Thursday, August 30, 2012

Brave: Darcy's No Hold Back Review

It's time to be brave... and discuss what I thought of Disney/Pixar's Brave. Spoilers ahead!

To be fair, I have put this off to give my opinion time to stew and poke at it again with a wooden spoon. Now it's ready for me to share with the world. Since it's a Fantasy story (there's magic and castles, okay?) centered on a female character, I think it's an appropriate topic for my post today on Castles and Guns.

If I had to summarize Brave in one word, I would have to use a dominant piece of my sixteen-year-old-going-through-Hot-Topic-phase-and-no-one-understands-me-phase vocabulary.

Sucks. It sucks. Pixar's Brave sucks. S.U.X.!

Never thought I'd say that about any Pixar film. Even though there have been others I don't care for (Cars, Cars 2, this Monsters, Inc. prequel idea...) I still recognize they fulfill the goal of children's entertainment. A Pixar film to me goes beyond that, any good film does, and is entertainment for human beings, period. Entertainment that tells a good story, a complete story, from beginning to end. Enough on that as it's time to move on to my selected trio of 'FAILS.'

A handful of examples of Brave failing as a good story...

Let's start with that story within a story. Four princes and one goes bad and turns into a bear and causes chaos and somehow that leads to four kingdoms and this one princess has to get married and... Yeah. That's bad news bears right there.

I couldn't stop asking questions throughout the movie. How did they end up with four kingdoms? Merida's father wasn't always the king but the other guys made him the king? And yet, somehow her not marrying one of their sons will cause total chaos. On one hand you have this total dependence on tradition and then on the other you're trying to mix it with all these societal elements. There wasn't enough glimpses at them being a war-like people for these drastic measures to work. The tribes looked pretty... harmless. Which is unusual since Pixar has a tendency to not hold back on their villains and anti-heroes.

Maybe we were supposed to rely on our preconceived notions and historical knowledge of Scotland? My great-grandfather came over from Scotland and my information on that part of my heritage is fuzzy at best, but even I found the Scottish-ish hard to swallow. They didn't quite seem to want to commit to it. But since there's magic and therefore a Fantasy element, it doesn't matter right? /sarcasm

The whole bear thing was... ugh. Instead of being suspenseful, the direction the bear element was going to take was off balance throughout the entire film. It was too weak pre-shapeshifting and afterwards it was clumsy. The way the now Bear Queen stumbled and crashed about is a good visual example for the awkward mess that made up the plot.

The recycled elements leading Brave to fail to visually astound...

It was like a studio executive said to the art team:

"Hey U GUISE! I want u 2 make a movie that's totes better than Dreamwork's How to Train Your Dragon but w/ the whole cliffs and music thing. Get the Mumford peeps b/c we're totes butter than every1 else. Then, even tho technically we're on the same team as the Tangled peeps, our princess has to do the hair thing, cept way cooler times a bazillion! No1 is going to notice Disney already did the bear thing in that movie... What was it called? 'Bear' wasn't in the title, right u guise? It wasn't called 'Brother Bear' or anything. Finally, b/c it's totes a girl powah movie, make all the guise freaking ugly, like my mom's hair after Macy's Labor Day sale. That's how you give girls powah, by all the boys being ugly and dumb. Annnnnnd that should be good. This movie is gonna be cray cray, u guise! xoxoxo! -Studio Executive'

Why Brave fails to give a strong female role model...

I'll admit, this is my favorite soap box. I don't have an obsession with every kick-ass female character being a role model for young girls, but I like seeing it done well. One of the best examples I can name off the top of my head is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. In this show, the ensemble cast of pony bff's are all well developed and strong characters. The storylines showcase how strength can come in many different forms.

In Brave, the development of Merida's strength is lazy and outdated. "Let's make her want to do things that are traditionally thought of as boy hobbies and that will make her seem tough!" Hm. No. And if they were going to go this route, more scenes of her using her bow were needed and actually be impressive. That slicing through the arrow trick? Robin Hood used that one in an older Disney animation.

I was impressed that they put Elinor's (Merida's mother) diplomacy opposite Merida's stubbornness/survival training. Merida learned that diplomacy can be just as powerful as any physical weapon. ...Even if the bear miming scene was ridiculous.

Sigh. I'm sorry, Brave... I wanted to love you or even like you.

The lack of communication between Merida and Elinor is realistic child/parent behavior, but unfortunately their flaws spread outward and become a lack of communication and understanding between the film and the audience.

I'll return on September 13th with more on Brave, but this time I'll be comparing/contrasting the film with another recent Disney release: Tangled.

Just a little reminder - Be sure to check out the announcement for the pitch contest in September!

-Darcy (of the Drake Variety)

*Brave and Tangled belong to Disney and Disney/Pixar. Castles and Guns and Darcy Drake are not affiliated with them in any way and do not own these films or images.


  1. Hi Darcy -

    Okay you had to know I'd comment, right? Being LdyDisney and all... LOL

    But I have to disagree! I loved Brave! :) I will give you that they never really fleshed out the backstory of the 4 brothers and one went bad and became a bear.

    BUT, I have to disagree with Merida's characterization. I didn't think she took up boy hobbies because it made her "tough". There were plenty of scenes of her learning to do girl things. I grew up a total tom boy and even though I knew how to do girl things like braid hair, I hated Barbie dolls. Give me a toy truck in the dirt and I was ready...

    I also got that she connected with her father best and never felt like she lived up to her mother's expectations. It made sense to me that she'd want to do things that made her Dad proud because she never felt like her Mom loved her for who she was, only for who she wanted her to become.

    Does that make sense? LOL

    And I loved that she learned that diplomacy can be more powerful than a bow. I thought that was a powerful message as well as the message that just because something is "tradition" that doesn't make it right.

    It also turned out all the younger generation was uncomfortable with the "must marry the princess" tradition. That felt real to me too. The younger generation might not want to blindly continue traditions of the elders and that's often a very good thing. :)

    So while Beauty & the Beast is still my favorite Disney film, I really enjoyed Brave... :)


    1. Lisa,

      I'm stoked you commented! And WHAT a comment! Guuurl, you give me enough food for thought to leave me chewing for awhile before coming up with the right reply. :D

      "...I didn't think she took up boy hobbies because it made her "tough"..."

      I don't think SHE took up boy hobbies to make her look tough either, but for obvious preference and enjoyment. I do think THE PEEPS AT PIXAR/DISNEY were lazy in their predictable approach to her character development. Cue the montage of her hating all the things her mom is teaching her! While some young girls (and us girls at heart) will identify with it, the characterization is so painfully black and white. By the end both Elinor and Merida learn the strengths and weaknesses of both, the fact that this is the major plotline of the story is horribly outdated.

      It also turned out all the younger generation was uncomfortable with the "must marry the princess" tradition.

      I wanted to like this! But it just seemed sort of... random. Even though the subplot could be followed through out, it didn't quite ring true for me. I was struck by the suitors, though. I loved them! I wonder if in reality they were actually that gross or if Merida just perceived them as worse.

      Beauty and the Beast will always be the best!!


  2. My comments will short and sweet. I didn't like Brave either. There was nothing new in the movie.

  3. Yikes! Thanks. I'm glad I didn't go see it. Maybe I'll do the $1.00 rental thing when it hits redbox. Thanks for saving me some cash.