Having lost a certain portion of my faith in Pixar recently, their 2012 movie Brave is one that I’ve avoided. During my flight to Egypt, however, I got a chance to see the whole thing on the plane and thus I can finally review it for you. Let’s just say right away that the film wasn’t really at risk of ending up on my Best of 2012 list either way.
Brave is basically Pixar’s answer to Avatar by James Cameron – a film that mostly consists of clumsily pieced together parts of previous movie scripts that tries to compensate and distract you from its unoriginality with breathtaking visuals. Despite this, though, people do seem split about what to think of the film as a whole. Is it really a bad movie? Well, by Pixar standards… yeah, I’d say pretty bad.
The story, which I once again must point out feels derived from countless other films from the Disney/Pixar library, takes place in medieval Scotland, where Merida, a rebellious princess (you see what I’m sayin’?) voiced by Kelly MacDonald, wants to escape from her boring duties as a princess and just go out on adventures, shoot arrows and prove that women can be strong warriors too. Her parents, however, wish to have her bethrothed to one of the sons of three of Scotland’s great clan leaders. Her father, Fergus (Billy Connolly) is pretty incompetent and cares little for the whole thing but her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson) is much more serious about making sure that Merida follows her destiny. The relationship between Merida and her mother is pretty much our main story arc here. Can’t say I’m very interested.
Anywho, Merida eventually storms off after bickering with her mom for a bit and ends up at the home of a shady witch (Julie Walters), from whom she can wish one spell. She wishes for her mother to become different. The witch agrees and at first it seems like the spell will make Elinor just as wild and rebellious as her daughter, which would have made for a more interesting film. Instead, she gets turned into a bear. You read that right. The next movie in the practically spotless Pixar library is basically Brother Bear 3! I’m not kidding; they even have the “I don’t speak bear” line. Seriously, guys?
This all leads to a misunderstanding where one of the family members try to slay the bear that’s actually the mother and a spell that must be broken before the sun sets. Oh for God’s sake. That’s it! Someone has to come out and just admit that they just took a bunch of scripts for older Disney films, shredded them and then randomly glued them together!
Let’s recap, shall we? We got a princess character who wants more out of life, which is The Little Mermaid and Aladdin all over again, with a large portion of Mulan. The arranged marriage brings to mind Pocahontas. The bow-and-arrow competion early in the film is straight out of Robin Hood, right down to an arrow penetrating another arrow already in the bullseye. And then there’s the bear. The one thing that this film did story-wise I hadn’t seen much of before in Disney or Pixar animations was the strong mother and daughter relationship, even if I myself wasn’t too invested in the arc. Maybe because I’m neither a mother nor a daughter.
So, with all this ranting you probably think I hated this movie, right? Well, I hated the script, but I wouldn’t say there was anything I particularly despised about the rest of the film. It does have a few nice characters (the three clan leaders were my favourites), lovely visuals (Merida’s hair is just too good for words) and maybe one or two good jokes. Brave may have its occassional moment, but from the studio that created it I expect so much more than just a handful of tolerable moments. Are kids going to enjoy it? Eh, it’ll keep ’em occupied.
But all in all, I think this film, coupled with Pixar’s previous film Cars 2 and their upcoming Monsters University (which I can still scarcely believe is even true) is a clear indication that we are no longer beholding the once great studio that gave us Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E and the Toy Story trilogy. Pixar has always been a word that means greatness and the best of CG animation. But now both Disney and Dreamworks seem to have beaten them with their 2012 pictures: Wreck-It Raplh and Rise of The Guardians. Is the future of Pixar truly nothing but darkness at this point? I cannot know for sure.
But I’m prepared to take a wild guess and say we’re screwed.