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Flapperdoodle's Gaming Blog Ep. 90: Brave Review

6/30/12 2:16pm
tl;dr

The first 30 minutes of Brave are some of the greatest 30 minutes of any animated movie I have ever seen. Honestly, they are amazing. Sadly, the movie has one twist, this one fatal twist, that sadly  ruins the entire film. It is so out of place and so against the entire tone of the movie, that the movie's quality shifts from amazing, to pretty good. The comedy becomes inconsistent and reliant on slapstick, and the movie's ending isn't well explained. Even so, the animation is gorgeous, the voice acting is top-notch, and story at times can be extremely clever. Brave, while not Pixar's strongest, is for sure worth the price of admission.

Dear Readers,

This Summer, I have made a resolution of sorts to try to see more movies. I have been doing my best to see more movies so that I become more well-rounded in critiquing as well as more knowledgeable on movies of today and such. Even with that resolution in mind, I always look forward to Pixar fillms, no matter what. But after Cars 2, Pixar seemed to lower the bar of quality. So, when I saw the first few trailers for Brave, I had some speculation, but it seemed like a good movie. So, how did it turn out? Let's find out.

    

Pixar has had a fantastic track run. Ever since Toy Story and A Bug's Life, Pixar has made million after million after million engaging audiences of all ages with their ideas and creativity, taking us to worlds that we've never discovered before. With each movie, they land #1 at the box office, and many of their films are seen as classics, including well known films such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monster's Inc., and Wall-E. With such fantastic films, you'd think they would never stop, or have a bar lowered. But then, in 2011, Cars 2 hit theaters, and for, what it seemed to be the first time, critics weren't enjoying a Pixar film, even with the large fanbase the Cars franchise has. Many fans of Pixar as well cried foul at the movie, calling it not up to Pixar standards. Pixar needed a comeback, and what we get is Brave. A film set in Scotland, with the main character being a girl who wants to "change her fate". The movie was obviously building up to something big, but the trailers wouldn't reveal anything. With that strategic move in mind, a lot of speculation has been put upon Brave. So, can it actually sustain itself with Pixar's other hits? We'll have to see...

Brave Review

Kelly Macdonald as Merida, being guided by a Will-o the Wisp to her fate, in Brave

Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is a Scottish teenager living in Scotland. She is the daughter of Lord Fergus (voiced by Billy Connolly) and Lady Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), and she is the princess of their land. She also lives with her mischievous triplet brothers. She is soon to be married to one of the eldest sons of the three other tribes, but Merida is against being married. She prefers to ride her horse through the forest and practice her archery and explore new lands. As you can imagine, Merida and her mother constantly argue, but one day, their argument went to far, and causes Merida to flee from the kingdom, wanting to "change her fate". After being guided by wisps to a witch's hut, a Witch (played by Julie Walters) gives her the option to truly change her fate by affecting her mother. She ends up going through with it, but like all times this ever happens in a film, the attempt goes horribly wrong, causing a shocking event between Merida and her mother. After learning this event is permanent by the second sunrise, Merida must make things right and fix this event, before her life is changed forever. Along the way, she'll learn the consequences of changing her fate, and she will learn what it means to listen, and thinking before doing.

It is such a shame that I can't call Brave one of Pixar's best, because it truthfully isn't. Even with the grade I am about to give, you can find much more memorability in other Pixar classics such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Up. Brave is nothing bad, believe me, it's a very good film. The problem is Brave makes one MAJOR flaw, thus causing it to fall apart as it moves along… and what's worse, is that the first 30 minutes of this film are absolutely amazing.

Billy Connolly as Lord Fergus, shooting an arrow to show his strength to his fellow tribes.

No, I'm not joking. The first 30 minutes of Brave are some of the best first 30 minutes in any Pixar film to date. I was getting into it, I was laughing, I was caring about the characters, I was taking in all the amazing imagery, and most of all, I was smiling. So much so I couldn't STOP smiling. That is what every Pixar movie should start off like, and this movie does just that with flying colors. Everything is executed to near perfection, and it honestly had me hooked 100%. This was the only time in the movie where the charm was there, the characters were there, the comedy was there, everything synced up together to make it feel like a typical Pixar movie. I swear, the ticket price of this movie is worth the first 30 minutes. It gets so many things right, and that was all it needed to surpass Cars and Cars 2. The animation was so stunning, the characters were so well realized, and the comedy was very consistent. Honestly, the first act of this film is some of Pixar's best work… ever.

