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Terry Malloy Thinks BRAVE Is Two Parts Disney, One Part Pixar. And The Blu-ray Is Fantastic!

Published at: Nov. 13, 2012, 8:57 a.m. CST

 

 

 

What’s up, Contenders? Terry Malloy here reporting live from the Waterfront.

 

I missed seeing BRAVE in theaters but it was a film I really wanted to see. I’m not the world’s biggest Pixar apologist, but I’ve seen all of their films not called CARS. And I happen to think WALL-E and UP are absolute masterpieces. So while I heard rumors that BRAVE wasn’t the greatest Pixar entry, that didn’t sway me from my desire to see the film. After all, there has ALWAYS been talk of Pixar falling from grace. That is the nature of being on top, and being the undisputed kings of animated feature films. Folks will always be predicting your inevitable fall.

 

So is BRAVE the film that signifies Pixar’s fall from perfection? Or does the one-two punch of CARS 2 and BRAVE really indicate that you should consider selling your stock in Pixar? As I said, I can’t comment on the CARS films because I have not seen them. But I will say BRAVE didn’t measure up to WALL-E or UP. And while I enjoyed BRAVE, I felt it had a palpable Disney feel to it that I found a little bit frustrating. 

 

BRAVE tells a story set in an universally lovable setting. In a brilliantly rendered medieval Scotland...

 

 

...Princess Merida finds herself on the verge of being betrothed to the most worthy suitor in the land. Her father, King Fergus, and mother Queen Elinor invite the lords of the various clans in their kingdom to present their eldest sons, who will compete for Merida’s hand. But Merida is unwieldy, fiercely independent, and wholly uninterested in being betrothed. 

 

 

Her conflict with her mother reaches a breaking point that sends Merida away from the castle, seeking a way to change her fate. 

 

I actually love everything about this set up. Merida is a wonderful character and a welcomed addition to the storied line of Disney princesses. As the movie opens, there is a pretty masterful pre-title sequence that introduces us to all of the important characters, introduces a supernatural element to the film as Merida encounters the mythical will-o’-the-wisps, and ultimately tantalizes us with an attack from the evil bear known as Mordu.

 

After the title sequence, there is a pretty awe-inspiring sequence that shows us Merida’s ideal picture of freedom. She takes a break from her “mother-enforced” studies and etiquette lessons and rides her horse Angus through the village and into the countryside. Merida is an ace archer and spends her ride shooting, climbing, bonding with her horse, and just generally being free-spirited. This montage is set to music and is, frankly, beautiful. By this point, we know everything we need to know about the world BRAVE is set in, and the characters that inhabit it.

 

And this is why I was so disappointed in the direction that the story goes in Act 2. I don’t want to full on spoil the story for those who haven’t seen it yet, but I’m going to get into some mild spoiler territory here. As Merida’s conflict with her mother reaches a boiling point, she once again escapes on horse back into the woods. But this time the will-o’-the-wisps lead her to a witch’s den, where she requests a spell that will change her fate. The story takes a decidedly supernatural turn at this point, and the hijinx feel so very Disney that I was a little taken aback. As witch’s spells are wont to do, this spell works to change Merida’s fate in a way that no one expected. And the complications of this spell are… quite odd. The spell impacts her mother Elinor...

 

 

...because the central conflict of the film is between these two characters. But the story just veers so far into the resolution of the witch’s spell that I was ultimately let down that the film never quite recaptured the potential scale and size of the epic opening. I would have loved to see Merida break out into the wider world and somehow learn the error of her ways through more of a traditional heroes quest, rather than simply having to clean up the impact of a messy spell. Frankly, I’m not sure the magical elements were necessary at all to tell a story about a royal family on the mend and a plucky princess whose determination changes the traditions of her kingdom.

 

So my issues with BRAVE come mostly from a story perspective. But aside from that, I found a lot to love in the film, and I do mean a lot.

 

The animation is breathtaking on a whole new level. I think it is the most beautiful computer animation I have ever seen. Merida’s hair alone, which was teased [see what I did there?] in all the promotional materials for the film, is incredible. Not only is the hair the most incredible computer animated hair ever yet conceived, but it perfectly encapsulates her character as well. The unkempt, wiry, flowing red locks tell us almost everything we need to know about Merida just from looking at her. But the entire animated whole of Scotland is brilliantly rendered by the Pixar team. Each character design is wonderful...

