Before Brave Pixar’s short film was an imaginative piece called La Luna. It featured a moon covered with glowing stars, dialogue that consisted completely of grunts, and a premise that echoed aspects of some older stories while still being more or less its own idea. These elements mixed together resulted in an atmosphere je ne sais quoi, and the result feels magical regardless of the viewer’s age. One of the best shorts I’ve seen before a Pixar feature.
Of course, that raised expectations for the movie to come a lot, and for the first half hour or so, I was beginning to feel disappointed. The supposed premise of Brave felt cliche, the drama overdone, the characters caricature.
But that was only because I was assuming the plot was going to go the way the trailer implied. I really ought to have known better to trust a trailer over Pixar.
Sure, the heroine spends some time shooting things and even goes on a trip to a place of revelation(which still seems to only be about half a day’s walk from her home, though), but Brave isn’t an action/adventure film. It’s a domestic drama. The reason the heroine’s feud with her mother seems played up at first is because it’s actually the central point of the film, which means most of the film is actually about healing it, and around the time the plot veers off into a route that makes this pretty clear, it also abandons the cliches-and it has to, because the territory it comes to doesn’t have that many cliches. The general plot of Brave hasn’t exactly never been done before, but’s it’s not a very common one, and the script revels in finding its way through it, in tackling the kind of relationship that usually gets played down in these kinds of movies. Okay, the movie’s eventual climax has a few old tropes, right down to a big mama bear moment, but by then it’s earned it.
All this also means a more serious look into the whole “rebellious princess” idea, until you can’t help but sympathize with both the girl and her supposedly oppressive mother. This being a movie, they do come up with an idealistic solution to the whole “has to marry a suitor or the kingdom will go to war” dilemma, but it says something that it’s one the mother and daughter work together to solve just like they do the film’s main plot event, with things even set up that when the mother has the solution, she and the daughter have to communicate with each other like never before to get it proposed.
Making it a pseudo-Scottish kingdom gives the Pixar animators to have a good deal of fun, not just with the characters but also with pseudo-Scottish landscape, some of which is so well done it’s hard to believe it’s animation. Even in our world of sophisticated 3D work, you don’t expect animation to be as beautiful as some of it is here. They went full-on with the music too, including a few background songs. Though that actually was expected; the film’s advertising played that up.
Though also, the triplets they played up, though possibly the male characters with the most screentime(though the father gets a bit as well), turn out not to be the annoying intruders one might have been dreading. They even disappear for one large part of the film. Another relief, by the way, is that the witch actually isn’t evil, or at least doesn’t mean to be; her imagination is just limited. Well, unless you count her forerunner of the phone menu system.