— Robert Duvall as Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore from Apocalypse Now, 1979
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June 29, 2012
Let’s talk: Brave
— Posted by Elliot Hopper
There was a mystery early on with the trailers about what the film was actually about. In some ways, because of that mystery, the film carries a twist.
I’m not going to reveal it at any point in this write up, So I’ll simply leave it at that, but the twist involved didn’t completely resonate with me. With the seriousness of the tone residing throughout the movie, the sudden twist of “here we go, now we’re going to find out what this movie is about” happens. And then when it happens, the response is, or at least mine was “Really? This is really what is going to happen?” It was like watching immense potential become suddenly mediocre. And because of the twist/revelation, you can probably see the film play out from there without complication. It’s too easy. For a film about growing up, there should be a little more work involved. The journey becomes planned. The notion of growing up is planned. And because of this, there is a level of disconnection.
It’s not to say there isn’t an emotional impact, because there is. But again how it reacts with audience members is subjective. Throughout the film, even with the twist, it felt like Brave never fully allows itself to be all that it can. While the characterizations are great, they never push that realm of ‘fantastic’ like their previous films. Again this is all subjective. Pixar has created a high metric for itself and I’d simply rate Brave as a whole somewhat ‘average’ in the Pixar world which is not an “unfortunate” thing by any means. It merely plays into the concept of what happens next with Pixar. And for some rating where Brave is on their all-time favorite Pixar list is just that. Where this film sits and where the next Pixar movie will go. Brave isn’t a failure and I enjoyed this film. There were aspects of Brave that I loved but simply found the “journey of life lessons” average. Someone once told me there is no such thing as failure, it’s merely just redirection and that’s what growing up is all about. For Merida it’s about changing her fate. Being a princess comes with requirements, specific duties, lessons and rules that she must adhere to, under the strict but caring influence of her mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson). Everything is planned and she just wants to be free. She’s at odds with her mother on a daily basis, as Merida is being prepared for the responsibilities her title holds. And just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, her duties suddenly include an arranged marriage
Growing up isn’t an easy thing. Some will say it’s about finding yourself but in a more succinct way, it’s about creating yourself. Merida doesn’t know what she wants, yet. She’s not concerned about the responsibilities that come with her title, yet. For her, life is an adventure and it rightfully should be, regardless of age. Yet despite that carefree notion there always comes a realization with age, that one day we’ll have to make adult decisions. Choices that have causal effect, ones that shape us but don’t necessarily define us and it becomes a choosing of what is right versus what is easy. Brave is Pixar’s attempt at growing up. Yet in the film’s own attempt to display this notion, whether it stemming from the film itself, Pixar, the changing of director, the creative decisions involved, you can’t escape the feeling that Brave struggles. In some ways it feels like an adult not trusting their child to learn to do the right thing on their own. It’s ok to secretly watch in the background, because you want to be protective. But in the same ways the film also feels like it’s on a leash. So we’ll get subtle hints of the Pixar magic but never fully are allowed to be immersed into it. The film presents both an adult’s and child’s perspectives at the same time Brave is much more dramatic than their previous entries.
Brave tries to marry and ensure a solution by the end. It’s an unneeded pressure, rather than allowing the film to just be. The viewpoint of a parent’s love, being ever nurturing and protective, while the child’s viewpoint of wanting trust. It’s an interesting conflict shown early on and you want to be absorbed in it more, because it’s simple life lessons which the audience can relate to, yet the struggle becomes apparent and the choice of direction and focus is apparent but conflicting with that goal. A sense of balance rules out by the end, which again is unnecessary, because at its core Brave is lovely and endearing through its familial foundation and basis and shouldn’t be overcomplicated. It’s a care to detail to show various dynamics in only a way Pixar can, but along the way becomes a struggle to make a worthwhile story out of what is being presented. The Pixar magic becomes literal, rather than being unexpected.
I enjoyed the dark tones of the film. I loved Merida’s triplet brothers, Harris, Hubert, and Hamish. There’s also King Fergus, (voiced by Billy Connolly), the source of Merida’s brashness. Throughout any animated film today, I’ve never been so captivated by the level of visual detail that is presented in Merida’s red hair. It is literally amazing. The depth of field is wonderful in respect to the 3D and things carry a visible weight. From a pure visual standpoint, Pixar continues to kick ass, plain and simple. But that’s another caveat. It is simply what we expect. And again it’s not an unfortunate thing by any means.
Much like their blockbuster hits such as Toy Story (1995), Finding Nemo (2003), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009) and the list goes on. It’s become a subjective tallying of what is your favorite, what are your favorites and eventually what is the next big Pixar film. This year it was Brave, which stars a spunky young princess, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) who much like our own adolescent we didn’t have things figured out either. But that is life, for each of us it’s different. How we follow specific expectations, how we live up to them, the mutual understanding between loved ones and what they want best and the simplest idea – of what we want.
La Luna first premiered on June 6, 2011 at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France and was eventually nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Film at the 84th Academy Awards. The short film makes its theatrical debut being attached to Brave, playing right before the start of the film. La Luna which is written and directed by Enrico Casarosa follows a young boy, his father and grandfather as they take him on a late night boat ride on the ocean. As the moon rises what happens next is magic. The Pixar magic.
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