 

 

...the countryside and landscapes are breathtaking, and even smaller details like a tapestry that plays an important role in the film, as well as Merida’s horse Angus, are all visually miraculous. True marvels of technology and art converging.

 

But apart from the technical achievements, there are a number of implications that the film offers which I admire and feel are positive elements of the film, even if the story bore them out in a way much different than I would have liked to see.

 

First and foremost, and this has been noted by many before me; Merida is a great example of a strong female lead who never relies on a Prince Charming to save the day. Again, a fairly large spoiler warning here, but Merida does not end up with Prince at the end of this film. The whole symbolic victory that she achieves is to change the burgeoning culture of their kingdom so that young women have the right to choose who they will fall in love with and marry. And I love that the filmmakers didn’t need to tidily wrap that up with a love interest. I’m fairly confident that the day might come that Merida WOULD find a worthy equal, but BRAVE is bold enough to suggest that a woman’s entire purpose in life MAY not be to find the right man. And I applaud that.

 

I was also fairly fascinated by how patently non-Judeo-Christian this story really was. BRAVE tells a medieval tale that is totally removed from any hallmarks of the Judeo-Christian world. This isn’t inherently a good or a bad thing; but it is an intentional and interesting thing! As I was watching the movie, the notion that this was a wholly pagan film crossed my mind and wouldn’t leave. I kept wondering how parents and families around the country reacted to this element of BRAVE. But the film did quite well at the box office, without necessarily being a mega-hit. So I guess families didn’t need their film to reflect a specific, Judeo-Christian worldview. Yet as I thought this over, I realized that almost ALL of the Disney princess stories are built on a mythology of magic and spells. So in the end, I guess this pagan culture that is being depicted in BRAVE is just another addition to a long line of magical Disney princess stories. 

 

But the progressive example of a strong female lead who doesn’t need a man to save the day, combined with a worldview that is decidedly not Christian, just made me feel like BRAVE had a whole lot of unique things to say in the margins of its story. And I say all of that as someone who does identify as a Christian. So ultimately, while I feel that BRAVE felt a little too Disney for my tastes, it still advanced a new kind of Disney princess. I think BRAVE represents maybe a new template for what a Disney film can be, but it doesn’t reach the heights of creative and storytelling genius that many past Pixar entries have. I hope that Pixar can continue to tell their own stories and not be too heavily influenced by Disney’s past/baggage.

 

 

 

THE PACKAGE

 

 

Now, film review aside, the BRAVE Blu-ray package is simply outstanding. I love that Disney (who will almost certainly double dip this film at some point) released a definitive version of BRAVE right off the bat. This is a 5-disc release, which includes 3-D, Blu-ray, DVD, a Bonus features disc, and a digital copy disc. So basically every single format a red-blooded American family could possibly want. I know this isn’t unprecedented by any means, but I really like when big studio films are released this way. It means a lot to me as a consumer to know that each format is provided. I’ll always prefer Blu-ray, for instance, but if I ever wanted to play this at my parent’s house, or if my wife ever wanted to show this to her students at school, we’ve got a DVD copy that plays just about anywhere. I really appreciate that flexibility.

 

The discs are also pretty well packed! I don’t have 3-D capability, so I don’t know anything about that. And I don’t really mess around much with digital copies just yet. But the Blu-ray disc of the film looks mind-meltingly stunning, as I mentioned in my review. There are also a couple of dozen short behind the scenes featurettes that (because this is a technical marvel of a film) are actually quite engrossing. How DID they get Merida’s hair to look so incredible? They did WHAT to make that tapestry look like real fabric?!

 

And aside from all the technical stuff that the featurettes go into, you also get a commentary track and some features which show the artists travelling to Scotland and finding their inspirations for many of the visuals in the film. It is easy to see the beautiful finished product and realize the significance of this trip to Scotland that the Pixar people took in preparation for the film.

 

There is also a BRAVE-centric short film that builds on the mythology of the movie and offers a background for the villainous bear Mardu. And a non-BRAVE centric short film called LA LUNA that I found as charming as most Pixar shorts are.

 

There is no denying that this home video release of BRAVE is a spectacular addition to anyone’s Blu-ray library. Even if the film itself was a few steps shy of a masterpiece, it can’t be beat for computer animated splendor, and this disc covers everything I ever wanted to know about BRAVE and more. 

 

 

 

And I’m Out.

