Looking back on… Brave

Brave (2012)
Directed by: Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson
Written by…well me actually!

Across their illustrious career, with films spanning almost 8 decades, Disney have proven to be particularly prolific at creating stories with either anthropomorphic animals or pitch-perfect princesses. In a way – in their 13th collaboration with Pixar – Disney have given us both of these, in the form of ‘Brave’.

Following the incredible reception of ‘Toy Story 3’, there followed what many came to know as the Pixar slump. Sandwiched in the middle of the lacklustre sequel ‘Cars 2’, and the good but not great prequel ‘Monsters University’, many would be forgiven for remembering that there is in fact an original story in there, and ‘Brave’ does sadly suffer with being wholly forgettable. That’s not to say it has nothing going for it though.

Whilst there had been plenty of memorable female characters in Pixar’s movies leading up to this point, including Princess Atta (‘A Bug’s Life’), Dory (‘Finding Nemo’), and Elastigirl (‘The Incredibles’), ‘Brave’ marked the first instance of a female character being front and centre, and fittingly it was the first Pixar film to have a female director as well. Princess Merida is undoubtedly one of the strongest female characters that Disney have given us to date. Refreshingly rebellious against the Disney Princess status quo, Merida shows that you can be a strong, independent woman “who don’t need no” Prince Charming! She’s smart, resourceful, skilled, and a great role model for young girls.

This is undoubtedly the strongest element to ‘Brave’, and it’s hard to deny the positive impact this has on the overall Disney universe. Whilst Mulan was unquestionably an absolute badass and a strong female character, she still ended up with the guy at the end. Many praised ‘Frozen’ for being the first Disney film to rebel against the girl meets boy and falls in love formula, with “true love” being represented by the love between two sisters, but Anna still got the guy at the end as well. Merida however stays firm in her non-conformist stance on not being pressured into marriage and upholding traditions, throughout ‘Brave’, and this is really refreshing to see.

‘Brave’ is a gorgeous film to look at additionally, and one of the most exquisitely animated Pixar movies to date. The sweeping Scottish scenery looks stunning, and kudos to whoever had to animate Merida’s mass of ginger curls as well, as it looks incredible. Whilst thematically strong, and undoubtedly beautiful, it is the story which lets ‘Brave’ down a little. On first glance it doesn’t appear like the sort of film about how a spirited girl will bond with her mother after she is turned into a bear by a witch, and it is all a little jarring. There’s some cute moments of mother-daughter bonding absolutely, but it lacks the emotional punch of some other Pixar movies, and this is where ultimately it suffers. This slightly unusual story should make ‘Brave’ stand out, but yet it actually makes the whole thing quite forgettable. It is quite difficult to connect with as it is so grounded in reality – being situated in a real place and a real culture – yet the fantastical elements make it a little disconcerting, and without this connection to the main story, ‘Brave’ falters.

It is still a good film – Pixar rarely make a bad film – but it certainly isn’t up to Pixar’s usual standard. It ticks some of the boxes – great characters, beautiful animation, and strong themes – but Pixar movies are also known for their compelling storylines, and it is the lack of this which puts ‘Brave’ just a little bit below the rest of the fantastic movies Pixar have to offer.

Rating: 7/10

See where ‘Brave’ ranks in my list of Pixar movies here. (This list was written last year, pre-’Finding Dory’ and ‘The Good Dinosaur’, but it’s still a good read!)

Also don’t forget to check out the rest of the #LookingBackOn reviews here. There’s a few more Pixar ones to enjoy, and then in December we’ll be back and looking back on…Christmas!!

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