Thursday, June 28, 2012


Princess Merida of the Dunbroch clan hates tradition, despises it with every fiber of her being. She loves adventuring, riding her horse, and, above all, archery. Her mother always reprimands her for doing unladylike things, which cover just about everything she likes, and instructs her how to be proper and respectful. The lessons culminate when Merida is expected to marry the young man who wins the competition between the three clans in the kingdom. Refusing to conform to convention, Merida decides to compete for her own hand and wins. She and her mother fight, leaving both tearful, frustrated, and angry. Merida rides into the woods and is let to a witch's cottage by wisps. After buying all the witch's wooden wares, she gives Merida a spell to changer her mother which would in turn change her fate. The spell doesn't go as Merida wanted, so she and her mother go in search of the witch to change her mother back to the way she was.

I have been looking forward to Brave for a long time and it definitely didn't disappoint me. This is the first Pixar film to feature both a setting in the past and a female protagonist. Both the medieval Scottish setting and Merida serve the film well. The lush greens and wonderful Scottish landscapes are just perfect for this film. They really help in creating the mood of possibility, mystery, and magic. The visuals are breathtakingly beautiful and seem more realistic than many other recent computer animated films. Merida is a breath of fresh air after so many simpering, weak, boring female protagonists of recent years. Merida is as fiery and wild as her hair. She knows who she is and what she wants in life. Her intelligence and cleverness sometimes get her into trouble, but it's nice to see these qualities revered for once. Even though she rashly makes decisions without thinking them through and hurts some people in the process, I appreciated that this warrior princess erred on the side of impulse. Beneath it all, she truly loved and cared for her family, but didn't really know how to balance their needs with her own. Her endearing personality and the goodness at her core outweighed her carelessness and the ramifications of her impulsive actions on everyone around her.

I don't believe this is really a children's film. It's a film that really speaks to mothers and teenage daughters. The conflict between Merida and her mother Elinor that is in the center of this film has no clear side that is right. Merida wants what any teenage girl wants: freedom to be herself and pursue her dreams. An arranged marriage is the last thing she wants. Elinor, on the other hand, has more than herself and her daughter to think about. The fate of the kingdom is in her hands and she must think of the kingdom's safety and wellbeing as well as her family's. Both of these women have valid worries and concerns. If they had spoken to each other rationally, they may have resolved their problems before anyone got transformed, but they are both stubborn and felt they couldn't open up to each other. I think anyone can relate to not being able to communicate with their parents or their teenaged children. Although there is a witch that can be blamed on the surface for Merida and Elinor's predicament, the real villain of the piece is really Merida, her rash decisions, and her inability to take responsibility for them. The witch is an easy scapegoat for younger viewers who don't yet understand more complex themes, but she is only in the film for a very short time and isn't particularly malicious. Some of the humor in the film is fairly simple and childish I believe to entertain young children, but the bulk of the film is for a much older crowd.

One of the main shining stars of this film for me is the soundtrack. It is phenomenal and is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. I'm not too familiar with Patrick Doyle's body of work besides Thor, but after this I will seek out anything else he does. The soundtrack is incredibly varied and utilizes a variety of instruments from the Scottish culture, such as bagpipes, dulcimers, flutes, a fiddle, and a bodhran. Scottish reels and jigs create excitement and momentum, while a simple lullaby theme featuring quiet dulcimer and solemn fiddle create tenderness and sadness. My favorite is the lullaby theme from the song Noble Maiden Fair sung in Gaelic by Merida and Elinor. When that theme recurs throughout the film, it just pulls on my heart strings and makes me cry. I also loved that 3 featured songs came from the movie: Touch the Sky and Into the Open Air performed by Julie Fowlis, my new favorite Scottish singer, and Learn Me Right by Mumford and Sons. I love all these songs and have been listening to the whole soundtrack on loop since I saw it earlier this week. Another gorgeous song by Julie Fowlis was featured in the trailer for Brave, but wasn't on the soundtrack called Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird A' Chuain. It's another gorgeous song with Julie Fowlis' pure tones and a simple strings accompaniment and one of two that are actually in Gaelic.

In addition to being incredibly entertaining, full of heart, and full of emotion, Brave is a good step forward in fairy tale films. First, it's an original tale with the basic trappings that put the audience at ease. However, the conclusion is much different than most princess stories. ** SPOILERS** At the end of the film, Merida and Elinor come to a compromise and it's agreed by all the the young people will choose their own spouses. Unlike many other fairy tales, there is no real love interest for Merida and she doesn't get married at the end. She is not defined as a character by any romantic relationship. It also lets the audience see an alternative to marriage or having a family as a life choice in general. I found that refreshing in a genre that almost always ends with a marriage and a happily ever after. I loved Brave and consider it one of my favorite Pixar films. It was entertaining to both children and adults and pushed the boundaries of what a fairy tale princess film can be.

My rating: 9/10 fishmuffins

1 comment:

Nina said...

I'm going Thursday!!! :) Can't wait.