June 25, 2012

Brave: The Bear and the Bow

The trailer for "Brave" scared me.  While undeniably gorgeous, the warrior-princess-hear-me-roar trope was alarming.  Yes, the strong-willed, independent princess who wants to prove that a princess can fight even though she's a girl is ubiquitous in 90s films and tv shows like "Quest for Camelot", "A Kid in King Arthur's Court", and that one episode of the Gummi Bears... Suffice to say, usually the introduction of this theme does not bode well for a story.  But I have learned to trust Pixar over the years, and I was anxious to see what they'd do with this.

Yesterday I saw "Brave", and I was very pleasantly surprised.  There was the scene from the trailer where Merida cries "I'll be shootin' for my own hand" and blasts away the competition, but it is not in the least annoying or unbelievable like other depictions of the warrior-princess.  In fact, I really liked her and immediately believed that she could exist in that world.  And what I really loved is that this theme is not what the film is about.  Merida is established as a capable, independent heroine in the beginning.  The story is not a tedious chronicling of how she came to "discover herself."  The real story completely surprised me and I loved the unexpected direction.  I have read many negative reviews complaining about the story of "Brave", and this is something I am willing to argue about.  This story of the bond between mother and daughter is very satisfying, believable, and sympathetic.  Queen Elinor is a brilliant character, and captures a dignity, strength, and beauty that is lacking in most live-action actresses.  I loved watching the relationship between Merida and Elinor grow and evolve, and afterwards I *really* wanted to give my mom a big hug.  Not to make "Brave" sound like a chick flick- there's was a great deal more to enjoy in it, but the mother-daughter story is what stuck with me afterwards.  

The tone of the film is definitely "fairy tale", but not at all Disney.  I've devoured much fairy tale literature, and what you realize about those stories is that they are very rarely epic on scope.  Disney turned little five minute tales into veritable operas of sweeping emotion and spectacle, and while I do love that, that is not what fairy tales really are.  "Brave" is not a Disney-esque epic, and I actually prefer the film's previous title "The Bear and the Bow" because it better suits the feel of the movie.  The world of the film feel so very real and tangible.  It seems like an honest, if kid-friendly, depiction of life in the middle ages.  There is very little finery about the castle, everything is lit by fire, and the royals are respected, but not grovelled to.  I do wonder if the film could have been made a little more serious, have more violence to increase the tension and heighten the stakes.  But then, that would probably make it an entirely different movie.  I'll just save all my bloodlust for my own fairy tale film.  "Brave" is definitely a winning film, and while it doesn't knock "The Incredibles" out of my number one spot for Pixar films, I look forward to rewatching it again and again. 

1 comment:

Greg said...

I loved it too for the exact same reasons as you. It was not finding nemo or ratatouille but I think that the Pixar name is the only reason this movie does not get 80s or 90s