Monday, June 25, 2012

A New Definition of “Brave”

Pixar's Thirteenth Animated Feature - 2012
If you’re alive in the United States right now, you’re aware that Disney/Pixar has released a new film called Brave and it’s already a hit. I saw my first promo for this film last fall. Sometimes my 3 ½ year old’s speech is difficult to understand, but she could say (and demand) Brave clear as a bell. Why were we not first in line on opening day? Well, just so happens the opening coincides with my family vacation. We were driving to the beach on Friday. A tepid review in The New York Times pulled me up short. Would Brave be worth the wait?

Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson 
In a word, yes. Brave touches upon the idea that being a princess comes with just as many burdens as it does privileges. Live action and animated films—like Roman Holiday, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White—have explored this idea, and real life offers us countless stories that being a princess is not all fun, if it’s any fun at all. Those who have worn the crown with dignity have done so because they have accepted their responsibilities like adults; and it’s by growing up—just a little—that Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald from Trainspotting) truly becomes a princess.

The queen, king, Merida, and 3 princes
Merida’s mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson) is the voice of tradition and is quite a serene highness who relishes her role of responsibility. Princess Merida seems sadly bound up in her fate. Even though she’s athletic and prefers riding and archery, her mother constantly reminds her that as a princess, she has a role to fulfill in her family and for her community; that a stable royal family will ensure peace. And that means Merida must comply with an arranged marriage. Merida is to marry whichever first-born heir of a great house wins her hand in a tournament. Merida is smart enough to recognize a loophole when she sees one in the fact that SHE gets to choose the contest that will decide her fate. As a first born heir herself, she naturally chooses her own best sport—archery—and makes a mockery of them all when she’s easily the best archer, shooting for her own hand (and supposed freedom).

The heads of Clan MacGuffin, Dingwall, & Macintosh
Add a hilarious sequence with a witch masquerading as a wood carver (voiced by Julie Walters), and Merida believes she’s found yet another loophole: a magic spell that will change her fate by changing her mother. The rest of the film has Merida fighting to change all back to the way it was. But we can never really return to the same, exact “square one” we left. A more mature Merida doesn’t look for loopholes anymore. She’s a princess worthy to lead a nation. I think you and your kids will enjoy this movie, though younger kids might find a ferocious bear fight a bit scary. And just between you and me, I fail to see what 3-D really adds to the experience. It doesn’t particularly help the narrative sequences. It only adds value to scenes of pure spectacle specifically designed to take advantage of its gimmickry. Brave is a stunningly beautiful story with heart; no gimmicks necessary.

No comments:

Post a Comment