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Guest Review: Brave, by Becka Seehra

September 12, 2012

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Guest writer Becka Seehra reviews new Pixar movie Brave!

Although Pixar’s history starts earlier than the release of the Luxo Jr. short from 1986, it’s the one that many viewers of their films remember. The little jumping lamp features in Pixar’s logo, shown at the beginning of every film they make, and if there’s one thing the viewer realises while watching Brave, it’s the development from this:

To this:

That hair. I mean, just look at it!

Merida’s hair alone is a feat of digital engineering unseen before in CGI format – Pixar had to rewrite their entire animation system to create this film. For the first time. Ever.

But I’m not here to review hair, alas, so on with the rest.

I will admit to being put off slightly by the TV trailers for this film. What I read of it was exciting, but daytime trailers portrayed it for a younger audience than one would expect. After Cars 2, I was sceptical of the studio’s ability to produce ‘all ages’ films, but darn it, I shouldn’t have doubted!

Viewers could be forgiven for not realising that this is not only Pixar’s first venture into fantasy storytelling, but also the first featuring a lead female protagonist AND female (co-)director. It doesn’t show, but not for the reasons some of you might think, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

Brave is set in the mythical kingdom of DunBroch in Scotland and follows the tale of Merida, a young princess who simply wants to live her life as she wishes, and not as her mother expects. After an intense argument about an arranged marriage, Merida attempts to change her mother using magic, and gets more than she bargained for. A classic coming of age story at first glance, but there is also the classic Pixar twist for adults watching it because it’s far deeper than that.

For me, Brave has two main characters: Merida AND her mother, Queen Elinor. For this story isn’t about Merida’s unwillingness to take on the responsibility of adulthood, or Elinor’s strict approach to raising a daughter ‘properly’; it is, at its core, a story about a mother and daughter who have lost touch. It is the mending of this relationship that ultimately decides both their fates, and that of the kingdom. Merida realises that her mother does love her, and doesn’t restrict her freedom out of spite, and Elinor sees that her daughter isn’t shirking responsibility, she just isn’t ready for it yet.

Both are strong women, though in different ways, and this film doesn’t state that one way is wrong and the other right – they complement each other. I went to see Brave with two men and neither complained, nor, it seemed, even noticed. I, for one, wouldn’t have thought “this is the first female protagonist Pixar film!” if I hadn’t read so beforehand. Honestly? I don’t think you’d note it while watching, and certainly not negatively.

In terms of the animation in this film … my god, it is beautiful. Again, just look!

I’m looking forward to this film coming out on DVD so I am able to pause it and just take in the amazing scenery – I encourage anyone to check out the concept art – something that may have once just provided a handy background in Pixar films really becomes part of the story telling and immersion into this world.

Along with this, Merida’s horse Angus (pictured above with her) has to be the most realistically animated horse I’ve seen. I don’t just mean the looks of him, but the way he acts as well. No/very little anthropomorphising in THIS animated film! Nor does he act like an overgrown dog (Tangled, I’m looking at you). I’ll admit to not knowing a lot about horses, but for me Angus’ actions were a refreshing change to the ‘kids’ film’ animated norm. (Though the moment I should have to stop calling Pixar films ‘kids’ films’ passed a long time ago.)

WARNING: DETAILED SPOILER AHEAD

Even the bears had a certain reality to them – excluding the triplets. Obviously, Elinor had once been human, but she acted like a bear who had once been human. Comically so, in fact. You could excuse Pixar for slight anthropomorphism when it comes to a bear holding a knife and fork for example. However, it was the fish-catching scene that really did it for me in terms of realism, with comedy to boot!

NOTICE: SPOILER OVER

 Indeed, Pixar have shown their work beyond details and program-rewrites, as shown in this article. I have dabbled in archery myself, and I’ll admit to wanting to take up my bow again after watching this film – though I think my skills are restricted to standing still while firing.

I could go on for hours about Brave. As you can tell I am quite the Pixar fan. Ultimately, after the sequels of Toy Story 3 (though a good film!) and Cars 2 (mostly for the kids), it’s great to see that Pixar can still create unique and engaging films for all ages. Though it’s beneficial to be older to understand some of the comedy!

P.S. This is another film where, on reading up on it after viewing, I discover there’s something at the end of the credits.

Image Link: www.pixar.com

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