My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching the film is that it is decent enough. I do have some issues with some of the pseudo-feminism in this film, and I wish that the execution was smoother. Most of the characters are fine enough, and the film was a bit more predictable than I was expecting. Not bad, but not great either, which the troubled production was enough information to predict this.
The film was announced to the public in 2008, so the film probably started production in late 2007. Brenda Chapman conceptualized the project, claiming that it is a fairytale like the Hans Christian stories, and based the film from the relationship of her daughter. Many people were thrilled that this would be the first Pixar film to be directed by a female, but in October 2010, she was removed from the project, and replaced by Mark Andrews, due to creative differences. She claimed the news was devastating, though was proud of the film when it premiered.
Reese Witherspoon was initially cast to be Merida, but she declined after scheduling conflicts, causing her to be replaced by Kelly Macdonald. CEO and Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs passed away in late 2011, a few months before the film was released.
Pixar went out of their way to create a tartan to represent three of the four clans; DunBroch, Dingwall, and MacGuffin. It was registered by the Scottish Register of Tatrans upon the film’s release, and it represents the Scottish Highlands (green), the North Sea (blue), unity of the clans (navy blue), bloodshed due to war (red), and Scottish people overall (grey).
The film starts with King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) hanging out in the middle of the forest in medieval Scotland with their little girl named Merida (Peigi Barker and Kelly Macdonald), as they all seem to enjoy one another’s company, and are playful with one another. King Fergus gives Merida a bow and arrow, and Elinor is not thrilled in the slightest. She waits until Merida wanders off to lecture him about their daughter being a lady, and that she should not be partaking in that. Merida ends up seeing a wisp (which leads people to their fate, according to legend), while she fetches for the arrow, and the day takes a turn for the worse when a bear named Mor’du. The bear attacks the family, and the ladies are told to go, while Fergus tries to fight it off, but finds himself losing his left leg to the bear.
Years pass, and the royal couple has since given birth to triplet boys, while Elinor and Merida’s relationship takes a turn for the worse. Merida is tired of being told what to do, while Elinor is not thrilled that Merida does not take her education and tradition seriously. I give the film props for showing a princess taking part in education, and the politics of their kingdom, as well as the history. I do not recall any of the Disney Princesses learning about their kingdom’s history, and being taught anything regarding the royal life.
The other three kingdoms Dingwall, MacIntosh, and MacGuffin arrive to DunBroch, and Elinor tries to give Merida advice, though struggles with how to speak to her. We see the men speak to one another, and announce their sons, but it is here where I start to have a problem with the film. It is clear that this film is carrying a feminist message, and I like that, but the point of feminism is to be equal to males, and just as capable. All of the men are portrayed as incompetent, ignorant buffoons, so the message gets simmered a bit.
After all of the men end up brawling (including Fergus), and Elinor handles them like a boss, she announces that Merida will choose the Highland games that will determine the which son will win over the betrothal. The teen finds a loophole to get out of this, and chooses archery (which we have shown her to excel at earlier in the film). Merida shocks everyone by entering herself to play for DunBroch, and of course shoots a perfect score. Elinor loses her mind, since this could easily mean that the other three clans declare war against DunBroch.
Just when you think she cannot get any more horrible, Merida ends up at
Boo a witch (Julie Walters)’s cottage to CHANGE HER MOTHER. This not only crosses a line because altering someone’s mental and/or physical state WITHOUT their permission is borderline immoral, and she never even CONSIDERS the consequences for her actions. Merida takes a desert made from the witch, and as soon as she enters her house, her mother wants to clear the air about what happened earlier. Because Elinor stated that a decision still has to be made, Merida is all too thrilled to give her mother the pie. She does not react at all when her mother physically becomes ill (chanting that she hopes that her mind is changed up), and is shocked when she turns into Brother Bear. I am not thrilled with the twist, since I did not like that film in the first place, and we all know where things are going with this.
It takes a while for Elinor to realize that she is a bear, and is instantly pissed off with her daughter. The maid (Sally Kinghorn and Eilidh Fraser) sees the, and runs to tell Fergus, causing all of the men to chase after the bear (which they have soured on since the Mor’du event). She tells her brother the story of what happened, and they help the ladies sneak out. Merida chants over and over again that it is not her fault as a denial trick, and I only get more frustrated with her.
