar 3D movie. I don't know, they just didn't fit in design-wise. Merida's design, on the other hand, was perfect, and I'd say she's one of the best-designed Pixar woman I've seen since Elastigirl and Jessie. Another major win is that all the characters speak in Scottish accents. This is something I hoped to hear in Frozen
, with Anna and Elsa having a distinctive Norwegian/Sami sound to their English.
Once you get past the visuals and how they are mostly nice, you get to the story and the characters. First off, all the male characters are both problematic as well as stock. There's the Bumbling Dad, King Fergus (or, as
likes to call him, Jack Fenton), Merida's three "Dennis the Menace" type little brothers and of course the goofy and silly clan leaders and their equally silly sons. Where is the straight man? I guess that would be Merida's horse, Angus, although he's not an expressive horse like Maximus in Tangled
and he cannot talk. Not even the female characters are safe from clichés: Merida's mother, Queen Elinor, is the caring-but-strict parent who of course ends up clashing with her daughter while Merida herself is the rebellious teenager who borders on Mary Sue levels of excellence with her skills at archery (skills which, in the end, rarely get used during the movie and don't do much when she ends up having to defend herself).
The story revolves around Merida and Elinor having different opinions on the former bethroning one of the sons of her father's clan leader allies. During a challenge of skills to determine which one of the three suitors is most eligible for Merida's hand, she joins in as the fourth competitor and effortlessly beats all three (the Mary Sue moment), which in turn just makes her mother more dissatisfied with her. After arguing with her, during which Merida tears a rictus into a tapestry depicting her family (the tear, of course, happens between the images of Merida and her mother) and Elinor burns Merida's bow inside a fireplace, the daughter storms off the castle. In the forest, she follows will-o'-the-wisps into a witch's cottage, where she makes a deal with what has to be one of the most forgettable witch character I've seen in a big-budget animation. The deal, which is ridiculously vague (Merida wants to change her mother and thus her fate... except it should be 'destiny' instead of 'fate', because you can't change the latter as you have no authority over fate, which is predetermined), produces an enchanted cupcake, which Merida then gives to Elinor to eat.
Then the Queen turns into a bear and the movie goes off the rails.
The rest of the film follows Merida and Elinor (as a bear), trying to figure out how to cancel out the spell and prevent King Fergus (who's notorious for being able to hold his own against bears) from accidentally hunting down and killing his wife. As you've probably guessed, the mother and the daughter reconcile, the spell is prevented from becoming permanent and they also defeat the cursed evil brother from Elinor's story... which, TBH, would've been much more interesting to serve as an important plot element than having the queen turn into a bear and compete with Merida on which one of them is actually the main character of this movie. In the end, despite getting her mother in trouble in the first place, Merida gets to have her own way nonetheless because you have to insert 21st century Western values into a fantasy film set in the very progressive time period known as the Middle Ages. Ugh.Brave
doesn't know what it's trying to be. Is it a comedy? There's plenty of slapstick to go around, too much of it actually, and it feels very forced and synthetic. Is it a musical? Well, no, but there are couple of moments where the movie dips into the whole Disney Princess Movie fair with some pretty scenery and some contemporary singing in the background. Is it a fantasy/fairy tale movie? Kind of, but it's played in a very lighthearted fashion, all too much so, and I kept yelling at the screen that Merida is a Celtic princess living in medieval Scotland – of course she will not have anything to say regarding her own marriage!
Of course I do not expect historical accuracy from a fictional film but goddamnit, at least root it in somewhere
. Oh, and we get the all-too-familiar scenes of Merida having a tightening corset being put on since you apparently can't have enough imagery of women being subjugated under patriarchal rules and traditions.
I guess what annoys me the most is that this film had so much potential. Instead, it got buried under novice writing and aimless direction, and Merida ended up not really proving herself to be brave, but she barely proved to be even a character. However, if they make a sequel for this, one that takes itself more seriously and has a clear plot to follow, it might be a blast. If you ask me, they should've just made Merida prove her bravery at helping to remove the curse of the evil brother or something. The part where she stumbles upon the ruins of the brother's castle was very atmospheric and shows what this movie could've been.
Also, I have to mention that I am not a fan of movies where a character gets turned into an animal or something and then spends the vast majority of the film in that form... especially if the said character is flaunted in his/her human form in movie posters and promotional material. I know they don't want to spoil the transformation or anything but in a way, that's tricking the audiences.3.5/10 would fap to Merida, but that's about it