I never thought that I would see the day when I would say that a Disney-Pixar movie let me down but alas, the time has finally arrived. Brave, one of my most anticipated movies of the year, was in fact, one of my hugest disappointments of 2012.
Merida is the eldest daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor of Scotland’s DunBroch Clan. Unlike other princesses, Merida has a mind of her own and resists her mother’s lectures on being a proper lady, engaging instead in pursuits like archery and adventure seeking. When Merida reaches the proper age to be courted by the sons of other Scottish clans, she defies custom and tries to win her own freedom by outshining the princes in an archery contest. After an argument with her mother, she escapes to the forest and seeks the help of a witch in changing her destiny. Unbeknownst to her, each spell comes with a steep price. In Merida’s case, the queen loses her humanity and is transformed into a black bear.
Frankly, I was expecting something completely different when I first saw the trailer for this Disney-Pixar offering. I was taken aback by how off tangent I was from the final outcome. I thought that Brave was going to be a story about a fiery haired princess whose color of hair matches her strong personality, a princess who will serve as a good example for children who will watch the movie. I was fully expecting Merida to represent empowerment, as is custom with other Disney flicks. But in the end, it was none of the above. Instead of being a character to root for, Merida came off as a spoiled brat, whose strong will only served to get her in trouble. Worse, she brought everyone down with her.
I think that what made Brave inferior to previous releases was that it focused too much on the artistic aspect of the film, which I should say was a visual feast. The detail that went into the artwork and the fluidness of the animation was a master class. However, the excellence of the animation and the shallowness of the story made the film lopsided in its success, making audiences want to finish the movie only because it was nice to look at even when it had very little substance.
I think that Brave was a very ambitious endeavor on the part of the studio to branch out of the Disney princess theme and introduce somebody from other cultural folklore. And it was laudable to a certain degree. However, what was essentially missing in the telling of this story was the heart that made all Disney-Pixar presentation connect with the audience and what made its movies stand out from the competition. In this case, it was the absence of a compelling lead character that audiences can empathize with, laugh with and cry with. And in this sense, the folklore was not to blame but rather the interpretation of the script which made the epic adventure seem trivial that made the film such a big disappointment.