But then… the twist happens. Now, as a good critic, I am not going to spoil what happens exactly, but I am going to do my best to explain how much it truly affected the movie. The movie was doing so well, and the first act truly made you think that this so called "twist" was going to truly change the character and make her go through a truly dramatic, revealing, yet needed change. She was gonna learn a life lesson the hard way. The only problem is, that the twist is so out of place, that it takes away any maturity the movie had, as well as turning the movie completely upside down. I became angry, truthfully, because the twist is, quite frankly, a big twist, but in the worst possible way. And once the twist happened, the movie started to just fall apart. The comedy started to become much less about the characters, and more so on slapstick and childish humor. The story became less exciting, and more so a cliche and very dumb romp. Everything about the movie, even the animation, just started to fall in quality. It wasn't the perfect movie the first 30 minutes build it up to be, and it becomes very disappointing… and that sucks, because the movie isn't bad at all.

Emma Thompson as Queen Elinor and Billy Connolly as Lord Fergus, discussing Merida.

For one, the animation is STUNNING, and nearly passes How to Train Your Dragon levels, a movie that set the standards for animation, from another company. The animation, honestly, does stay constantly beautiful and glorious. The characters look fantastic, the scenery is gorgeous, making Scotland look much better than it actually looks, but then again, I can't judge. There are some great water effects, and there are some very good looking forests there as well. There are some mystical elements in the movie as well that really shine through the movie, and surprisingly fit very well to. Even though the awesomeness of the animation kinda wears off after the twist, it still works well, and it is the one consistent thing in this movie to keep you interested. Another big positive of the movie is the characters, with many of them being very likable. Characters like the three triplets, the father, and even the suitors and the three kings become very funny and very well done. Plus, you really do care about Merida as the movie goes on, and while you don't exactly SYMPATHIZE with her, you do hope she gets what she wants in the end, which she obviously does.

A view of the amazing animation, and Pixar's interpretation of Scotland in Brave.

As for the comedy in Brave, at first, it was going very well. The comedy was truly coming from the characters, not the actions specifically. I was laughing at the interactions and the subtle things in there. Then, the twist happened, and the comedy started to fall flat. It wasn't a truly steep downhill slope, and sometimes the movie did make me laugh truthfully, but it was nowhere near as consistent as it should've been. Many jokes fell flat mainly because of their slapstick and silly nature. I like slapstick, but when it is overused to an extent, it gets dumb, and Brave apparently didn't see this coming, as it at times piles it on you. Some of the comedy does work, but a lot of it doesn't, causing you to feel annoyed at times. The other flaw with Brave, besides the twist, was the lackluster and odd ending. Not only is the ending predictable and cliche, but it also is confusing, as it doesn't truly make sense. I found myself questioning how Merida's actions caused the ending. I guess the best way to explain it is that they didn't explain it well enough. That is a minor gripe, but I feel it is worth mentioning.

Thankfully, the movie is able to recover after the twist plot-wise. The plot actually starts to become very creative and interesting, and was able to tie in lots of elements. There's some very interesting backstories being thrown around, and there were legends added, and in the end, everything was seamlessly stitched together. It was quite shocking how they did it, and even now I can't describe how they truly did it. They were able to not only take the backstories of Merida, but also the backstories of characters we don't know, and make them both fit together in different ways. I'm not gonna elaborate on it too much so I don't end up spoiling something, but seriously, good stuff. Plus, there are some other good plot elements in there as well, and you'll know them when you see them. The movie is also able to recover thanks to some very well animated action, with one fight in particular that I really liked to watch, and with the typical things animated movies excel at; the voice acting is superb, and animation is great, the movie oozes of personality, and there's some true drama in there, while also having some heart in it as well.

Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, and Kelly Macdonald as the family in Brave.

Brave is not Pixar's finest, and it doesn't stack up with movies such as Toy Story, Wall-E, and Up. However, it doesn't stoop to Cars or Cars 2, and it does do a very good job of being a solid animated film. The animation is beautiful, the characters are likable, the plot is actually clever once the second act kicks in, the voice acting is pure gold, the character models look very realistic, and of course, the first 30 minutes of this movie are nearly perfect. However, the movie has flaws, with the biggest one being the twist, which doesn't fit the movie at all, and causes another flaw being the comedy falling apart and becoming slapstick and silliness. Add that to a sorta very unexplained ending, and you have a solid yet flawed film. The first 30 minutes and the stunning animation is worth the ticket price, but JUST enough. That being said, my final grade for Brave is a:

8.5/10: Really Good

It is worth seeing, whether you have an obligation to see Pixar films or not. It has flaws, it isn't Pixar's best, but it is worth watching at least once. See you guys later.

- Larry :)

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