Brave (2012) * * * *
Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Starring: Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson
Over the years, Pixar has come to be known for their high standards of quality animation and story telling, and so Bob and I were totally looking forward to seeing Brave as soon as it was released.
For the most part, the movie is worthy of all the hype. It's a good story that both kids and adults will love, and the plotting and writing are both fairly well done.
Warning - Spoilers Ahead!
Princess Merida and her mother are constantly at odds with each other about how the young girl should behave and live her life. When Merida finds out that she is expected to marry one of the princes of the other three clans, she is horrified and determined to find a way around the law, and finally, after a huge fight where Merida takes her sword and slashes a tapestry her mother has been sewing - a family portrait - she runs away and encounters a witch. She bargains for a magic spell to change her fate, but actually requests that the spell change her mother - which it does. Into a very large and growly bear. The pair flee the castle before anyone can kill this strange bear that is suddenly roaming the halls, and mother and daughter have to learn to communicate and understand each other for the first time in their lives. But they don't have much time, because if they don't "mend their bond" before the second sunrise, mama will stay a bear forever. Merida bravely rises to the occasion and fights to correct her mistake and saves the day, everyone learns a valuable lesson, and lives, presumably happily ever after.
It's a great story, the animation is stunningly beautiful, and overall a great movie. But I have a small problem with it.
Most of us, understandably, view movies with certain expectations, no matter how hard we try to ignore them. And for months now, the Disney/Pixar PR machines have been selling this movie with a certain slant. This is the first Pixar movie with a female lead. The title is Brave. Previews relentlessly show us Merida waving a sword, out-shooting her suitors on the archery field, and confidently declaring that she will be shooting for HER OWN HAND, and that she wants to change her destiny. In fact, the tagline on the poster is "Change your fate."
This created certain expectations in my mind of a free spirited princess, one more concerned with living her own life and not needing a prince, one who is able and willing to take care of herself. She not singing about how "someday her prince will come," (in fact, she doesn't sing at all), and she doesn't need anyone to save her - she's better with a bow and arrow than any of her would-be suitors.
And mostly, this is the princess that we got. It was exciting and refreshing to see the "princess stereotypes" so completely shattered, and someone that a new generation of young girls (and boys) will grow up with and look up to.
But as the movie draws near the end, Merida suddenly realizes that in order to "mend the bond" between her and her mother, she must retrieve the tapestry that she thoughtlessly slashed in two and sew it back together in order to break the spell and bring her family back together.
Yes, that's right. In order to correct the the mistakes she's made and save both her family and the whole kingdom, the princess must:
1. forget about changing her fate;
2. accept her place;
3. and do her womanly duties and learn how to sew.
To me personally, this ending seemed completely contradictory to everything that had gone before in the story. Yes, she is brave, and she does save the day, but only by being the good and dutiful daughter who knows her place and does her sewing. I don't want to go so far as to say that it makes the movie anti-feminist, but it kinda felt a little disappointing to me.
Now - I must also point out that Bob didn't pick up on this sub-text at all, and neither did anyone else I've talked to who has seen the film. So maybe it's just me, and maybe it's all in my head. In spite of my slight disappointment, I still strongly enjoyed the movie, I'm giving it four stars, and I highly recommend the film. It's a fun movie, and a great mother-daughter adventure story.
Have you seen the movie yet? What did you think - do you agree with me, or am I imagining something that really isn't there? Leave a comment and let me know!