I don’t really want to write this review, to be honest. Watching Brave really affected me in a negative manner – I stepped out of that cinema feeling just so disappointed!
Okay let’s get this straight: Brave is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s enjoyable and probably ranks among the upper echelon of Dreamworks movies. But that said, it’s a Pixar movie, and Pixar gets held to different standards.
I guess you can tell by now that I pretty much hero-worship Pixar. I think they can do no wrong, and everything that comes out of that studio is entirely magical and would instantly be one of the best films released that year. So for me to watch a Pixar film that falls below such ridiculously high standards is like…
It’s like I just found out that Santa Claus isn’t real.
To be more specific, it’s like finding out that Santa Claus is actually a wonderful guy that donates a lot of toys to children. He’s still a great guy, but it’s just not as magical as if he was a mythical jolly guy with an army of Christmas elves and a flying sleigh.
So yeah, Brave is a good movie, but it’s just not magical.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Brave looks great. Everything from Merida’s hair to the water just looks so fantastic… and I just gushed when I noticed that Queen Elinor has little dimples and wrinkles that show up on her face when her expressions are a bit more extreme.
There were several scenes involving water, like a fishing scene and Merida climbing a cliff to drink from a waterfall, and the splashing was just so real that you just wanna grab those particle effects guys and give them a hug.
And the cloth… basically, it looked like cloth. Layers and layers of different cloths on top of each other, moving like cloth. Wow! This is coming from a guy who cringes uncontrollably every time he sees that shot of Megatron pulling the cloak off his head in Transformers 3 – and I’ve seen that shot a lot.
The weak story (tons of spoilers ahead!)
While Pixar movies often have groundbreaking animation and visuals, the reason I always fall in love with them is because of their amazingly well-written stories. Sadly, this is where Brave really falters.
The main story in Brave is the relationship between Merida and her mother, and how communication is strained and they have to learn to respect one another. You’d think that as a guy that has a strained relationship with his mother, I’d totally relate to this story, right?
Well I don’t. It just doesn’t feel right, and actually it’s kind of hollow.
I think the problem is that they’ve crammed too many unnecessary subplots and characters into this story, which in turn dilutes the main story and characters. Are the triplets really necessary? Did that competitive sports scene really need to be that long?
One big example is Mor’du, the demon bear. Later on, you find out that he used to be a prince from an ancient kingdom, who had turned into a bear because of a similar spell from the witch. This whole back story serves no real purpose at all, and just hints at something that isn’t really there.
I know you need to establish that the King hates bears, so that the moment the Queen turns into one there’s a sense of danger and urgency as he’s likely to kill her on sight. But why a magical demon bear? Would a regular bear not suffice? His story doesn’t even have strong parallels to Merida’s story with her mom or anything.
It’s like bad diluted soup… you’d rather drink plain water than taste soup that hints at having flavor, but is actually too diluted to have any.
In fact, I think there are only 4 successful and important scenes in this movie:
- The scene where it intercuts between Merida and the Queen expressing themselves to other people, showing things would be okay if they could only communicate to one another.
- The fishing scene, showing the regrowing bond between the two, and Merida introducing her world of nature to the Queen.
- The speech in the great Hall, where Merida matures and understands what the Queen is going through.
- The final reconciliation scene.
Everything else is just scenery and feels almost unrelated to the main story. Because everything is so watered down, I never felt emotionally connected to the characters, especially the main two.
This is a stark parallel to the other Pixar movies, where I’d be all teary-eyed and moved every 5 mins.
I feel terrible writing this, you know? I really really desperately wanted to like this movie. But I guess I went in with extraordinarily high expectations, and got my hopes dashed. It was the complete opposite of the time I went to see the 21 Jump St remake.
Remember, it’s not a bad movie, and many of these bad things I wrote about are actually good for a simple laugh and enjoyment. It’s just not as amazing as the other Pixar movies or Disney’s recent Tangled.