*Disclaimer: I know some of my students read this blog so for now, I would like to warn you ahead of time that this post might include extremely harsh language.
Brave just wasn’t good. It just wasn’t. While it may have some interesting moments, they are too few and far apart. The pacing of the film felt tedious, and the tone was too inconsistent. I know Pixar films had the tendency to mix drama with comedy but the earlier films did that in order to cancel out the extremely dark and existential themes the earlier films had (specifically Up, and Toy Story 3).
But the moment when I completely stopped giving a toss about what was happening in the film was the moment when the filmmakers EXPLICITLY mentioned that the situation could be resolved by BREAKING TRADITION. WHAT. THE. F*CK?! Here we have a “Girl Power” piece of propaganda material in the guise of a children’s film. My goodness, what is wrong with you guys? I’ll admit that my personal views on gender roles is conservative at best. However, this “breaking tradition” crap with Brave just managed to push way too many angry buttons in my system for a couple of reasons.
Film is a VISUAL MEDIUM. You tell the story with a strong narrative and visual elements. This form of storytelling is not only sloppy or lazy, it’s PREACHY, and being preachy definitely a big no-no in art as the elements are supposed to bring the theme to life (which is why, despite the film going against my viewpoints, Brokeback Mountain and Shame are two well-made films). Being preachy is insulting NOT because you are imposing your morals upon me, but because you are insulting my intelligence.
Additionally, if you guys will be making a “breaking tradition”/”girl power” kind of story, you should have chosen a more fitting character than Merida. If anything, Merida is the WORST person imaginable to be the poster girl of a “girl power” propaganda piece because Merida is one of the most bratty, the most entitled b*tch I’ve even encountered in animation. There is nothing lovable about her. Fine, maybe the story was meant highlight that aspect of her, and it would’ve been a good move. Unfortunately, she had no growth of character. It wasn’t seen. Fine, it was mentioned EXPLICITLY in the portion when she was crying as she thought her mother would be a bear forever, but the growth wasn’t felt. It wasn’t like in Toy Story, Up, Wreck-It Ralph, or even Cars (supposedly Pixar‘s worst output). Woody and his gang grows up with every succeeding film. Wreck-It Ralph came to terms with his role as a bad guy. Lightning McQueen changed from the self-loving dick he was into a more selfless race car who gained the respect of the world when he helped the crashed race car finish the race (at the expense of coming in 3rd place). These characters grew up. We saw what they did on screen. They didn’t announce it out loud for the whole audience; they just did it. What did Merida do? Nothing. A few tears were shed, and a convenient ending narration summed it all up. That’s it.
The “breaking tradition” monologue actually did more harm for the film as it effectively deflated one of the most powerful characters in the movie; Queen Elinor. Yes, she’s a queen. Yes, she’s the one holding Merida back. Yes, she might seem stuck-up. But yes, she is one “strong woman character” I respected at least until the “breaking tradition” sequence. Remember the sequence when there was pandemonium in the castle, when the four clans were fighting each other? What did Elinor do? She stood up, walked towards her husband, and nobody, I mean NOBODY, laid a finger on her. The Scotsmen parted as she approached, and as she neared King Fergus, the fighting stopped (though one may argue that the males in the film were depicted more like buffoons, it’s one subject I’ll not touch for now). That is true power. She is a woman in authority. She understood the implications of Merida not marrying the firstborns of the other clans (again this was one portion not effectively highlighted due to sloppy story-telling). She herself had reservations when she married Fergus but what happened to her, she was a queen, an untouchable queen, and the Scotsmen would follow her every command. That is real power, not Merida saying, “I want to be in control of my destiny!” It takes a strong will to acknowledge one’s littleness in the universe, and that, at least before the “breaking tradition” scene, makes Elinor a respectable woman. And the fact that she goes back on her stance thanks to Merida taking control of her own destiny makes Merida’s character one of the most appalling characters in animated history, even more appalling than Malificent, Lotso, and Scar (the most bad-ass Disney villain ever).
Brave is not a disappointment; it’s a really bad movie. And I’m sorry, Pixar, but no amount of new technology can ever mask sloppy story-telling, tone inconsistencies, and an appalling protagonist.