Pixar’s new movie, Brave, is a conventional unconventional film: it is conventional in that it is a traditional Disney narrative and unconventional in that Pixar’s films are always cutting edge. Brave plays it safe bringing the viewer to the world of kings, queens, fools, and witchcraft.
Thematically, Brave isn’t doing anything too special and this may be a major turn-off for people who love Pixar’s usually bold, edgy approach to animated storytelling. Scottish princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a girl who is fiercely independent, a girl who loves her bow and arrow and a girl who wants nothing to do with marriage. After skillfully avoiding three bumbling suitors by beating them in an archery contest, Merida’s livid mother Elinor (Emma Thompson) burns her bow and arrow and the fiery princess runs away. Merida plots with a witch, casts a spell on her mother, feels remorse about said spell and spends the rest of the film trying to reverse it. About the only thing missing from this film’s clichéd Disney set-up is that Prince Charming never shows up, but given the fact that the Brave’s kitchy feminist motifs are so palpable, this is no surprise at all: feminist tropes have, after all, become so ingrained into the Western ethos during the last 50 years that they are no longer cutting edge.
The problem with Brave’s classic Disney-infused feminism is that it lacks imagination. The plot plods along at a predictable pace, taking predictable twists and turns and eventually ending up at a predictable feminist happily ever after: the Princess doesn’t need a man. Nice message, but Pixar could have made the delivery a little more interesting.
Luckily, what Brave lacks in storyline creativity it more than makes up for in visual effects. The animation is stunning; Pixar really captures the beauty of the Scottish landscape with the same vibrant hues and sensitive touch of a master oil painter. It is a progressive step forward in terms of film animation and this alone makes it a worthwhile cinematic experience.