Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Brave

Film #181

THE PLOT

Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.

Year 1, Day 179

BEFORE: After a great Christmas and a well deserved break in the marathon, I’m back with this year’s Pixar film Brave. This is actually only the fourth animated film in the marathon (don’t worry, that will be corrected in the coming months - more on that in an upcoming post). From what I’ve heard Brave is much better than Cars 2 from last year but it didn’t live up to the high expectations given Pixar’s many other successes.

AFTER: Animated films are usually seen separately from a more traditional live-action feature film. It’s as if they are inferior in some way just because they were created in a computer rather than building huge sets and have hundreds a people act and lug equipment around all day. The result is, come Awards season, animated films take the back seat and are left to their own little category, Best Animated Feature, instead of playing with the big boys in the Best Picture category. First off, this is not true, but secondly, why am I telling you this?

I’m telling you this because to me, animated films have become almost indistinguishable from live-action films in terms of visuals. Brave had some gorgeous shots of the Scottish Highlands and even going in close on grass, trees, and rocks, the detail the animators can put in nowadays makes it look real. The most incredible example was Mérida’s (Kelly Macdonald) dress. You see individual threads and a shiny quality to it that gives you a hint of what kind of fabric it is. It’s these little details combined with the cinematography, things like camera angles and framing, that astounds me as to how far computer animation has come since Toy Story in 1995 where you could see the polygonal shapes.

Again, why is this important? I’m not really sure. I’ve never personally thought that animated films were inferior before and I still don’t think so today. But for some reason Brave is the first film where I think it really hit me. I enjoyed the film and the story but there were also elements that I had to put up with rather than just go with them. When I saw Rise of the Guardians, the reason I rated it very highly was because I was able to watch it from a kid’s perspective and not care about minor annoyances I had.Brave however tries to be much more than that. It tries to be like a live-action film in the sense that it’s much more than just a kids movie, or a kids movie that appeals to adults (see: Toy Story). Brave has a darker feeling to it than the rest of Pixar’s films while still having some lighthearted and comical scenes.

My biggest complaint about this is the characters, or more specifically, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). The Queen is the mother of Mérida who is the rambunctious and rebellious teenage princess who doesn’t want to be like her mother. She wants to hunt and eat junk food instead of wearing corsets and acting proper all the time. The Queen tries to control Mérida and constantly recites the rules and regulations Mérida should be following if she wants to succeed when she grows up. From the beginning I didn’t like the mother, not because of how she acted (I assume that was common back in ancient times), but because of the way she acted. The Queen acts like a child and is stubborn in ways an adult/parent doesn’t. A parent can be stubborn and not change their mind about a decision, but they have their reasons and are forceful about it. The qualities belonged to Mérida and qualities normally associated with a temperamental child, like being stubborn and complain just because they aren’t getting what they want, were found in Queen Elinor.

That seems a bit rambling so let me try and make sense of what I just said. Brave is a great movie. It looks fantastic with some of the landscape shots rivaling those of Middle Earth in The Hobbit. Plus, it has an oft-heard story of a child not wanting to do what their parents command, but it is well-told barring some annoyances. My through-line about animated/live-action films can boil down to this: Brave is an adult film made as a kids film. When Pixar did Up, they shocked many by including a five-minute prologue that many people, myself included, see as one of the saddest scenes in cinema. Here Pixar succeeded where they failed with Brave. Brave has that darker and more adult feeling but it doesn’t embrace that as Up did. Instead, the tone of Brave can be a bit confused at times which in turn resulted in some disappointment on my end.

RATING: 4 out of 5