 

 

 

Terry Malloy AKA Ed Travis

 

 

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-- screenshots via Blu-ray.com -- 

Readers Talkback

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  • Nov. 13, 2012, 9 a.m. CST

    first!!

    by jpwishbone

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 9:03 a.m. CST

    very astute comment about the paganization of Hollywood...

    by cozy

    If this is the first you've realized it, I don't know where you have been living.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 9:12 a.m. CST

    One of my top Pixar movies

    by Cactus228

    I really loved this movie. The setting, characters, action, and emotions all put it in my current top 5 for Pixar movies. Wall-e, Nemo, Up, Toy Story 3, Brave.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 9:19 a.m. CST

    NO RED SPOILERS ALERT?

    by Michael Thompson

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 9:25 a.m. CST

    Paganisation of Hollywood - Pure bullshit.

    by SminkyPinky

    It shouldn't matter about that. What matters is good stories about human beings, regardless of their faith. And if some films that enter non-Judaic-Christianity that by no means that your own religion is under threat, just that there are many ways of expressing the human story. To claim that Hollywood movies are undergoing a Paganisation firstly assumes that they are Christian in origin, which is false - do your film history. Secondly, it demonstrates a fear on the Other and a belief that anything other than your own beliefs will sweep it all away given half a chance, which is pathetic in a faith that I was always taught was about tolerance and understanding. For the record, I'm not pagan; I just cannot stand US Christian hypocrasy. On the other hand, I was glad to see a movie set in my home with a pretty much all Scot cast, Julie Walters and Ratzenberger (Emma Thomson is half Scots).

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 9:25 a.m. CST

    That was not aimed at Malloy.

    by SminkyPinky

    Nice review.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 9:53 a.m. CST

    "In a brilliantly rendered..." That first pic is what's wrong

    by Bedknobs and Boomsticks

    with big screen animation, these days. I want to see a cartoon; dazzle me with visuals a la the better parts of The Thief and the Cobbler, or Samurai Jack. I don't want to see mainstream video game cut scenes attempting to fake reality. Just point a camera at a real landscape if you want that.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 10:11 a.m. CST

    Brave > Wall-E.

    by impetus

    FACT.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 10:33 a.m. CST

    It's a gorgeous but completely stupid film.

    by CatVutt

    It's really a mess from a story standpoint. Great set-up, complete fuck-up in execution thereafter. Our heroine does absolutely NOTHING of note after the initial rebellion but deliver pastry. Everything thereafter is all slapstick and drudgery. A real waste of everyone's time and talents.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 10:54 a.m. CST

    Happened to stumble upon my son watching Brother Bear

    by Big_Daddy_Nero

    ..around about the time we had just seen Brave, and I was struck by the similarities. The bear characterizations were similar, and the themes were.. in the ballpark. Made me wonder if any of the Disney suits who worked on Brother Bear were also responsible for Brave.. at the very least, somebody over there in Disneyville really loves 'em some bears.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 11:11 a.m. CST

    Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them. Girlz rule.

    by Raptor Jesus

    It's possible to make a movie with a female hero without trashing men. This is not that movie.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 11:34 a.m. CST

    wtf? no love for Cars?

    by mcgillj

    :At the time and still BEAUTIFULLY rendered highway scapes.. the flowing water.. ok talking Cars kinda silly with a bad sequel (but kudos for casting Turturro, Campbell and Caine). But the first film may not be very deep but a good for ALL ages fish out of water tale.. an egonaniac learns that being career driven isn't everything and a wonderfully eclectic ensemble cast. Owen Wilson who was fitting.. but throw in Paul Newman, Katherine Helmond, Cheech Marin and Tony Shalhoub as a snotty tire salesman. The beautiful renrer of Radiator Springs at night.. and even the NASCAR stunt casting is fun.. Seriously. Give the first a spin.. its not great but at least on par with A Bug's Life at the less depth filled but funnily sweet entries.. and even the worst of Pixar, Cars 2 excepted, stand tall among the animated features of any other studio.. and the Tokyo setting of Cars 2 is amazing.. just too bad the rest of it wasn't.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 11:38 a.m. CST

    ps..

    by mcgillj

    Damn.. no edit.. how could I forget in Cars the irrepressible George Carlin and R. Lee Ermey riffing on his image yet again.. and Jeremy Piven playing a family friendly Ari Gold.. and no Pixar is complete without a drop in from Mr know it all himself John Ratzenberger.. It is not a deep film.. but sweet. And emotionally honest almost wistful in its nostalgia.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 11:57 a.m. CST

