Some thoughts on Pixar’s “Brave”

So this is maybe very late because the movie has been out of the cinemas again for quite some time, but still I feel like saying some words about “Brave”.

First of all, I’m a little surprised to see quite a bunch of negative reviews of this movie on YouTube. Well, okay, I have no clue about the usual quality of Pixar movies, because I just recently started to watch any computer animated films at all. If you are a great connoisseur of this genre, I kindly suggest you just smile about my unknowingness and and move on quietly.

I’ll give you some reasons why I think you should watch the movie if you haven’t done so yet.

The animations are quite realistic, and really beautiful. It seems the creators have put a lot of thought into small details as well – take a moment to look closer at the rooms in the castle, for example. One of my favorite details are the (will-o the) wisps. They are so adorable! The animals are nicely animated as well, and it’s funny to watch Merida interacting with her horse, Argus. Despite the horse showing a way too human level of understanding and mimics to be real, their communication has a more natural feel than human-animal-interactions in other animated movies. The bears … I don’t have a real opinion on them yet, except for being creeped out by Mor’du. By the way,  I would suggest you watch the movie first before you let your pre-teen kids enjoy it. Some scenes might be a little to violent and/or creepy. For example two huge bears fighting each other in a matter of life and death.

The main characters are portrayed as persons with a history, goals, and dilemmas as well. Their relationships are quite plausible, although maybe a little cliched here and there.

There is the king, who seems to have retired from battle and enjoys food, telling stories about his former fights, and teaching his daughter archery – the latter much to the dismay of his wife, the queen. The queen feels responsible for the future of the kingdom, and invests a lot of time and energy in preparing Merida for marriage. In the first half of the movie she is shown as a very stern, determined woman, who is often frustrated by her husband – especially when it comes to his oblivious attitude concerning the matters of marrying off their daughter. I think this is a refreshing break from the typical king-hands-princess-over-to-prince story, because ironically it’s a woman who fights for keeping the tradition alive and therefore ensuring the next generation of women will be just as constricted in their choices in life as her (of course because she thinks there is no other way to ensure peace in the kingdom) – while the father supports the quirks of his daughter and seemingly wishes she could live the life in freedom she longs for.

I read somewhere that the other kings are no real characters and represented in a very flat way, and I tend to agree, but still I got a good laugh from them. A nice side blow to the higher powers in modern societies. If you can laugh about someone, you don’t have to fear them as much. The three other clans may not seem like a real threat because you can laugh at them, but still I think the movie shows very clearly that it takes Merida a lot of courage to take her stand. If not because of the fierce power of other clans then due to her parents’ (or rather her mother’s) power over her.

And maybe that even is the point – maybe sometimes the real threat is not the physical power of your enemy, but the social restrictions and expectations put unto you by the people supposed to be on your side!

Well, one might argue that no matter how noble her cause, Merida still is underage and should be a good role model and therefore obey her parents. But again, her move against her parents’ will could and should show young girls that arranged marriage – even with the luxury of chosing between some men – is not the only option in life. If this movie gives one single girl somewhere in the world the courage to stand up against her family and escapes the traditions of forced underage marriage, it makes a difference.

I really enjoyed that both sides of family life are shown – the quarrels and different opinions as well as the importance of finding back to each other, forgiving mistakes, and trying to change things for the better together.

One thing that bugged me a little is that despite her “rough” and overall natural look Merida still has a pretty flawless, doll-like face, and her mother is slim and beautiful as well, while the only really curvy woman I can recall is the servant (?), who is mostly portrayed as clumsy, anxious and not very bright. At least they gave Merida freckles and tousled curls instead of the more classic “princess look”. Plus, I like her frustrated reactions to being put into a more stately dress (even though the metaphor of tight clothes for the narrow confines of society is a tad too obvious), and they did quite a good job on giving her mother an air of natural beauty, grace, and authority.

The scenes with the witch are full of tiny jokes and hints, but I admit that they might be annoying or too cliched for some people’s taste.

I’m also happy the film passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours ;)

Overall it’s a great movie with many funny scenes, strong characters, a good message, and of course some flaws here and there.

By the way, the second time I watched the movie was at home with my family (my sister had given me the DVD for christmas), and my father wouldn’t stop laughing, he totally loved the movie and said it didn’t get boring at any time.

I hope there will be more movies for children with a female lead that will not be marketed to girls only!

Oh, and do yourself a favour – don’t stop the DVD before the ending credits are over ;)