Brave (2012)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 12:50 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 7.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

BRAVE (2012) - Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

In old times, stories were always told of children rebelling against their strict and dominating parents. Through these strenuous affairs of arguing and fighting, the conflict eventually bonds the child and parent together closer than ever. In Chinese culture, this story was expressed through The Joy Luck Club, a narrative revolving around several mothers and daughters. In India, this story was presented by The Namesake. Now, in 2012, we are greeted with the same ordinary story and moral. This time as an animated film…. from Pixar Animation Studios.

Brave is set in the highlands of 10th century Scotland, where a skilled archer named Merida (Kelly Macdonald) defies an age-old custom after living her life under the hands of her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), causing chaos to spill in her kingdom. After consulting a witch for help, her family becomes cursed and Merida is forced to undo the spell herself before it is too late.

The animation in Brave is impressive yet oddly different from the style Pixar executes. According to the studio, the film possessed far more complex visuals that were impossible to create, forcing Pixar to rewrite their animation system for the first time in 25 years. Although Merida's hair, the shrubs on the dirt, and the water all look magnificent, the characters all bear a close resemblance to our fellow Vikings in the 2010 DreamWorks film How To Train Your Dragon.

The film's background takes place in Scotland, which means every character really does have a Scottish accent. In the beginning, it might take a little time to get used to it, since the film is narrated by a female Mel Gibson from Braveheart, but eventually it might grow on the audience. 

In the filmography of Pixar Studios, every film needs a screen duo, and each duo has its own originality. In Brave, there is only Merida. In terms of characterization, only Merida and her mother are interesting to follow. For the female lead, she is presented to the audience as a young lady who is neither cute nor pretty, with hair that is both curly and straight, as if never combed. For a Pixar film, Brave already went towards being unorthodox, as if Disney asked Pixar to introduce the next Disney Princess. Every Pixar lead is lovable in some way. They attract us physically and then appeal to us mentally. With personalities fully fleshed out, each Pixar lead is a beloved addition to the memorable characters list. Though Merida in Brave is enough to manage, there is a sense that Merida does not even belong on the Pixar leads list, which brings me to one of the main elements that drag Brave down.

As an animated film, Brave sits as more of a DreamWorks film than a Pixar film. The story is way more simplistic, predictable, and lacks the insightful depth that every Pixar film has accomplished before. For adults and demanding filmgoers, Brave will be undoubtedly disappointing, possibly even more disheartening than Cars 2, which I thoroughly enjoyed in contrast to its negative reviews. Going back to How To Train Your Dragon and pretty much every other DreamWorks film: Brave has a similar moral, connections between mother and daughter, compared to father and son. The animation style looks extremely similar, with majority of the scenes having a lot of brown and grey, not colorful to the eye. And finally, there are a lot of meaningless characters who are just present for comic relief. 

Take a good Disney film: Beauty and the Beast. The candle, clock, and teapot are all comic relief characters for the younger audience members, but at the end of the day, they all have a purpose in the storyline: To help the Beast fix himself so he can transform back into a human. The funny moments and amusements come later, enhancing the experience of the characters' actual goals. Here in Brave, a lot of the funny characters have no goals and are almost as if just "thrown in there to get a few laughs." Speaking of laughs, the children will get great laughs out of this, but probably only children in their elementary school years. The humor is mostly physical, crude, and if taken the literal way, silly and immature. The inventiveness and delight that drove all the Pixar films is clearly missing here, or done in an entirely divergent manner. If somebody randomly shows me Ratatouille, I can easily tell that it is a Pixar film. If somebody randomly shows me Brave, I can honestly say that I would be fooled to think that it is a DreamWorks film.

However, if one is forgiving enough to back up and just take a good look at Brave as an animated film alone, it is still a pretty well-made movie. Despite its familiar storyline and predictable ending, there is no question that it is well paced and well combined with a Scottish background. With fluent 3D animation, Brave manages to invite less demanding filmgoers to an intriguing fantasy adventure. Its target audience, though, is definitely kids ten and under, even though the actual content is more mature than WALL-E.

In conclusion, Brave is fine, perfectly adequate as an animated film alone. It offers enough engagement to fun-seeking fans but undeniably falls behind the other Pixar films. For the people who are desiring another Pixar groundbreaker, I am afraid to say that you will not find it here. Our favorite directors of Pixar, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Brad Bird, are pushed aside and replaced by a new crew of folks who are either unfamiliar with the way Pixar films work or they are past workers at DreamWorks Animation. From the Boston Globe, "We would expect this kind of overstuffed joyride from DreamWorks Animation or the folks at Fox or even Disney itself. But it's terribly ordinary for Pixar." Parallel to animated shows, Brave in relations to Pixar is like the new decade of Tom and Jerry episodes/movies that are no longer produced by Fred Quimby. But at the same time, Brave is not a bad movie. Not at all. Its charm and commitment to its content can keep the young ones eager for a second viewing. For the older ones who hate to wreck their image of Pixar Animation, you will have to be brave to put the "Pixar vibe" aside.

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