Pixar’s films always receive much pomp and circumstance when they are eventually unleashed on the public. Typically, they are of an intimidating quality with unparalleled storytelling and lovable characters forming the front line. Brave is the latest offering from the studio, and sadly, it just doesn’t have the Pixar charm that we have become so familiar with.
Brave follow the story of Merida, a Celtic princess with a tomboyish personality and an eagle eye for archery. Her Mother doesn’t share Merida’s free spirit however and condemns her to a life of training in the art of ladylike subservience to her future husband – a plan that does not sit well with the young princess. After a contest is held to decide Merida’s hand, she runs away and unwittingly lets loose a curse that leaves the kingdom and her mother in peril.
What instantly sets Brave apart from previous Pixar features is the presence of weaponry, and not fantasy weaponry as seen in The Incredibles – we’re talking swords and bows. With a new darker direction, the potential for a completely different story opens up. This potential however is entirely wasted on a concept that is never fully realised.
Under the hood, Brave suffers from a lack of development, both in character and plot. This is usually an area where Pixar excel above all others but looking into the boardroom, I can just imagine this basic idea being pitched to the execs and getting an instant stamp of approval without any concern. The result is an animated feature that lacks any kind of depth or fullness, an element that has been a mainstay of Pixar since their first film.
As the film is age restricted to 10, the target is obviously not aimed at an audience fresh out of diapers; why then is the story so dumbed down and simple? The same goes for the characters and the humour that lack any kind of impact at the best of times. It isn’t irritating, just more of a “what were the thinking” moment. They needed John Lasseter to sell this concept and his absence is felt.
The pacing itself is also completely misguided and only gets into its stride halfway through the film, spending far too much focus on the backstory. When I imagine an adventure in the Scottish Highlands, I picture journey of epic proportions layden with risks and bonding. Brave has these elements but they’re so condensed that they seem inconsequential.
In terms of aesthetics however, Brave is Pixar’s crowning achievement, once again besting their standards, creating a believable world in a Disney-esque vein. It’s not very stylised but it does have a certain character of its own. The 3D however is a different story. As is the case with many 3D releases, scenes that use a darker colour palette are drowned out by the tinted glasses – this leaves the night scenes compromised and I personally had trouble making out many of the objects and backgrounds when the lights dimmed.
Brave is a little darker than most Pixar films, both in terms of visuals and story but essentially it is a princess movie and kids will walk away with the most out of it. That’s not to say that adults won’t, it just doesn’t have that universal appeal that films like Toy Story and Up possessed.
The Bottom Line
Brave isn’t a terrible film by any count, it’s just not as satisfying as it could have been. Pixar tried to put a twist on a tired concept but tradition is there for a reason and while the world is trying to move away from the “helpless princess” archetype, Brave just barely makes the leap. While it isn’t nearly the mess that Cars was, Brave still ranks in the lower order of the Pixar library.