BD Review: Brave

Feminism Film & TV
BD Review: Brave

Part of me always feels so foolish when I review a Pixar movie. I make a point to talk about how fabulous the feature is, how much fun the bonuses tend to be (I’m a sucker for a cute short), and how advanced the animation is, but the whole time I keep thinking to myself, “You know, you could just write…hey this is Pixar. Just buy the damn thing. Trust me, it’s worth it.”

Brave should continue the tradition of offering a strong princess for girls of today to look up to in times of need. Merida seems strong, self-assured, and like she knows what she wants. She’s a tough cookie, which makes plenty of sense when you look at her family and her upbringing. As the first Pixar feature to be directed by a woman you would expect that a strong story for women would be told. However, that is not necessarily the case.

Brenda Chapman the female director of Brave actually did not direct the entire movie. Halfway through the movie, Chapman was fired for creative differences and was replaced with Mark Andrews. This provides a movie that feels somewhat disjointed; as if there were two stories being told, or rather two different directors telling the story.

So, regardless of the change in directors, how does Merida stack up in the princess game? Not well. I don’t think feminists will see this and start waving their female flag high. Sure, Merida shows us that women shouldn’t have to depend on marriage and that we can lead our own lives. On the other hand, this alone does not make her a strong female. In fact, the strength I long to see in a female “princess” doesn’t exist in this movie.

Instead, what is available is a princess that is headstrong, but also stubbornly obstinate. She only cares about riding her horse and shooting her arrows. She doesn’t want to grow up and cares not for tradition. Worst of all, she is willing to do anything at all, resorting to the lowest of means, just to try and get her way. Meanwhile, Queen Elinor, while offering some semblance of female grace, proves to be the more dominant leader of the house and practically emasculates the men in the film altogether. For King Fergus being a big strong man, they also make him simple-minded, stereotypical, and weak when it comes to his own relationship with his wife. It’s hard to imagine him running a kingdom when his chief goal in life is telling stories and smashing things up.

Brave Merida

On a basic level, Merida shows us that there is more to life than marriage. This is true. However, the lengths of which she is willing to go to avoid marriage is too far. Furthermore, the ability for the King to throw out tradition so easily, in order to continue having a smash and grab party is a little disconcerting. Naturally, most of these things aren’t things your young child is going to notice. As an adult that generally enjoys Pixar films, I feel they dropped the ball on Brave. If you have young children, you might feel differently.

Merida is a princess that does not act like other princesses. She was raised by her father to be rather free-spirited. Given a bow at a young age, Merida became skilled at archery and took delight in going for long rides on her horse. Her mother, Queen Elinor has attempted to teach Merida what it will mean to become a future queen, but when the time comes for her to marry, Merida wants none of it.

Blaming her mother, Merida’s relationship with Queen Elinor becomes increasingly tense. Merida and her father, King Fergus seem to understand one another, though. He appreciates her zest for life and cares not for the formalities of royalty. However, the Queen is attempting to raise a proper princess, which proves harder to do in the case of Merida and her strong-willed ways. The two constantly butt heads, later regretting most of their behavior, but always unwilling to be the first to extend the olive branch.

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When the four kingdoms come together in a celebration for Merida’s hand, she vows to make sure that she decides when it is time for her to marry. Running off into the night, Merida comes upon a witch that helps to change her fate. However, magic comes with a price and instead of forging her own path, she instead has to find a way to prove her bravery and save her mother from unnecessary harm.

Audio/Visual:
Leaving any story based plot holes or issues behind, we do need to take into account that this is a Pixar film. Even if there are issues, you generally aren’t going to find them in the area of sound and picture. Brave is visually stunning. I made a point to watch the DVD before comparing it to the Blu-ray version and for a while during watching, it was hard to imagine that the image could get any better than I was seeing on the DVD. With a 2.39:1 aspect ratio and a pristine picture there is truly little to complain about. The blacks are strong and the colors are good. Pixar might have failed in the story department, but the visual quality is spot on, as usual.

Brave

A strong audio presentation is offered throughout on both the DVD and the Blu-ray. Levels are normalized well and nothing over powers the other sound elements. The sound layering provides a decent amount of depth for the environment, which I was happy to hear. All in all, everything sounded good. In addition to the standard Dolby 7.1 and the Dolby 5.1 TrueHD versions, Pixar has also thrown in English 2.0, French 7.1 and 5.1 and Spanish 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are also available for all listed languages, along with English for the Hard of Hearing, which tends to be a tad more accurate.

