No weapons on the table: on the safe stories and mild morals of Pixar’s Brave
After countless years of heroes that have ranged from toys to old men, from fish to cars, Pixar finally unveils its first movie with a heroine. This alone is exciting news, but add several Time Magazine articles building hype about the rise and fall of the movie, scrapping of the plot and starting over, a female director replaced by a male director – and suddenly, it feels like there’s a whole lot more at stake.
Within the first few moments, we see Merida, voiced amazingly by Kelly Macdonald, show her fierce personality. I can only imagine the hundreds of people who must have worked night and day to bring the bounce to Merida’s fiery red hair, every individual strand curled, blowing in the wind. She shows a stronger bond with the bow and arrow than with her mother’s teachings of propriety, and often shows her wild nature – we see her cantering in the woods, shooting targets (with proper bowmanship, according to Charles), and altogether being free and daring. She’s a fine heroine for Pixar to start with, and the trailer certainly highlighted her stubborn nature at its best.
What the trailer doesn’t truly show is the true plot of the story – at its heart, Brave is about the tense relationship between Merida and her mother, the ever-proper Elinor. With very little warning, Elinor is turned into a bear, and from there the actual story begins. I liked Brave until it took this turn – it made sense that Merida would refuse her suitors, showing up to “shoot for [her] own hand [in marriage],” and otherwise playing the tough girl. What I couldn’t get on board with was the choice to make this into a mother-daughter story, one that glossed over potentially complicated issues to make a movie about wild-daughter introduces proper-mother to nature.
As always, everything was beautiful. Merida’s hair was gorgeous throughout, the textures of clothing were always detailed, the animals were cute and the woods were wonderfully brought to life. Merida’s toddler triplet brothers provided adorable comic relief throughout the movie, though, as someone pointed out, it was completely unnecessary for furthering the plot. The soundtrack was heartwarming, and the ending was surprisingly touching, though as adults the riddles were no longer puzzling, and so the film lacked a sense of suspense.
Overall, 4/5 – Honestly, I enjoyed Brave a good deal, but I just expected more out of Pixar. Where was the magic from WALL-E? The originality from The Incredibles? The adventure from A Bug’s Life? After the disappointment that was Cars 2, I expected Pixar to outdo itself with Brave. While it created a story that was obviously tenderly crafted, Pixar fell short of its usual excellence here. The sweetest moment was probably in the accompanying short, La Luna (though it also, unfortunately, was predictable).