Film 41: Brave (2012)
How excited I was to discover that Pixar would be releasing a new film set not only in Scotland, but featuring genuine Scottish voice actors and a strong female protagonist (very Miyazaki). This is what enticed me to go out and watch it initially, for Scottish culture interests me greatly and the inclusion of a heroine this time around seemed unorthodox for Pixar yet intriguing, in addition to a faithfulness to Pixar animation ever since Toy Story. I wanted to see how this would play out - if it was possible for Pixar to redeem themselves after Cars 2. I had virtually no clue as to what the actual plot of Brave was, but with Pixar’s track record of producing kid-friendly stories with sparse complexity and action-filled antics, I trusted that I would not be disappointed.
The setting here is very different from what Pixar fans may be used to. It’s nothing like Paris, the great barrier reef, or a spaceship (heck, the settings used in Pixar films are so diverse, it’s hard to picture an environment they wouldn’t use…). It’s the living, breathing highlands of Scotland. In this way, a Disney influence is most evident. A dark, menacing forest? Got it. A looming castle? Check. Don’t forget the lumbering king, his authoritative queen, a mysterious witch, and a princess to top it all off. We’ve seen these before, just not in this context. Does this make it a homage to the animated fairy tales of which we are so used to? It definitely looks that way. However, it’s much more fresh than the stories of Cinderella or Snow White - there is no damsel in distress nor a valiant knight to rescue her (not in the conventional sense at least). Here, the princess is the one who saves the day. The importance of a man in defeating the villain and rescuing those in dire need of saving is subordinated, and the role instead is given wholly to the woman. Yes, we’ve seen female protagonists in films of course, but it has always been sought to that a man, usually a romantic interest, is there to aid in her quest or save her from harm. It is not that Merida doesn’t have access to someone like that, but rather she chooses to rely on her own wits and strength to complete her quest. With that said, Brave is fresh without a doubt, whilst making use of elements from past stories.
The plot definitely gives Brave a fairy tale-like quality combined with slightly darker tones. Being that it is their first film with such traits, I almost felt like Pixar had taken a leap of faith in producing it. I found that the simple premise, however, was very accessible and engaging. It gets straight to the point, without losing its appeal in long, drawn out sequences or scenes that are not essential to the plot. Every frame and scene was strung together with brilliance, thus making the length of the film just right.
In regards to the art style and soundtrack, Pixar did not disappoint. The landscapes of the majestic highlands and mystic woods of Scotland are depicted beautifully, making it one of their most aesthetically pleasing films to date. A fantastic usage of lighting throughout is a highlight of the superb animation, definitely adding to the magical feel that is emphasized. Character designs are intricate down to the very last detail and even the unique features found on many of the characters may serve as reflections of their personalities and past, and Pixar yet again demonstrates their superiority in the field of computer animation by breathing life into these characters with outrageous fluidity. The soundtrack and the sound of the film is general was captivating. Cultural Scottish music proved to be the perfect fit for this setting and story without being obnoxious or excessive. I will always commend sound editors for playing the right tunes at the right times, and the sound direction of Brave is no exception.
If you expect a traditional epic fairy tale from Brave, you might be disappointed. But If you expect a fresh, smooth, and original tale that has its share of dark and gritty moments to contrast with its delightful and beauteous ones, you will find that Brave is comfortably embraced.
Movie Trailer of the Day: The first official full-length theatrical trailer for Pixar’s upcoming animated feature Brave is now online.
Brave is notable for being the first Pixar film to feature a female protagonist, as well as being the studio’s first movie to be co-directed by a woman (Brenda Chapman).
Due in theaters June 22, Brave stars Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson, Kevin McKidd, and Robbie Coltrane.