Thursday, July 19, 2012

Brave: Lacking Bravery

I expect most people who wanted to see it have watched Brave now, but if you haven't and do not want to hear spoilers, stop reading.

Most of the reviews I glanced at before watching said that it was a good movie, but not a great one--that it would have been a very good effort from another studio, but wasn't as much as they had expected from Pixar. But unlike, it seems, most people, I never developed that awe of Pixar. Toy Story is good, of course, and I can't say Up wasn't, too. But Pixar as an entity hasn't amazed me with perfection.

And that's exactly what I thought of Brave. The first portion of the movie was more or less "usual." I thought it was finally getting better when Merida met with the witch for the first time . . . but most of what followed that scene didn't reach very high levels. And I never felt that Merida went through much of a transformation in the movie: she just makes a mistake, has a tiff with her mother, and then decides to do better. It's all very little.

Okay, it's nice to see Brave taking the unwanted marriage plot and giving it a new turn, turning it into a mother/daughter relationship story. But it could have been better. The whole bear thing, for instance, could have been more symbolic. You have the mother bear idea and the bear as a figure of power and a sort of kingliness (both Beowulf and King Arthur's names possibly contain the word "bear" in them). But instead two characters just randomly turned into bears: why? Because the witch has a one-potion-solves-all fix that turns everyone into bears, no matter what specific wish they ask her for? Who is this witch, anyway? How did Mordu meet her? What is her connection to the will-o'-the-wisps?

While I'm at it, was it really necessary for Merida to sew the tapestry back together to break the spell? I thought that she was going to sew it back together right away, find that it didn't break the spell, then realize (in a Wizard of Oz sort of way) that the power was within her, she just had to heal the bond with her mother, not the physical tapestry. (Oh, and why didn't she sew the tapestry at the castle--why did she wait until she got to her mother in the forest? If you're short on time before the sun rises, why would you waste time riding across the woods? Unless the reason is that she was trying to simultaneously protect her mother from all the warriors--but she should have known, anyway, that the only way to save her was to change her back.)

And why was Merida's archery emphasized so much in the beginning only to fade away?

I suppose the movie is supposed to show the truth behind mythologies, how they were formed and how we can use them. But it felt very shallow to me. It felt more like a TV movie than one to see in theatres or give too much attention. It needed more depth, and I think a fairly small amount of tweaking could have given it that. Without that, though, it's fading fast from my memory.

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