If you thought Pixar was in a slump, BRAVE is grand-slam. And to get the most important issue out of the way first, yes, John Ratzenberger IS in the film.
The pre-movie short film "La Luna" was an excellent warm-up, very touching, and evocative though without dialog.
Brave is mostly getting press over the hair, and yes, you can't get past how awesome the hair is, it's almost it's own character. I was mostly taken with the quality of the modeling and rendering of the faces, particularly the Queen and Princess. It is exquisite, the glow that comes thru the translucent skin layers. There's a kind of plastic clay used for sculpting that these renders remind me of, but it also seems very alive. We're safely away from the "uncanny valley" in these character designs.
The plot is predictable but well-executed. Plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, a touch more chaotic slapstick than I'm used to, but it had my wife reeling. And high drama that has us reaching for the kleenex. The film succeeds in making you invest yourself in the character's feet. (Yes, I said "feet". That's how they pronounce "fate"). The art direction gives a very hyped feeling of wild Scottish terrain, exaggerated but not parodied. We saw it in 2-d, but I can tell the sections that will pop in 3-d and I think they're okay but this is not a movie that *needs* 3-d.
Well worth going to see.
I thought Brave was pretty good, but not great.
The animation was top notch, as expected, and I also couldn't keep my eyes off the hair. I enjoyed all of the character design, even if it was a little "How to Train Your Dragon"-esk. I especially liked the design on the evil bear. He was scary and menacing, I'm sure some of the kids in the theater had some nightmares. Everything about the look of the film was pretty great.
The pacing was good, and the comedy levels are at a high. I thought it was appropriately funny, without ever being cheesy or eye-rolling. I liked the witch's "automated message system".
I think it lacked in a story though. You see everything two steps before they happen. Maybe a little kid wouldn't, but I did. Children's movie or not, it could have been less predictable. I also wasn't expecting that the main plot of the film would revolve around such a fantasy element. It was good and bad.
A pretty interesting note would be how they made this into a mother-daughter film, a dynamic not often covered in these kind of movies. I appreciated what they did with that, but I probably didn't appreciate it as much as the 13-year-old girls sitting behind us.
Due to time and location I was only able to see a 2D version of it (as in; I was already next to the theater at a certain time, and didn't want to wait an hour for the 3D version). There were times when the movie was panning across a vast landscape, and it looked terrible and hurt my eyes. I'm going to assume that those moves looked better in 3D, and I might have missed out on this one. Oh well.
Overall I thought it was fun (and funny), definitely worth seeing, but I'd only give it like a 7 out of 10 for my personal enjoyment.
Also, La Luna was great, I actually saw it earlier this year as part of the Short Animated Film Academy Award Nominee Showcase, and I liked it better the second time I saw it. For whatever reason I felt more emotion this time around.
Complaining that BRAVE's story line is too predictable is like complaining the same for Cinderella. I agree ther mother-daughter dynamic is unique here and very well-done, but it doesn't just speak to girls - that's the same age gap problem that's between fathers and sons as well, it's a universal. The mother-daughter line is the centerpiece of it all, and the bonding scenes in the (spoiler) post-spell part of the story, build convincingly in small steps to inform the later, expected ending. I felt upon further reflection that the directorial style picked up more than a few cues from "The Incredibles". And that's not a bad thing.
This wasn't supposed to be "Braveheart". Or "Mulan". Or"Highlander, with a tough girl". Merida isn't supposed to be Chloe Moretz's Kick Girl here. It's a quirky coming-of-age story in a fantasy romance setting. I think it's fantastic.
[Mark Suszko] "Complaining that BRAVE's story line is too predictable is like complaining the same for Cinderella."
I don't know if that's entirely fair, because if I were to critique Cinderella from a non-historical, straightforward perspective, I WOULD call the story predictable. But you know, it's kind of a piece of animation legend, and from a completely different time, so I wouldn't even bother.
If I had to compare Brave to more recent animated films; I'd say WALL-E, Monsters Inc, UP, Cars 1, The Incredibles, Kung-Fu Panda, Ratatouille, and the entire Toy Story series all have more complex and interesting stories. I've sadly never seen Finding Nemo (now I might as well wait for the 3D re-release this fall), but from what I gather, it has a better story as well?
I dunno, buddy. At their core, each of those films you mention are very simple linear stories. Brave fits right in: Daughter and Mother can't agree, daughter uses magic to cheat to get her way, shiat gets real, she has to fix it, fixing the relationship fixes the larger problems. If you want to compare BRAVE to another movie, the appropriate one might be "Freaky Friday" for the mother-daughter dynamic.
Up: hero worship is sometimes misplaced, and you have hidden depths to yourself that you only find if you challenge your supposed limits.
Incredibles: Don't be afraid to be your best, family bonds and cooperation are stronger than adversity.
Monsters, inc. is about friendship and commitment.
