My Rating: ***
Well last autumn I finally got the chance to see Brave at my campus cinema. As a Disney fanatic I'm usually first in line to see one of their new releases when it first comes out but, alas, I was unable to see Brave during the summer. (Yes, I realise how ridiculously late this is in terms of reviews - sorry about that!)
So, what did I think of it?
First and foremost I was ecstatic to finally have a Pixar film with a heroine. That's not to say Pixar films are usually a sausage-fest, in fact their female characters are, more often than not, instant favourites. What would Monsters Inc. be without Boo? How would UP tug at our heartstrings without Ellie? Where would the Toy Story franchise be without Jessie? Even so it was great to sit back and watch a Pixar film with a leading lady. A leading lady with fantastic hair.
If starring Pixar's first heroine isn't enough, the movie should also be praised for giving its viewers a Disney princess whose mother is alive. It's a miracle! Merida isn't the first princess to have a mother, of course. In Sleeping Beauty Aurora is eventually reunited with her mother just as Rapunzel is eventually reunited with hers in Tangled, Tiana has only a mother in The Princess and the Frog, and, as she is listed as a Disney princess, Mulan also has a mother. Out of eleven princesses, only four have a mother.
What makes Brave really special in this respect, however, is that the entire film is centered around Merida's relationship with her mother. Unlike the other princesses who are with their mothers for a moment and then married off, Merida refuses this stereotype which is so often thrust upon Disney's heroines. In fact an arranged marriage is proposed, but no romance ensues; there is no chemistry between Merida and any of her suitors. I was a little suspicious that perhaps instead she'd have a best friend in a stable boy who was in love with her or something along those lines but, luckily for me, there was no such relationship present in the film. It was a refreshing change. Though I was a little disappointed that Merida's only friend appeared to be her horse; aside from her little brothers it seemed as though she was the only child in her clan but as friendship wasn't integral to the plot we can overlook that.
As we can always expect with a Pixar film the animation was superb. Every time Merida moved her head I was mesmerised by each of her curls; I've always been absolutely rubbish at art, so when I see art like that so perfectly executed it fills me with awe. When it comes to the Disney films you can always find the odd snob who believes that only the animators who work on 2D films are worth appreciating. That is nonsense. It's impossible to argue that the animators who work for Pixar aren't talented, each one of them is ridiculously good at what they do and the films just wouldn't be the same without their skills. That being said I found myself appreciating the film's animation a lot more than the plot which, considering I went to see a story and not just a series of pictures, was rather disappointing.
The beginning of the film was rather nicely paced, but the scene in which Queen Elinor - Merida's mother - helped Merida with her public speaking and changed her mind about the betrothal seemed too nice for a film which was initially marketed as a return to the darker fairy/folk tales. In fact any darkness at all was pretty much lost when the decision to include Merida's three mischeivous little brothers was made; throughout the film it felt as though there was completely unnecessary humour, even the witch with whom Merida strikes the deal was surprisingly comic. Of course the fact these films are made for children should be taken into account, but Disney and Pixar are well known for incorporating other elements which include all members of the family of all ages and for a large portion of this film I personally felt as though the wider audience had been forgotten.
Even so I still enjoyed the film and I'm sure I'll buy my own copy of it eventually, but if I'm completely honest I was a little disappointed with Pixar's first female-led film. Not because of the female lead, but because of the juvenile way in which a lot of the story was handled; I was hoping for a return to the dark stories of my childhood and instead I was given a story which ended abruptly and was constantly interrupted by three wee boys with ginger perms.