Aug 20, 2012

[Movies] Brave (2012)

I'm a huge fan of Pixar movies - then again who isn't these days? Pixar is definitely a name that we associate with high quality computer-animated movies that aren't just beautiful but also entertaining for fans of all ages. And thus every new release is pretty much a reason to celebrate the child in each of us.

This is not to say that I absolutely love every single Pixar movie - it's not like we can claim that they're all #1 in our internal record books. In my case, movies like Cars felt a tad too niche interest for me and perhaps A Bug's Life isn't quite as fun in comparison to the movies that eventually followed it. But still they were all good in their own right and that means something indeed.

It's hard to perfectly rank where this movie places with respect to the rest of the Pixar library. And maybe that's because this particular movie felt a lot more like the inevitably evolution of the Disney acquisition of Pixar Studios. And thus the reasons why this movie wasn't quite as universally awesome may lay along those lines or something thereabouts.

Synopsis: Brave is the 2012 animated film created by the writer-director team of Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. The movie was also co-written and co-directed by Steve Purcell along with another screenplay writer Irene Mecchi.

In some indeterminate time in Scotland's past (to a fashion), we meet King Fergus (Billy Connolly) of Clan DunBroch, his wife Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) and their first daughter the Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald). While practicing with her new bow, Merida encounters a will-o'-the-wisp in the forest as she retrieves her arrow. These spirits are said to help lead people to where destiny or fate wants them to be, although she's a tad too young to know this. Eventually it appears her fate is for her family to be attacked by Mor'du - a giant bear said to be a demon. Merida and her mother quickly escape while her father and his men do their best to slay the beast.

We fast forward to Merida's coming of age and she is no longer an only child - she has identical triplet brothers who get into mischief constantly. As part of the greater tradition, the first-born sons of the various clans have now ventured to compete for the hand of Princess Merida. However Merida has grown up to be quite the strong and independent young woman, skilled with the bow and quite the horse rider as well. And she has no intentions of becoming just another wife for some dimwitted son of another clan. Thus she decides to take matters into her own hands and find a way to change her fate, in what is essentially full defiance of her mother and the traditions of the land.

Now like all other Pixar movies, the quality of the animation of the piece is beyond fantastic. I can imagine the nightmare it was to just animated Merida's hair, what more all the other effects of the movie. Now we did take the risk of watching this movie in 3D in the hopes of seeing what Pixar would do with the technology. However in hindsight, this was a definite waste of our money and of the quality of the movie as a whole. Given the nartural tendency for 3D movies to appear somewhat darker, a lot of the beauty of grandeur of some of the wider shots was lot and the motion blur was pretty bad indeed to the point of making the action much harder to follow and sometimes nausea-inducing.

Now this movie definitely felt more like a traditional Disney piece given the quite literal princess figure and how the story sort of falls around her. And while most Pixar movies tend to operate on mulitple levels of meaning depending on your age and level of understanding, this time around it felt like it was a bit too focused on the younger market and didn't hold that much meaning for the older kids in the room, if you get my drift. Yes, the movie does have a good message to tell about the relationship between a mother and her daughter but that's quite literally presented all throughout the movie and I feel there wasn't too much beyond that.

The movie was delightfuly funny - especially once you get past the big change that I choose not to reveal for spoiler reasons. But given that transition sort of defines the rest of the movie and the adventure at its core, it was handled rather well (and the triplets were pretty hilarious). But while the funny moments were good, they weren't exactly lasting and they didn't quite connect to one another in a manner that made the whole adventure consistently humorous. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's just how I felt.

The movie felt a bit disjoint and yet at the same time rushed. Given the normal Pixar treatment, I was expecting a lot more thoughtful and insightful moments where we let the music speak instead of the characters as we all take in what's going on or what Merida is being made to learn. And I guess that's what made this feel more like a Disney piece than a Pixar one.

Brave is still a good movie, but not as great as one would expect given it had the Pixar stamp on it, and that was rather disappointing. I'd still recommend that you see it at least once, but be sure to temper your expectations accordingly. Thus the movie gets 3.5 computer game friendly will-o'-the-wisps leading the way out of a possible 5.

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