Bonus Features:
So many features! Seriously, I don’t recall seeing this many features since probably the last Pixar film that I watched. It’s crazy how many there are and yet at the same time, this is what you expect from Pixar. Some of these are amazing and some are just alright, but if you’re a fan of the movie you will see that there are more good features here than there are bad.

The following features all appear on the Blu-ray. In fact, there are so many features that the movie and some features are on one disc and there is another Blu-ray that is specifically for additional features.

“La Luna”: This is the adorable short that appeared alongside Brave in the theaters. The short, which I actually liked more than the movie, is about three generations of men, a young boy, his dad, and his grandfather working together at the family business.

“The Legend of Mor’du”: The second short in the special features bundle gives fans of the movie a chance to learn more about Mordu. The short delves into his history and is told by the witch that helped to change his fate.

“Brave Old World”: This feature allows fans to learn about Scotland with the production crew. Topics include the land, culture, and dialects among other things. Emma Thompson also weighs in on Scotland, which makes sense because that is where she is from.

“Merida & Elinor”: Showing the mother/daughter relationship, this feature discusses all of the little nuances that went into making these two characters. This feature touches on everything from hair styles to the design of the characters.

“Bears”: This is all about the design and art behind the bears that appear in the movie. As every bear needed its own approach and style in order to turn out correctly this is somewhat interesting if you’re into art.

“Brawl in the Hall”: This deals with the rambunctious, fighting Scotsman that you see in the film. Done in animation, of course, this looks at the art and what it took to create a scene that was funny but testosterone filled all at the same time while making it as realistic as possible for this animated setting.

“Wonder Moss”: Fans of Brave get to explore how the artists looked to the actual Scottish countryside to build the Scotland that you see in the movie.

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“Magic”: Learn about the legends of Scotland in this quaint feature. Some of the focus points here are magic and the will o’ the wisps.

“Clan Pixar”: The Pixar team talks about getting into the spirit of the movie. In this cheesy feature you learn about how the team ate haggis, wore kilts on Friday, and read Scottish poetry.

“Once Upon a Scene”: Here you get a chance to see an alternative opening of Brave and some deleted scenes that never made it into the film.

“Extended Scenes”: Naturally, these are scenes that are longer than the ones you’ve seen in the movie. Along with the extended scenes is some footage of the director (Mark Andrews) explaining why some of the scenes were cut down and how he chose the scenes that would be cut.

“Director Commentary”: I have to admit that I have never been a fan of director commentaries unless it’s a classic movie or a movie that I am absolutely in love with. Like the majority of commentaries that I have listened to there are good points and more boring ones here. All in all this was nothing to write home about.

On the second disc you receive:

“Fergus & Mor’du: An Alternative Opening”: Narrated by the director, this feature gives fans a chance to see the original opening of the film that was eventually changed into the opening that actually plays at the beginning of the film.

“Fallen Warriors Montage”: These deleted shots were cut from the film towards the end of production. They are shown by the director in video montage format.

“Dirty Hairy People”: This humorous feature discusses the making of the Scots in the film. Things like hair design, attire, and the physical body structure are discussed.

“It is English…Sort of”: In case you had any question of what some of the things meant in the film, this will help clear up some of the more Scottish phrases and dialects.

Brave

“Angus”: This allows fans to take a closer look at Angus, Merida’s horse.

“The Tapestry”: If you have any questions about the emblem on the tapestry in the film, this will clear it up for you.

“Promotional Pieces”: Here you have promo clips of Brave. The clips include “Feast Yer Eyes,” “Relics,” “Clan DunBroch,” and “Launch.”

“Art Gallery”: The title says it all. This is a selection of art from the creation of the film.

“Wee Gaffes”: This shows you all of the animation and shot bloopers.

“Renaissance Animation Man”: This deals with Mark Andrews and shows off his love of Scotland and its culture.

Also included are teasers and sneak peeks for upcoming films, trailers, the DVD and a digital copy of the film.

Bottom Line:
While I am of the firm belief that every Pixar film should be watched, I am up in the air on whether or not you need to own Brave. Kids will enjoy this without a doubt. If you’re an adult fan of Pixar, as I am, it ended up leaving a sour taste in my mouth. I wanted to enjoy it but in truth, I really didn’t like that much about it. Hopefully your experience will be better.

Ashtyn Law is a freelance writer living in Ohio. Focusing on film, she spends much of her days watching and analyzing film and television and also writing screenplays.

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