If You Had a Chance to Change Your Fate ... Would You?

Brave (2012)
A Review by Ben Hunter
4 Out of 5 Stars
June 22, 2012

Freedom, it’s what we all want.  The free will to do what we please and to live how we want.  But more importantly, we want the free mindset that unlocks us from what’s keeping us from true happiness.  If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?  But the question is, do you have what it takes to dig deep and find out what it takes to pay the price your freedom will cost? 
“The ancients spoke of it. It is the heart of this fierce land.  It is carried in the wind. Born of our legends and when we are put to the test, it is the one thing that we must always be.”


Animatedly set in mystical Scotland, where everyone has a Scottish accent, kilts are everywhere, and bag pipes are played about as regular as a Katy Perry song on pop radio today; we follow Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) & Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).  As the princess, Merida is in training to become the next queen so her mother is in constant upbringing of this task, telling her how to sit, how to conduct herself while dining, how to dress, and overall how to be like royalty; with all of Merida's long, flowing, crinkly, red locks (LOVED those things!).  This drives Merida crazy and she can’t take all this proper behavior.  All she wants is to practice her archery with her bow that her father gave her when she was very little.

Blinded by her desperation to change her fate, Merida almost brings ruin to her family name and she must dig deep to find the bravery to make things right and discover what it means to grow and uncover what she truly seeks in life. 

Pixar has done it again!  They don’t just make “cartoons for kids”, they make Oscar quality, fun, entertaining, well-written stories, for the entire family!  This is no different with Brave.  Mind you, it’s not Pixar’s absolute best work compared to some of their works of art such as The Incredibles, Toy Story 3 and Wall-E.  Competition for top status in animation will be close this year and not a hands down decision like it always is for Pixar (with the exception of their first complete failure last year with Cars 2).  Maybe I feel this way because there were so many hands in this script, and THREE directors!  Nonetheless, Brave is a thrilling tale of courage, true freedom to live your life, but realizing with that freedom, comes responsibility and love for those close to you in your life to share what you’ve fought for.  So it’s got a great message, but I didn’t see that message in the absolute perfect way that Pixar always delivers … but it was still really good; to put the “good” of this film in proper perspective.

I really loved the authenticity of the Scottish culture, right down to the last syllable in every sentence spoken.  The movie seemed to focus on the concept of family and keeping your family close, not pushing away to do what it is that you want to do with your life.  I can truly attest to this, so I can see why I was so moved by the beauty and the poeticism that the ending amazingly portrays.  It’s such a heart-felt moment that’s built up quite nicely by the ascending acts of the story.

I would’ve liked this story to portray the archery as more of a vital role in the success or failure of what took place throughout.  As major character in how this story is going to play out.  What I got from this was that the archery played a nice role, but it wasn’t crucial.  It was just a way for Merida to lash out in the competition scene that the trailer makes a big deal of.  It was a nice side character to add when Merida is fighting off evil in the woods, but to have it as a major plot point, for instance if she killed something in the woods because of her archery, which rippled into another major, plot point at home or somewhere.  It was just good icing on the cake, but not the meat & potatoes of what makes the cake, so I felt partially satisfied with it.

Which leads to how I thought this film was more of an adventure for Merida outside of her castle and home.  I thought she’d be out in the wild fighting off monsters and such, shooting her bow and having this amazing adventure away from her castle and in all these different atmospheres, like Rapunzel did.  But I guess that’s just marketing for you.  The story I received was still good, just not what I expected.  Rapunzel was locked away so it made sense for EVERYTHING to be a different atmosphere.  Merida wasn’t locked away but she did want her freedom from all this royalty and family business.  However, this was the very essence of the story, so I’m not disappointed entirely by this, but still thought I was getting a story away from the family.  Yet again, this is marketing.  But excellent marketing would’ve had me accepting all the build up of just the family in the beginning instead of saying, “when is she going to get away from this so the story can FINALLY begin!”  When that actually was the story and it was already beginning.

Still, Brave is no masterpiece, but it’s an amazing and fun story with “cartoon” moments that make you laugh and have a good time.  Pixar has had my support ever since The Incredibles blew me away, so I’m rooting for them against what their competitors will bring this year in the race for the seat as king.  As Brave is a film dealing with royalty, I hope I’m “brave” enough to support it come time to award the best in animation this year when I left this experience saying, “I don’t know if that was strong enough to completely blow me away and crush the competition with no question … but it was still really ‘good’.”

Family, 100 Minutes, PG
Written by: Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, and Irene Mecchi
Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, & Steve Purcell
Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, & Emma Thompson

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