    Mcgillj

    by smatt584

    R. Lee Ermey wasn't a voice in cars

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 12:21 p.m. CST

    I still say the chick looks like a Cabbage Patch Kid

    by FeralAngel

    Haven't seen Brave, have no desire to. Looks ugly.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 12:47 p.m. CST

    Brave is still the most racist film since Song of the South

    by tailhook

    Nothing will change that fact. The whole Scottish Slapstick stuff was abhorrent. It was like watching a bad satire of Braveheart. It doesn't even start to have even the feel of a Pixar film until the mother changes into a bear.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 12:50 p.m. CST

    Oh.. and comparing Brave to Wall-E...

    by tailhook

    HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!@#!!!!@!!!!!!@#!@! Wall-E is a masterpiece. Brave is just garbage for tween girls and really not much different than any of the garbage Dreamworks or the other animation crews put out.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 1:03 p.m. CST

    @tailhook Way to spoil it..

    by Lao_Che_Air_Freight

    Cmon dude, the post doesnt have a red box, so maybe a little warning there next time?

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 1:13 p.m. CST

    Great review, Terry

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Its how I feel about the film. I am an unshamed Pixar nut (Cars excluded), and this may be their weakest entry apart from Cars. Also, I am not a Finding Nemo huge fan. The 1,2,3 of Rattattouille, WALL:E, and Up are some of the best films ever made. However, even though Brave is not, by far, the best Pixar ever, it is however, fucking stunning! Pixars failures rule supreme over most other films, animated or not. It is just gorgeous to look at, and although it did not grab me for 100% of the time, it did for a good 75%. Which for a batting average is pretty damn good. The bear sneaking up the stairs was comedy gold, and frankly the triplets deserve their own film. Average Pixar film, aka a great film.

  • Cars 2 was horrible. Brave was far better but still a dud for Pixar standards IMO. Very weak, story that is all been there and done that a million times over. Needed far more mother-daughter relationship building and bonding and less goofy stupid fighting and men acting silly. Just didn't work for me. Looked amazing though. I have complete faith in Pixar and Monsters University looks like a riot.

  • But the first Cars was creative and a lot of fun. It was all Doc Hollywood storyline but it was done great and very creatively. Cars 2 just blew.

  • It's frustrating that in this series of pixar sequels Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Monsters U - that the one new story is this boring. Pixar needs to learn from Disney Animation Studios and realize that animated sequels should only exist as direct-to-dvd. Time keeps ticking away from when we had Up and Wall-E ... or even Ratatouie.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 1:54 p.m. CST

    Very middle-of-the-road Pixar

    by Plathismo

    ...which puts it at the bottom of their ouevre. And if I see one more animated film in which a female character is straining against the bonds of domesticity and social obligation, yearning to be free and find her own destiny...I will set fire to the screen. It is a deadly cliche by this point.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 3:03 p.m. CST

    I hate the hair for some reason

    by PlayerHater_of_the_year

    It bugs me and I don't know why. Whats worse is they probably had a team of about 20 people dedicated to it alone. I don't mind gingers or red hair in real life but for some reason when I see the trailers for this movie It makes me kind of sick and I hate it and I hate that character. Strange. I'm sure its a fine movie regardless.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 3:16 p.m. CST

    Something inside Pixar DIED after Toy Story 3

    by Ricardo

    And it aint coming back again

  • Cars was a lot of fun, but it's too true that Cars 2 blew. <BR> My biggest complaint with Pixar is that they really overdo the violence sometimes. Personally, when I take little kids to the movies, I don't need them to be seeing psychotic senior citizens rampaging around with shot-guns (Up, Ratatouille), nightmare-inducing packs of vicious dogs (Up) or out-and-out Bay-style war porn (Cars 2, and, at times, although really well directed, The Incredibles). <BR> Strangely, Brave was the first of Pixar's movies that no one in my family wanted to see. I suppose we'll check it out on video eventually, but not out of any real interest in seeing it. <BR> It's interesting that Tangled, Disney's 50th animated feature, turned out to be such a well-reviewed perfect-for-what-it-is flick, whereas Pixar's releases haven't held the mantel since Toy Story 3. Monsters U doesn't look to buck the trends toward middling efforts and sequelitis either, but they do have some really interesting things in development (besides Nemo 2).

