Monday, August 13, 2012

review: Brave (movie)

According to many people, this movie was only okay. Most claimed the source of the meh-ness was that the movie was too Disney for a Pixar (which is owned by Disney...) movie. And I can kinda see where they're coming from looking at Pixar's previous films (here are some of the best): Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL-E, Up, and Monsters Inc. All of these movies are so innovative in comparison to Brave which is kinda the new classic princess plot - i.e. a headstrong princess who wants to escape her fate so she takes it upon herself to find a way.... with the help of a witch and some magic (not the whole waiting on Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet). Nothing entirely original about that plot, but then again, what's original anymore? The thing that makes this movie seem to be a standout is the Celtic angle which is different from other classic Disney movies -- although Disney loves to come in and put their own spin on certain cultures as seen in Aladin (Middle Eastern culture but was originally Chinese) or Beauty & the Beast (which is supposed to be in France hence the opening song: "Bonjour").

Our story focuses on Merida, a spunky, headstrong, arrow-shooting princess of Scotland. As a child she was encouraged to be herself by her father, King Fergus, who gifted her with a bow. After misfiring an arrow the wee bonnie princess skips into the dark forest to collect the lost arrow. Some will-o'-the-wisp (same as a hinkypunk for all you Harry Potter fans!) lead her to her arrow but alas, as she leaves a giant bear attacks her and her father looses his leg in the process of saving her and Queen Elinor. Now, if this were a classic Disney movie Queen Elinor would hate the young princess and do everything to thwart her likelihood to make it to adulthood. Instead her mother does indeed love her and wants what she thinks is best for her daughter. Unfortunately, it's not in line with what Merida wants, namely her freedom. But Queen Elinor goes ahead and sets up a competition for Merida's hand in marriage inviting the three subordinate clans: Dingwall,  MacGuffin, and Macintosh. The eldest sons of each clan are presented to Merida and Queen Elinor proclaims: "In the traditions of our clans, the eldest child of the clans are invited to compete for the Princess' hand." When Merida hears this she knows what to make her suitors compete in: archery. After watching all the suitors go - and behold a forth suitor appears! And it's Merida. Using the loop hole that her mother exposed earlier Merida claims as the eldest child she should also get the right to compete for her own hand and with three shots she quickly defeats her suitors.

Now this tosses the entire kingdom into chaos. Traditions have been broken, relationships strained, and the clans are on the edge of war. Merida and her mother's relationship is now nearly broken what with Merida embarrassing  her in front of what seemed like the entire kingdom and Queen Elinor throwing Merida's bow (the symbol of her freedom and independence) onto the fire. Merida flees to the surrounding woods where will-o'-the-wisp lead her to a crazy old woodcarver... or at least a witch who also loves carving bears.... Merida convinces the witch to give her a potion that will change her fate by making her mother change (change what? ah, yes, absent specificity - the downfall of all magical spells). So Merida takes the spell, in the shape of a tart/pastry, and feeds it to her mother hoping to make her mother changer her opinion of her engagement. Instead she changes into a bear!

What follows is a journey of reconnecting and self-discovery. Merida is among the new Disney princesses (most recently Rapunzel and Tiana) who are more independent. There was a push in the late 90's for more modern women: Mulan and Pocahontas, both of whom were much stronger women. Pocahontas followed her own path which led to her saving her people and brokering peace with the white man. Mulan impersonated a man to join the army and spare her wounded father from being drafted - she ended up saving her people as well. Merida is the second (Pixar) princess to wield a weapon (Rapunzel being the first with her frying pan). She's also the first to NOT end up with a prince. The trend of more independence and not waiting to be rescued by one's prince charming - is a positive one that ought to be encouraged. I like the new Disney role model. Bravo Disney! I give Brave 4 out of 5 stars for positive role modeling, not making the princess sing or interact with adorable fuzzy creatures (minus the horse... and bears), having awesome accents, and convincing Billy Connolly to be King Fergus.

Check out the trailer here!

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