I am going to be blunt here and say that Brave was an entertaining movie. Perhaps not as “epic” as say Pixar’s Up or Toy Story series, however, it worked its magic in a very, very subtle way. It may be set in a fantasy version of medieval Scotland–but the emotional journey and growth that these characters face is very much felt in our modern day.
But perhaps it is this subtlety that is giving Brave a hard time with critics who either think it is not “empowering” enough for female characters, or is “too bland” with its tried-but-true-princess-trying-to-be-free storyline. In my opinion, both of these complaints are totally unacceptable, but alas, Pixar’s brave attempt to show a different sort of story may have missed its mark completely.
So what do we need to know about Brave before walking into a theater? To be quite honest, the trailers do a pretty good job summarizing the main plot for all of us like they are prone to nowadays. So all we need to know is that we have typical, tomboyish princess chained by duty and honor and tradition, and who wants to free herself from this fate by asking a witch for help. There is chaos, there is drama, and there is a rather large amount of fight scenes (That was actually unexpected) with broad swords blazing and kilted men having a go at each other.
But at the heart of it, Brave’s strength lies in showing the audience a look into a healthy family relationship. Princess Merida is not just a tomboyish archery fiend with a good eye, but she has a father, a mother, three rambunctious little brothers that — despite all her griping and groaning — she does genuinely care for and who care for her back. Her mother, Queen Elinore, who we may feel is the typical power of oppression to destroy Merida’s free spirit, is actually a lot like our own mothers — determined to see us succeed and to push us in the “right direction” (According to her), but also aware of our own talents and interests.
And to be honest, that is the magic of Brave for me. What I recommend you all watch out for is that dysfunctional but all-too-real (And kind of true haha) mother-daughter relationship that the team working on Brave has captured so well with visual cues and dialogue. This is what I think makes it something more than the tried and true story of princess vs. traditional arranged marriage.
Then there is the beautiful animation that Pixar is well-known for. I don’t think I have much to say on that department except that Brave is gorgeous and rich looking; above and beyond the jilted, stiff movements and easy-to-recognize-as-computer-generated imagery of bygone days. The music was fitting, nowhere near as say, soul-crushing as Pixar’s UP but it definitely fit the theme.
The only caveat when it comes to watching Brave and appreciating its oh-so-subtle plot is that feeling of wanting more. I don’t want to spoil at all, but I feel that critics are not pleased with the film because it DID get shafted, in a way. Rumors around the net have suggested that originally one aspect of Brave (The most important aspect, imo) was supposed to be highlighted; but alas, it was “cut” in places in favor of more blood and more butts. (Watch the film, you’ll know what I’m talking about)
And what’s produced when one integral component of the film is exchanged for more action? You have a film trying to do both, trying to both be exciting and emotional, and of course, one is going to overshadow the other. Sadly, it had to be the (unnecessary) action and crude humor that won over what Brave was supposed to do.
By no means do I want to discourage anyone from watching it — it’s definitely an entertaining film. However, like Wall-E, for me Brave is a film that is very much appreciated for its artistry and technical marvels, but not yet quite on the mark of “epic” that films like UP have accomplished. I know what it is they were trying to do now that I watched it, but I think that they should have given that particular aspect of the film more screen-time over any other.