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 4:01 p.m. CST

    I mean "Sarge" not "Searge"

    by animatronicmojo

    My kingdom for an edit button, fer crissakes.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 4:15 p.m. CST

    my apologies..

    by mcgillj

    my apologies.. and thanks for the correction. Guess I always assumed he was played by Ermey.. lol So.. I shall take a black mark on my geek card for the one. But I still stand by what I said regarding Cars fun flick. It may not be up to Pixar standards, but I would take it far far and above some of their more recent efforts. Sadly Wreck it Ralph stands TALL above the last 2 Pixar duds in my book.. and I had and still have zero interest in "Brave". Billy Connolly would be my only reservation but he just ain't enough to justify even the rental. Disney animation is doing much better the last couple years, and "Tangled" turned out surprisingly great. I am/was a huge "Chuck" nerd so I dragged a friend along to see it. Both single dudes in our early 30s at the time, ok.. a bit weird, I admit. But I enjoyed it still. Let's hope Pixar can really get their house back in order. And I HOPE Monster U is at least a worthy sequel, like TS3 but its definitely not looking that way. Funny? probably, but it couldn't be an improvement I don't think. and Cars 2.. some great renderings and fun voice casting aside.. the less said about it all the better.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 4:21 p.m. CST

    Ricarleite4. Two words, Joe Ranft :(

    by Farrokh

    I know he died a bit before Toy Story 3, but PIXAR hasn't been the same since.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 7:21 p.m. CST

    Female Director of Pixar's 'Brave' on Being Replaced by a Man: 'It Was Devastating'

    by sasquatch_with_a_swatch_watch

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/female-director-pixar-brave-brenda-chapman-362772

  • http://monsterama.blogspot.com/2006/01/monsters-ick.html

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 7:26 p.m. CST

    Let's be honest about animation in 2012 for one fucking second people.

    by sasquatch_with_a_swatch_watch

    Sofia’s best friend is a rabbit named Clover who is voiced by Wayne Brady! This is your Disney- http://www.disneydreaming.com/2012/09/20/disney-juniors-sofia-the-first-once-upon-a-princess-movie-will-premiere-on-november-18-2012/

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 7:38 p.m. CST

    I wonder what 'Newt' would have been like?

    by Avon

    From the concepts it felt more in the Ratatouille vein to me.. more classically Pixar. I wonder if Pixar are losing their taste?

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 7:47 p.m. CST

    The Thief and the Cobbler, or Samurai Jack

    by sasquatch_with_a_swatch_watch

    Now wouldn't THAT be nice. Sadly, even Genndy Tartosky has sold out to the CGI industry, and the last I checked Richard Williams was making money teaching CGI artists how to better 'fake reality' Thief and the Cobbler is fucking ART. Hollywood is cheating people with infantile video game corn syrup ready-made for Working Moms And Their Families.

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 7:50 p.m. CST

    Also, I can't believe how much this headline is total propagandist swill.

    by sasquatch_with_a_swatch_watch

    How much $ did AICN clear from Disney this month?

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 8:33 p.m. CST

    Wall-E was fucking awesome. the animation and story was top notch!

    by Norman Colson

    WTF y'all dudes smoking!!!

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 8:50 p.m. CST

    Dar1980

    by smatt584

    Ranft's bio is pretty impressive. Do you know that he designed the monster kids in the Nightmare Before Christmas?

  • Nov. 13, 2012, 9:29 p.m. CST

    Another thumbs-up for Cars 1

    by tbrosz

    Haven't seen the second one yet, but the first film is a hymn to the old-time open highway, Route 66, and there's some real emotion there. Raised a lot of memories of travels when I was a kid, and there were real places like Radiator Springs and a Holiday Inn with a pool at the end of every day.

  • Nov. 14, 2012, 1:05 a.m. CST

    The body Disney rejects the Pixar DNA

    by sasquatch_with_a_swatch_watch

    no talking potatoes in the Magic Kingdom

  • Nov. 14, 2012, 1:36 a.m. CST

    Brave was simply unwatchable. VERY annoying girl.

    by Flip63Hole

    Never made it past the first 30 minutes before I left. Easily the most irritating movie I've seen in a long while (though Prometheus, Dark Knight Rises were pretty bad, too). I don't think I'll be bothering with any more Pixar titles in the near future.

  • Nov. 14, 2012, 10:30 a.m. CST

    Hate to say it

    by smatt584

    Although I thought Brave was a good movie with great first and third acts, I thought the second act had way too much preschool slapstick to push it above average. Wreck-It Ralph had some preschool humor, but made out much better and turned out surprisingly great (anyone else see "Aerith Lives" spray painted on the entrance to the station when they came back from Pac Man?)