NO. 16 – Brave (2012)
DIRECTORS: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
In the years following the release of Toy Story 3, Pixar underwent a brief but awkward period in which their films weren’t as universally acclaimed as they were before. Out of the three films released during this period, Brave is generally regarded to be the best out of all of them, and while I don’t necessarily agree with this statement, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t have anything good to offer. So, how about that story? In ancient Scotland, a princess named Merida doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her mother, Queen Elinor. On the day that she is to be betrothed, Merida’s rebellious nature gets the better of her, resulting in a nasty falling out with her mother and ultimately running away. Eventually, she stumbles and bargains with a demented witch to do something about her mother, which happens to be a spell in the form of a cake. But, wouldn’t ya know it – the spell is actually more of a curse than anything, and ends up turning Elinor into a bear. With her kingdom in disarray, Merida must find a way to set things right and prove that she truly is “brave”.
Title drop aside, how does the movie fare on its’ own? Well, as I’ve mentioned earlier, it has some good stuff to offer – the animation is outstanding, as it truly invokes a fantastical and atmospheric tone while also managing to bring the contemporary but grand landscapes of ancient Scotland to life, with a vast amount of detail given to the designs of the characters as well. Speaking of which, most of the characters are also great and entertaining to watch, from the loud yet fatherly Fergus, the eccentric Witch, and the amusing clan chieftains. However, if there’s one thing that really holds this film back, it would have to be the story. Like A Bug’s Life, it utilizes a tired plot cliche that we’ve seen countless of times before, which in this case is the “parent and offspring don’t get along but eventually do” type. Granted, there can be circumstances in which a film’s plot can be driven by a cliche but still manages to be great in the end, something which other animated films such as A Goofy Movie (another Disney film, though Pixar was not involved) and Rango have proven. However, you have to make sure that the characters (especially the main protagonist) are worth rooting for, otherwise it’ll just fall apart, a lesson that Brave unfortunately doesn’t seem to get. Merida is possibly the worst character in the entire Pixar canon. In addition to being the typical “rebellious teenager”, she’s also responsible for nearly everything that goes wrong during the course of the film, whether it be her mother’s (and eventually brothers’) transformations or the four clans going to war. Elinor is far more tolerable, but even she isn’t that great of a character either, being the “strict and overprotective but well-meaning parent”. Of course, you could say the same about Marlin in Finding Nemo, but he was done in a way that actually made him not only extremely sympathetic, but worth rooting for as well. Now with that out of the way, is Brave a bad film? Not by a long shot – it’s just that it suffers from a rather straightforward story and an unlikeable main character. Brave; Not up to par with the legendary Pixar classics, but worth a look for the gorgeous animation and charming side characters.