It is the next morning, and Elinor struggles to eat in the same fashion that she did as a human, as well as communicating with her daughter. Merida teaches her how to last in the wilderness, and the two start to bond again over fishing, while the song “Into the Open Air” plays. After this, Elinor starts to change into her bear instincts, which scared her daughter. She comes out of it, but a wisp shows up, which she desperately tries to grasp.
This somehow leads them to a castle in ruin, where Mor’Du resides. Merida soon realizes that Mor’Du was the prince in the story her mother was telling her about, and she realizes that the same thing happened to him. A fight scene erupts between the bear and the duo, but they escape, and manage to get back to the castle. All of the men are fighting because they are tired of the delaying news about which son won over Merida. She tries to speak to them using the story her mother taught her about the 4 kingdoms falling apart, which they dismiss as a myth. We learn that the kings of the 4 kingdoms are actually pretty good friends, and have done a lot for one another on a personal level, creating an alliance full of friendship and strength. It is nice to see her learn how to take more of a conservative and peaceful approach to the chaos.
All of the men see the bear, and as Merida tries to explain to her father what happened, he refuses to listen, since he is still butthurt about Mor’Du, and locks her in the room to prevent her from escaping, and to be safe. Her brothers need to help her out the door, and she sews back the tapestry, since it is symbolism to show the mended bond. She has to fight her father off to set Elinor free, and when he is convinced, Mor’Du shows up to fight her. Elinor has to be more aggressive, and gets the bear to fall under the fallen rock, and die. It is the second sunrise, and she falls. Merida puts the tapestry on her, and tells her mother how sorry she is, and takes responsibility for everything. You see……. a person with her story arc CAN develop, take responsibility, and try to fix everything. THIS is what caused the mother to become a human again. The kingdom’s alliance is stronger than ever, the marriage proposal is called off, and the mother and daughter bond is stronger than ever.
Honestly, I only like a few characters in the film, but I like that there is not a lot that we have to focus on. A lot of them either are unmemorable jokes, or unlikable. There are only a few strong, likable characters in here.
It is a Pixar film, so of course the animation would be great, despite some of the other aspects in the film not being so great. How they handled and animated hair showed great process, especially since they do not animate humans much in their canon. There is a lot more open landscapes, which gives us some great sets and lush atmospheres. I liked the human designs as well.
There is a lot of Scottish elements in the soundtrack, which I am thrilled about. It gave us a lot of emotional and adventurous moments, which varied between scene and scene. The music is the first film in the canon to not be composed by Randy Newman, Thomas Newman, or Michael Giacchino (The Good Dinosaur being the other one), instead being composed by Patrick Doyle. The few songs that are in the film are nice to listen to, though they are not ones you will sing time and time again. What you expect from the music in this film, you will pretty much get.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on June 22nd, 2012, it made $237,283,207 in North America, and $303,153,856, adding up for a worldwide total of $540,437,063, making it the 13th highest-grossing film of 2012. It was yet another successful Pixar film in the box office (no surprise), but it was not a groundbreaker box office wise.
Critically, it seemed like there was a lot of positive reception. Many people liked that for the first time in animation, the relationship between mother and daughter was the central focus of the film, since in most cases, the mothers are deceased, or the daughters relationship with their mother is never focused on. At the same time, a lot of people made passive aggressive comments about the film, claiming that it is more “Disney” instead of another groundbreaking Pixar film.
Nothing stopped the film from winning the Best Animated Feature award at the Oscars, which was very controversial at the time. Brave won a decent amount of awards, though it did lose to some of its contemporaries.
From what I have seen currently, the reception for this film has gotten even more mixed than the time of release. Either a lot of people forget about it completely, or claim that it is a predictable film that took shots at the formulas in Dinsey that they like so much. There are a decent amount of fans still, but a lot of people do not like that it is now considered a Disney Princess film (Merida is the 11th Disney Princess), and claim that this film only continued the slump that Pixar found itself in.
= 29.5/40 = 74%