Change Your Fate
After the rather uninspired sequel, Cars 2, I was more than ready for another original Pixar film, populated with memorable characters, witty wordplay, breath-taking visuals, captivating scenarios and pitch-perfect emotional notes throughout. What I got was a Disney film. Maybe it was the fairytale framing or the politics of the directorial changeover or the bloody random songs but the whole thing smacked of Disney and as I left the cinema, my only resonating opinion was: that was nice.
The opening prologue, introduces us to medieval Scotland, King Fergus DunBroch [Connolly], Queen Elinor [Thompson] and the young princess, Merida [Macdonald]. For the princess’ birthday, her father has given her a bow. Whilst practicing, she encounters a will o’ the wisp (spritey fairy kinda thing from Celtic folklore) which leads her back to her family. However, she is followed by a menacing, ferocious one-eyed bear dubbed Mor’du. The Queen rides off with Merida to safety while Fergus stays to fight the beast. The story jumps ahead twelve years or so and Merida is a typically free-spirited (and wholly anachronistic) teenager with a penchant for archery and disobedience. Fergus survived his encounter with the bear but lost his leg in the process. At this point we are introduced to the selectively mute, mischievous triplets Harris, Hubert and Hamish (I think that’s right). Life as a princess does not suit the firey Merida and the news that she is to be betrothed to one of the first born of the four clans (DunBroch, Dingwall, MacGuffin and Macintosh) is not well received. All three suitors compete in an archery contest and only Dingwall manages to accidentally score a reasonable hit. However, Merida, being a firstborn of the four clans, declares the right to shoot for her own hand. Being the expert marksman, she looses three arrows, hitting three bullseyes and splitting Dingwall’s fluke arrow. This causes an immense rift, not only between the clans but most notably between Merida and her overbearing mother. After a particularly brutal verbal backlash, Merida takes her horse and rides off into the woods. After a while she comes across a circle of menhirs and the will o’ the wisps lead her to a secluded cottage. Therein, Merida finds a witch named.. er.. well, she’s named The Witch [Walters] who appears to have something of an obsession with bears. (I might point out that by this stage I had worked out the entire plot and was waiting to be proven wrong). Without going into too much detail and ruining the film, Merida makes a deal to change her mother with the aid of a potion – which takes the form of a cake. Of course this change is very literal and heavily inspired by the witch’s fondness of a particular animal. Tribulations ensue and mother and daughter must reconcile their differences.
So my biggest frustration with this release, as mentioned earlier, is the very overbearing ‘Disney’ feel to it. Pixar have always singled themselves out as more sincere, captivating storytellers for their unique setups and subtle storytelling methods. Even when they put a foot wrong, they still manage to produce sheer excellence and have already carved themselves a decent little legacy. Then Disney bought their studio back and now they’re taking orders from Walt & Co (not literally, obviously.. unless you’re a conspiracy nut). The entire story, as charming as it is, is all rather neat and convenient. The resolutions feel a little forced and obvious, the characterisations are a little two dimensional and the whole anthropomorphic animals and clear good/bad guys plus plucky comic reliefs are a little paint-by-numbers and can be considered signature traits of Walt Disney Studios. In all honesty, had this movie been a follow-up to Tangled, released by Disney Animated Studios, I would be praising the piss out of it but this is Pixar and this company has a far greater track record.
Of course, I’m focusing on an overall niggling complaint and comparing it to a production studios’ entire back catalogue. As a standalone film, it’s a very picturesque, quaint story with plenty of decent moral characterisation and stupid bloody montages and flipping unbelievably fast inhuman toddlers and the use of forks which wouldn’t have been invented for several hundred years and different suitors besting Vikings and Romans from COMPLETELY different time periods and USE OF THE WORD CHORTLE EVEN THOUGH IT WAS INVENTED BY LEWIS BLOODY CARROLL AND.. and I’m getting carried away. Excuse me. So, the positive elements. It’s pretty, the voice acting is compelling and the story will entertain young children but holds little for older audiences. The soundtrack was atypically entertaining, throwing in plenty of traditional Scottish instruments and a Gaelic a cappella piece but unfortunately nothing distinctly memorable.
It’s not often I use the word nice in a review (writers loathe the word nice, some going as far as to suggest it is the most useless and non-descript of all literary devices) and even less often that I couple it with the word disappointing. But that’s the best summation of Brave. Nice but overall a rather disappointing release.
17th August 2012
The Scene To Look Out For:
The opening intro scene featuring rolling countryside and a simple character introduction was really pleasant. The film opens with a grand, epic feel before quickly collapsing into a very contained, simplistic narrative, limited setting and baffling dialogue misusing words like fate and destiny. Just for your information, fate happens to you, destiny happens because of you – philosophically speaking – neither of which are the rather dull word they were actually looking for: future. Actually, if I’m to highlight my favourite scene, it would probably be the pre-film short called La Lune. Simple, charming, tasteful and endearing. If I’m brutally honest, it had significantly more heart and wonder than the film but that’s a bit malicious.
Rather than talking about a highlighted character (’cause it would just be Billy Connolly as Fergus) I’m going to talk about the nature of a main character. This film has obviously been branded as a bit of a coming of age piece but a lead character should be someone who is central to the story while making personal sacrifices or rising above adversity or something like that. Basically, they need to evolve to warrant their story being told. As such, the biggest evolution is not Merida’s acceptance of her responsibility but Elinor’s hold over her daughter’s life. If anything, this is Elinor’s story and Merida is merely the catalyst. But I digress. Fergus was hilarious, nice one Connolly.
“Fate be changed, look inside. Mend the bond torn by pride”
In A Few Words:
“A colossal departure from the quality of work we’ve come to naturally expect from Pixar but a beautifully presented endearing tale nevertheless”