Brave Movie Review

Yeah, I know it’s been a few months and the Mass Effect 3 feature is nowhere to be seen. I’ve been rather busy IRL and I decided to hold out for the Extended Cut DLC. I’ve also decided to play through the entire series, hopefully gaining some perspective on it. With that aside, I just watched the movie Brave, and I’m going to share my impressions in what might become a recurring feature but probably won’t. Beware, there may be spoilers.

 

I went into the movie with some reservations. Disney Pixar is not known for making the type of movie I like. I know that they are not really targeted to me as an intended audience, but I tend to find their movies cliched and preachy. There are exceptions, of course- there are Pixar movies I really liked. Unfortunately, Brave is not one of them.

The film started off strong. The first half hour to an hour (hey, I didn’t keep track of time) was pretty good. Brave takes place in Dark Ages-ish Scotland, or an idealized fantasy version thereof. The setting is introduced, and both visually and dramatically it is done quite well. The current situation is introduced as well as our heroine, Merida (sp?). She’s an Action Girl and Ladette, and also the unwilling princess of one of the kingdoms. She is to be betrothed, and a competition is held to determine who will take her hand in marriage. There’s even a (unintentional?) Skyrim reference where some kids steal sweetrolls. She competes for her own hand, wins, and pisses everyone off. After a heated discussion with her mother, she storms off into the night.

And that’s where things start turning to crap. The first time the will o’ the wisps and MAGIC is used, it fits the plot well and makes sense. Merida makes a deal with a witch, getting a spell in the form of a cake that she feeds to a mother. It turns her into a bear, something which her father has been trying to track down and kill for years. This is where things start to roll downhill. I will stop giving away plot point after plot point and instead focus on what went wrong.

The beginning would seem to suggest something along the lines of Braveheart meets Mulan (or Pochahauntus, I can’t remember which one is which, I didn’t really watch Disney movies) and maybe some Shrek mixed in. While that is too much to ask for (although it would be awesome), I was rather disappointed with the use of MAGIC. I realize it’s fantasy and magic is a key part of that. But magic is simply used to force the plot along, even in lieu of it. Also, one of the key themes was that you make your own destiny, but Merida is constantly guided by will o’ the wisps. So, uh, Synthesis ending?

Merida is also kind of an awful character. It seems like they couldn’t decide if they wanted an Ellen or a Bella (shouldn’t be too hard to guess the surnames of each). She doesn’t really straddle the line, either, jumping from one side to another instead. One moment she’s brave and defiant, the next she’s bawling like a little girl. Realistic? Maybe, but it’s poorly done. Her character is rather flat and static as well, it is the other characters who go over to her side in the end. It’s hard to describe, but I just didn’t find Merida all that

The key conflict is really between Merida and her mother. Oddly enough, I would say Brave is actually too short. It’s missing about twenty minutes of character development between the two. Without giving out details, they kind of just start getting along, and though it’s clear how they are it’s not really clear why.

I mentioned that the movie was rather cliched and preachy. This is where Dreamworks outclasses Pixar, I think. Brave just didn’t shake things up at all. At first it works with newer, fresh tropes and tends to play things not quite straight. By the end, however, everything is played straight and comes across as extremely preachy. You should make your own path and be nice to your mom. That’s pretty much it, and it’s dropped on you like an anvil. There is nothing special about the “choose your own fate, not follow destiny” concept, and it’s not very well done. As mentioned above, it almost contradicts itself.

I know I’m not the intended audience. The question is, who is? While still holding a “G” rating, Brave is rather kid-unfriendly at times. It has light and silly scenes with simple humour, but there are some surprisingly dark moments. Though it is not shown explicitly, a kid dives between a woman’s breasts and one guy gets his leg bitten off by a bear. The Big Bad also gets crushed, and there is lots of campy, though if you think about it no less deadly, violence. I’m nitpicking now, but overall the tone and content is rather dark and mature for a Disney movie. With that being said, it’s NOT dark or mature enough to attract older audiences.

It’s late and I’m losing coherence fast. The bottom line is that although it’s a decent concept and starts off well, Brave ultimately becomes preachy, cliched, and poorly done.

Overall Rating: 4/10

+good visuals and sound design
+setup and beginning is very well done
-cliched and preachy
-characters, especially lead, are flat and boring
-lacks any real twists; doesn’t present anything new
?who is it really targeted toward

As always, I’m far from a professional reviewer so you should probably go to someone else for advice on what to watch and what to buy.

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