Disney Pixar's "Brave" Wee Bit of Awesomeness
Country: United States
Release Date: June 22, 2012
Distributor: Disney * Pixar
· Mark Andrews
· Brenda Chapman
· Steve Purcell
· Billy Connolly
· Robbie Coltrane
· Kevin McKidd
· Craig Ferguson
· Kelly Macdonald
Movie Review: Brave
by Dennis Russo
Published: June 24, 2012
I am a Pixar junkie. Many of their animated movies are considered modern day classics and have become some of the best loved movies of all time. "Brave" promised to be another movie worthy of that lineage... and let me tell you laddie, it's a wee bit of awesomeness!
"Brave is the store of a Scottish Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) who is determined to make her own path in life. Her mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), has other plans for her. Being a Princess means that there are certain ways Merida has to act and certain duties she has to perform, such as getting married to a suitor. Determined to change her mother's mind "Merida" seeks the help of a sorceress that grants her one wish, which in typical Disney fashion backfires. Merida of course feels horrible for what she has done and she and her mother must work together to undo the curse that has befallen her mother. As they journey this path together the two become closer as they both realize they were both right and both wrong.
I went to see this movie expecting to be awed and I was. Not by the story, which is typical Disney family movie formula, or the voice-overs, which were okay, but by the sheer scale and gorgeousness of the animation. Don't misunderstand me, the movie was a lot of fun all the way around and I thoroughly enjoyed it all, but the animation just stole the show and overshadowed the other aspects of the movie for me, save one which I'll talk about further on.
There have been lots of animated movies made lately from other studios that were all good in their own right and animated very well -- some very, very well -- but "Brave" to me is Disney Pixar's way of saying, "Sit down, kids, and let Daddy show you how it's done."
I saw "Brave" in 3D, and being a self professed non-lover of 3D I was not eager to see this movie this way. However... OMG! This movie is why you should see a 3D movie. I am beginning to think that perhaps 3D is best suited for animation, because animation is by nature 2 dimensional, not 3 dimensional; whereas "real" things tend to look artificial to me in 3D, animation comes alive. The main human characters in this movie are some of the most refreshing conceptualizations of humans I have seen in a long time. They are visually hilarious to look at because of their 3 dimensionality (not to mention their dialog chock full of heavy Scottish accents and vernacular) and include King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connolly), Lord Dingwall (voiced by Robbie Coltrane), Lord MacGuffin (voiced by Kevin McKidd), and Lord Macintosh (voiced by Craig Ferguson). Their interactions with each other were so funny my jaw hurt from laughing so hard, even when I couldn't understand everything they were saying! (And they actually looked like McDonald's Kids Meals toys come to life.)
The 3D is not perfect -- there are some scenes where the characters are coming at you so fast, there is a blurriness to them that is less than enjoyable -- but for the most part... WOW! There is a particular scene I'll call out, where the etherealness of a Will-o-the-wisp was just hauntingly floating there between me and the characters on the screen. That was something to behold and almost defies description.
The beauty of the animation was most evident to me when we are shown birds eye views of Merida riding her draft horse Angus through the Scottish countryside. The level of detail and the pallet of colors and the warmth of the textures you see and almost feel is both breathtaking and spellbinding at the same time. Truly, more than once I thought for a moment that I was looking at real countryside shot through a camera lens. It is not just the far away shots, though, that establishes Pixar above the rest. There is a scene in which an archery even is taking place, where Merida is getting ready to loose her last arrow. She hears her mother shouting for her not to shoot the arrow because of the consequences it would have if it was a good shot. The scene of that last shot is shown close up, in slow motion as if shot with a high speed camera and slowed down. It is captured in such detail that every law of physics seems to be taken into account so that what would happen to that arrow as Merida's draw fingers let go, the arrow left the bow, traveled through the air, and struck the other arrow in the target she was aiming at -- every aspect and movement was captured and you miss nothing. It was almost too real for that do be done in animation, but it was, and it made my jaw drop and I heard many a "Wow" from other moviegoers as they watched that scene as well.
Then there is Merida's fabulous red hair that was always flowing and blowing in the wind. One scene in particular: as she is riding though the countryside at night, it is dark save for the light of a lantern that she is carrying to light her way. As the horse bounces her from side to side and jostles the lantern, the lantern lights her face and her hair against the black of night in way that reminded me of both Vermeer in the way her face lit up with the glow of the lantern, and Thomas Kinkade with the warm glow that her hair radiated from the same light. I can see it now as I write this as if I just saw it again a moment ago.
For drop dead realism though I was drawn (seems funny to use that word here) to a scene where Merida is in a stream fishing for salmon as her mother is learning to catch fish as she would "in her own way." It struck me out of the blue how real the water rushing down and over the rocks looked. I know I have said similar things in this review already, but I kid you not, you have to see it to believe it. Easily it could have been a scene from an Animal Planet documentary, especially when the scene took some serious turns.
Switching gears now I want to talk about the other aspect of the movie that I feel was every bit the animation's equal. All of this wonderful visualness, as great as it was, arguably would not have been as awesome without the equally beautiful, equally perfect score that accompanied this movie from start to finish. The original music is by Patrick Doyle and it was, as I said, perfect on every account. Sometimes it was just background music, other times it took a more forward presence when the scene called for it. I don't think there is another style of music that can capture such a range of emotions as Irish/Celtic music can. From the mournfulness and sorrow that can be evoked from a lone violin playing, where you can almost feel the pain as the hair of the bow draws across the strings and you sense the wood of the violin body as it strains to amplify the sound, to the quiet contentedness of a soft dirge played on a solo flute that echos as if it is coming from the very earth itself. Then just as easily these instruments can come together with a simple drum, can turn around and convey a sense of joy and happiness and lightness. Add to that mix a beautiful Scottish voice that sounds as you would think an angel would sound, and you feel as if you are actually in heaven. I might not ever purchase the movie when it comes out on DVD, but I will most assuredly purchase the soundtrack. Every time that I play it, each song will harken me back to a scene of splendid beauty where I will be able to recount all that went on and be transported to a land far away but yet as near as my imagination. That is how this movie will endure for me forever.
So yes, this movie will most undoubtedly become a classic -- and rightfully so. There may be some who would say that, except for the animation, it was nothing special; and if you look superficially at it, you can see where they might draw that conclusion. I've really tried not divulge too much of what went on in the movie. With this kind of story, a little information will spoil a lot of movie since it is not very deep. Instead of basing my review upon the story the movie told, I wanted to focus mostly on the life it was trying to convey. If you truly look at it as a whole and let yourself fall into the sheer beauty that is captured and conveyed by this work of art then you will be the better for it. I know I was.
One last parting comment, and this does not really concern the movie itself but (and they don't tell you this anywhere), there is an animated short at the beginning of the movie called "La Luna." It is about a boy, his father (who looks like the dad from "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs") and an old man out on the water waiting for the moon to rise so they can do their job. I watched it for several minutes before I finally realized it couldn't have anything to do with the movie. I kept trying to figure out how we were going to get to be in Scotland when it appeared we were off the coast of Italy. It was a cute short, but I feel it was unnecessary because between that and the previews the actual movie did not start until almost 20 minutes after it was supposed to. But it gives you time to hit the snack bar even if you arrive a little late.