Cars 1 was about seeking true fulfillment outside of yourself.
Panda was about beating your inner doubts and teamwork.
Wall-E was about commitment to another person, and societal aspiration overcoming selfishness.
Nemo is about the power of the family bond, and our need to relate to each other.
Well, I meant from a plot point to plot point and writing perspective more than a deeper meaning viewpoint. Think about the plot twists and character development/changes in the other Pixar films:
-Carl's hero in UP becoming a villain in the third act.
-WALL-E reverting back to factory settings.
-Lotso going from nice to villain to slight ally and back to villain in Toy Story 3.
-The impending, unpredictable, how-are-they-going-to-get-out-of-this doom of the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3.
an so on...
Brave didn't really have that. It basically had two or three simple plot points, none of which presented any real threat of going awry. There was no twist(s). It just happened exactly how I kind of didn't want it to happen, because I wished it would be a little more complex than that.
Well, actually, I just read this lengthy post over at /Film about how Brave is less like a Pixar movie than any of the other Pixar movies:
It's not so much saying Brave is a *bad* movie (which I don't think either, I enjoyed it, just not to its fullest), but it does fall back onto a lot of lesser qualities that the competition usually succumbs to. It's worth reading. Here's one of the 15 arguments as a sampler:
"The reason Pixar’s brand is so sterling? Depth and complexity, featured prominently in their previous works. Here are some of the questions Pixar has tackled over the past two decades, see if you can match the theme to the film:
What happens to our memories when we grow up?
What are the downsides to a consumer culture?
Can critics ever truly understand inspiration?
How far will a parent go to protect a child?
Where do our nightmares come from?
And so on. Pixar has always asked the big questions, made us think, made us ponder, and eschewed any predictive powers of an audience. In Pixar films villains become heroes and back again, because their rules for storytelling were the opposite of Disney’s. Where Disney made you feel safe and warm, Pixar wanted us to consider the world around us.
Which leads us to Brave‘s central theme: Don’t poison your mom. Or the thing that you know right from the start: she’s not marrying any of these dudes. By making all of Merida’s suitors so woefully inadequate they allow the audience that comfy, complacent feeling. Princess Merida is better than these guys! Well, yeah, but so is everyone else. So are the three little baby bears.
If great storytelling is about choices the absolute failure of Brave is that it doesn’t make any, content to glide along on a sea of tremendous visuals. Brave is an overly simplistic story of Princess Merida’s quest to grow up and act responsibly. Sadly, it seems destined to be forgotten as “lesser” Pixar, a victim of the true genius of their previous works."
"Wall-e reverting to factory settings..."
-There is a pivotal scene in the last reel of BRAVE that is EXACTLY like this, if you think about it. It's all in the mom's eyes, and it makes the audience and Merida weep.
-The incinerator scene in TS3 is suspenseful, but you knew the main characters were going to survive it, and the method by which they are saved is very well-foreshadowed. The whole movie starts by saying the toys have to find another owner/ way of living some way.
-The last battle in Brave is the father, daughter, and mom fighting Mordue TOGETHER, like in The Incredibles.
Back to BRAVE: the suitors are incidental to the story, finding your romantic love is NOT the story, Merida has no time for that yet, the story is that the mom and daughter are at odds and not communicating or feeling empathy to each other. Until they do, nothing in the world is going to be right, in fact, all will be lost.
The suitors are just a macguffin to create a situation that points up their differences and their divergent goals and motivations. The story is that there are no shortcuts to making a relationship work, that each must risk giving up some, to gain much more. That Pride is damaging, and the love of family conquers all- if you let it.
[Mark Suszko] "-There is a pivotal scene in the last reel of BRAVE that is EXACTLY like this, if you think about it. It's all in the mom's eyes, and it makes the audience and Merida weep."
I know Tim hates the word, but SPOILER:
I would disagree with this only in the fact that they teased the fact that she was gonna go "full bear" (never go full bear), earlier in the film several times. You could tell that they were going to try and manipulate the heart strings at the end with making her turn into a real bear moments before turning back. In WALL-E, his transformation to factory settings was never teased, happened out of nowhere at the end of the film, and was 10x more heartbreaking in my opinion. *Especially* because it wasn't just a 30 second tease like in Brave, the WALL-E guys dragged it out to a length that makes one at least, for a moment, question whether everything will actually be alright. In Brave, they aren't going to keep the mom as a bear, there was a 0% chance of that happening. Especially because they were already playing with the audience by having it happen twice before in the film.
As for your other points, those may entirely be true and earnest, but I guess i just wasn't the target audience for such family values kind of messages. I guess I just didn't relate... :(
I enjoyed Brave as well and have to agree that it had very little twist and turns. The impending, unpredictable, how-are-they-going-to-get-out-of-this doom of the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3 had me wondering how are they going to get out of this one. I never wondered how are they going to get out of this one in Brave. That's okay, I still enjoyed the film.
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