I had initially planned to see Brave in theaters. Pixar film, first female lead, set in the Scottish Highlands (highlander romances were my first guilty pleasure) … it sounded like the perfect combination to me. Then the reviews came in with mixed opinions, and of course I just had to see the Avengers a second time (completely worth it,) so Brave was pushed to see it on DVD.
And the verdict is I enjoyed it. It wasn’t perfect, and I have Wreck-It Ralph in my pile of DVDs to watch before I can say anything about whether Brave won the Oscar by virtue of being the Pixar film, but I wasn’t disappointed. From here on out, there be SPOILERS.
First the elements that I didn’t like/felt were weak:
- I’m not going to call this film man-hating. I fairly sure I’ve seen plenty of films with male leads portray the majority of men in the same manner. (I’ll talk more on why later.) I do however feel that the movie leaned on Scottish stereotypes too much. This could’ve been done better
- I have a real problem with the King not finding his wife missing for a whole day, when he knew she was unwell. Did no one check on her (or Merida for that matter.) This speaks poorly of the whole castle, not just the men
- I feel as if the triplets were underutilized. We all knew they were going to be bears, but I feel like there should’ve been some sign of them prior to when Merida needed the key.
- Finally, the emotional payoff wasn’t that strong. For most movies, this doesn’t matter, but it’s a Pixar film. Part of why we love the films is how they make us feel in the end. Toy Story 3 made me cry. Up made me cry in eight minutes. Wall-E made me feel strong hope for the future. Brave just made me wonder whether it was the apology that broke the curse or the mended tapestry. I felt … empty at the end.
Now for what I did like:
- The animation was gorgeous. In the first few minutes, I found myself wondering that if I had just come across this on TV, would I have known it was an animated film at first.
- Yes, the men were obnoxious and not particularly likeable, but as I said, I think this has more to do with stereotypes than an uber-feminist agenda. I loved the king as a character. He’s presented as a warrior and leader of his people who may not be the strongest in public relations. But that’s fine because he has a queen that he can lean on for help. Their relationship is a partnership. And even the other lords have good features. They listen to Merida when she suggests a solution, and when their own sons agree with her, they accept the solution. Their actions are meant to be both humorous and show family pride, but it comes of wrong.
- The relationship between Merida and Queen Eleanor almost guarantees that Brave will become a Mother’s Day classic. Off the top of my head, the only other Disney princess movies with prominent non-villain mothers are Mulan (where the relationship with the father is stronger) and The Princess and the Frog (where she’s just there. Tiana’s mother did not make an impression on me.) It’s not a perfect relationship, and it’s cliche because how many daughters had that type of relationship with their mothers? (I did!) But it resolves into what we hope the relationship will evolve into as we become adults. It was nice.
- I also like that the witch wasn’t a villain. Nice for one cliche not to happen, and I kind of want some of her wood carvings
Now, since Merida has been officially crowned a Disney princess, I can’t not comment on some of the furor that’s been going around. Merida now has an official 2D image and the changes do appear to be pretty … Barbie.I can forgive the hair, simplifying it makes it easier to draw. And the facial changes can be explained away as aging her up (how old was she, I feel like she was 13 or 14, and the 2D feels like 16 or 17.) As for the glitter bomb, EVERY princess has had this done to her. Belle and Ariel were not shown to be sparklely when I was growing up. I dislike that they felt the need to lower the neckline to show more skin. What I can’t for give is the newly tiny waist. Merida is not a Barbie, and it would do Disney well to provide more realistic body figures, especially if the princesses are supposed to be role models. Though as I wrote this, I found out that Disney removed the image from their site. Perhaps the outrage over this has lead them to change their minds.