After releasing its first real critical disappointment last year with Cars 2, Pixar did the smart thing and went back to original content. While Brave isn’t a top tier Pixar film it is a great rebound for the world’s most famous animation studio. It has the gorgeous animation and memorable characters that we have come to expect of Pixar. So while the direction isn’t all there, Brave is able to survive on what Pixar films do best.
Brave follows Merida (voiced by the perfectly casted Kelly Macdonald), the heir to the kingdom’s throne. Merida considers herself a warrior first and a princess second which comes to conflicts with her mother (who just wants to see her rule as well as she did). To say anything more would be ruining the miraculous job the film’s publicity team has done in keeping the film’s big surprise intact. It gives a huge leg up for a film that actually has some surprises that are worth saving. This is mostly due to a strong script from Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi and Steve Purcell. The writers made a smart choice in establishing two interesting characters to rest the entire film on so when they get into more challenging aspects of the film (such as trying establish the film’s multiple themes), they can rest the film on the two characters’ shoulders without worrying that any failed components would make it falter.
That is fortunate because the film is not without its issues. Upon researching the development of this film you will discover that there was a change in directors in the middle of filming. That is unfortunately clearly obvious in the final product as the direction is lacking. The film’s largest problem is that it has trouble finding what kind of film it wants to be. At times it wants to delve into the mythology of the land in which the film takes place. At other times it just wants to be a Disney Princess, and in some cases it strives to be something even greater. However, none of this really meshes together. The film starts with a tense opening and an establishment of the mythology that makes it seem like a kids version of Game of Thrones. So it is really out of place when a following scene has a sequence accompanied by a song that is straight out of Mulan. However, this is not the only problem with the direction. There are a few missed opportunities that it seems the script actually wanted to tackle. For instance, it seemed like the script wanted to include a “needle and threading” component to its action packed finale. This would have been an interesting addition to a female-led film. However, the film just breezes past in favor of a typical fight scene.
Despite this, I would still happily go back into the theater for a sequel. Merida is by far one of Pixar’s best characters. It’s just a shame that the story couldn’t live up to the quality of the character building because this could have been something great. Instead you will just have to settle for a solid addition to the Pixar library.