This past weekend saw the release of the newest member of the Pixar family of animated films, Brave. The story of an independent young princess finding her place in a world of tradition, the biggest question looming among fans and critics alike is does the movie hit the mark? Well, this is one reviewer that thinks it has.
The story of Brave, in a nutshell, is one of bucking tradition. It is the story of Merida, a young Scottish princess and independent tomboy who has finally come of age, and as per the tradition of her people, is to be courted by suitors from the various clans. As can be expected in a modern fairytale, Merida rebels against convention, and seeks a way to change her fate. I’m not going to delve into a long breakdown of the story, as I feel this is definitely a film that should be on everyone’s “to watch” list for the start of summer. Instead, I want to address some of the negative reviews the film has received, as I feel that they, unlike Merida and her bow, fail to hit the target.
The Strong Female Protagonist – As much as it hurts me to say, I still don’t believe the mainstream is 100% on board with strong female leads. One of the biggest complaints I’ve read from critics (mostly male), has been that the key decisions made by Merida in the film are rash, with no foresight of the consequences – a point that many critics find beguiling as the character is portrayed as being very intelligent and independent. I truly believe that if these same decisions were made by a male protagonist in a similar context, audiences wouldn’t bat an eye, a reaction that does a great disservice to the character of Merida and all heroine’s before her.
Additionally, I think a lot of viewers are forgetting that age plays an important factor. Show me an independent and smart teenager that doesn’t already know everything there is to know and I’ll show you the Loch Ness Monster (not a euphemism). Merida’s decision to attempt to change her fate via a witches spell cast upon her mother is a decision wrought with emotion, not one of vile intent. I’ve seen the phrase “poisoned” tossed around in reviews, and it’s simply not the case. Watch the movie and you’ll know what I mean.
The Mother / Daughter Dynamic – Ok. I’m a guy, so I have limited experience in the relationship dynamics of mothers and daughters. However, I do have an older sister who made life a living hell for my mom AND I have a wife who is the independent daughter of a very independent mother, so I think I have a touch of understanding. One of the biggest gripes that I have read in reviews have been in regards to the relationship between Merida and her mother, Queen Elinor. As the story plays out, the audience is given insight into both perspectives, that of Elinor’s and that of Merida’s. In the process, Merida’s emotion is too much for the logic and maturity of her mother, and Merida storms off in a fit of rage. While some believe this paints our heroine as bratty, I feel it projects an aura of authenticity to the character on-screen. ::GASP:: Guess what, movie critics!?! Teenagers are brats! It’s called realism in acting, not faulty character development!
Telling the Classic Fairy Tale – There also seems to be a lot of complaints over the more traditional elements of the story. Merida “poisons” her mother, Fergus tries to kill Elinor when she is in bear-form, Mor’du the Demon Bear is too scary, etc., etc. Apparently, people have forgotten how screwed up fairy tales are. They are chock full of family members killing each other, witches eating children, people being cursed and poisoned, and all this AFTER they were edited for content by the like of The Brothers Grimm. Brave keeps enough of these traditional elements in place to not only make the film palpable for a modern audience, but also to hold true to the literary art form it is telling it’s story in. If it went full-blown fairytale, Fergus would have killed Elinor, Merida would have killed Fergus, and then the triplets would have become the bear henchmen of Mor’du, plunging Scotland into a supernatural civil war… do I smell sequel??
The Triplets – Despite all of the difference of opinion that exists over Brave (and if you don’t agree with mine, you’re wrong), I’m sure that everyone agrees that Pixar shot a bullseye with the Triplets. Every scene that involved the trouble-making trio was a scene stolen by them. They bring the humor and laughs in true Pixar fashion, and it definitely wouldn’t be a surprise to see a short dedicated to the little hellions down the road.
All in all, I enjoyed Brave immensely, even being way outside the target demographic. It has a solid, traditional story, lots of laughs, and continues to push the envelope of Pixar’s animation skills. Not only did it make me shed a tear, it also made me simultaneously want / not want a daughter down the road.