Brave (3D) Movie Review - -

Brave (3D)

    Reviewed by Damien Straker on June 18th, 2012
presents a film directed by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell and
    Brenda Chapman
    Screenplay by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman and
    Irene Mecchi

(voices of) Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson,
    Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane

    Running Time:
100 mins
    Rating: PG
    Released:  June 21st, 2012



In the Scottish highlands of DunBroch Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is constantly being ushered about how to act in her life. Her parents are King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and his wife Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) and it is the latter that is most controlling towards Merida's behaviour. Merida enjoys adventuring by herself, including horseback riding and firing off her bow and arrow. Yet her life comes unstuck when her mother announces that she is arranging for her to be married. A number of rival suitors are invited to prove themselves as worthy but Merida is bored by all of them. After an argument with her mother, Merida finds a witch (Julie Walters) and purchases a spell that she hopes will change her mother's mind about the marriage. Yet it has unforeseen consequences that forces Merida to take responsibility for her actions.

They've done it again. Since their first animated feature Toy Story in 1995, the animation giant Pixar have continued to show a maturity towards characters that few other studios can understand. Brave is Pixar's 13th feature film and is credited to three directors, one of which was Brenda Chapman. She originally conceived the film, planning for Reese Witherspoon to voice Merida, but she was replaced by Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell. A lot of has been said about Chapman's involvement and the significance of Merida as the studio's first female heroine too. Is gender politics relevant here or just a naive attempt to push this openly liberal company towards political correctness? Pixar have never catered to the boys club and their films should never be considered gender specific either. They have had numerous female characters in almost all of their other films. Boo (Monsters, Inc.) and EVE (WALL-E), for example, were highly significant parts of their respective films. Similarly, Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles) was frequently accompanied by his entire family, which included both his wife and his teenage daughter. Pixar have openly stated, quite accurately, that they don't make films for children: they make films for everyone. In a period where an increasing number of Hollywood features are aimed at young teenage boys, I have long been fascinated by this statement. The company strives for universal appeal in their work, which is why all of their films are so popular. Upholding this standard is Brave and it's a bullseye. The film might rest in the palm of a spritely red-haired Princess who does it her way, but there is no limit in her appeal or the spectator's ability to emphasise with her. Consider a scene where Merida fights with her parents about who she wants to be and what she wants to do with herself. How is a moment of conflict like this not universally applicable?

I think 'Brave' would also be a title fitting for the studio itself. There would be few others willing enough to include scenes of domestic disputes, like Merida telling her mother that she does not want to be like her, or parents fighting amongst each other for the path they individually believe their children should take. There are clever scenes that carry this subtext, meaning that Pixar continues to push the envelope, challenging the audience and allowing us to form more meaningful attachments to these characters because the situations are relatable. Their earnestness is fitting because today under the Obama administration the rest of Hollywood is also beginning to distance itself from conservative messages like 'be yourself,' in favour of family films such as Tangled (2010), We Bought a Zoo (2011) and How to Train Your Dragon (2010), which rightly encourage children to take chance and more risks in life. Brave is a wonderful continuation of this message, as Merida looks for her freedom, but like all great fairytales it also about how personal hubris forces change in both adults and children alike. This progression is embedded in a narrative that does take its time to warm up but builds excitingly into a cautionary tale that is incredibly touching. As with all great Pixar films there is an emotional attachment to the story that is born through the clarity of the characters motives. Smartly, the film also refuses to ling too long over its more dramatic moments.

There's as much tension as humour and personality here too, including a hairy scene involving an escape from a bear that might be a little scary for very small children. There is also fun to be had with the film's supreme visual design too. Watching the film in 3D, it is a lavish argument for how the extra dimension benefits from wide open spaces. Recently, I was critical of Prometheus's superfluous use of 3D. This is because narrow corridors are often too contained for the 3D technology to be effective. The open spatiality of Brave allows for more fluidity in the camera's movements, providing a spectacular sense of flight. This sense of freedom, reflecting the frivolity of Merida's escape from the kingdom, is enhanced by long shots and sweeping camera motions. In effect it provides the frames with a visible sense of scale, height and depth. The colour selection is impeccable too. As Merida walks through the forest, her bright red hair contrasts the greenery of the woodlands and faint blue lights glow luminously in front of her. By contrast, there is also a special moment where Merida crosses over some fallen ruins and the frame is purposely desaturated, removing the colour and replacing it with a hazy fog that disrupts our sense of geography. It is a shame that the later scenes are quite dark, meaning there is less opportunity to enjoy the colour and proves at odds with the lenses on the 3D glasses. It is a minor complaint in an otherwise impeccably crafted film. Pencil it in for a Best Animated Oscar. 


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