When I was made aware of Pixar’s list of upcoming productions a couple of years ago, Brave was the project that interested me the most. It was the only one that wasn’t a sequel (the others being Toy Story 3, which was surprisingly good, and Cars 2, which was just as shit as we expected), and the fact that they would finally make a movie with a female lead character sounded wonderful. Then, taking into account that she would be an expert archer in pseudo-ancient Scotland, it seemed that Brave was going to be one hell of a flick.

Alas, the film isn’t as good as it should be.

Brave tells the tale of Merida, a young princess who wants nothing more than to be in charge of her own destiny.Brave She loves horse riding through the wilderness, has a deadly aim when it comes to her bow and has absolutely zero interest in being a ‘proper’ princess. When she learns that she’s soon to be subjected to an arranged marriage to ensure peace amongst the rival clans, Merida decides enough is enough, and sets out to write her own future.

As with all Pixar films (save for Cars and its sequel), the animation and art design is superb. Merida herself has curly, unruly red locks that are so perfectly realised that I get the distinct impression that the ‘hair team’ contingent of the animation department must have comprised at least 100 workers. The same goes for the animal fur on display also – we’ve come a long way since Sulley’s turquoise and purple coat in Monsters, Inc.

I did have a small problem with the animation itself, however. I think it has to do with the fact that they opted for photorealistic backgrounds and textures. During a few high-intensity moments, it was difficult to follow the action, as if the images were simply too detailed. I don’t remember having this problem with the likes of The Incredibles et. al., and I think this was because animation around that time was more or less texture-less. As the technology gets more and more realistic, there seems to be a temptation to overdo things. I had a similar problem with The Adventures of Tintin, come to think of it.

The biggest problem, however, is the story itself. The focus seems to shift more than once, and by the end of it I wasn’t entirely sure of the moral of the story. Sure, there are references to magic spells, fate and forging your own path, but as the credits rolled I was left with the feeling that the film deserved a more straightforward plot. Perhaps this is why writer/director Brenda Chapman was taken off the project late in the piece, or perhaps this failure is a direct consequence of the change in directors – who knows. But suffice to say, Brave is merely good enough without coming close to excellent.

Whilst the quality of Pixar’s films cannot be denied, this is the second stumble in recent times, and it makes me hope that such missteps are aberrations, rather than a sign that their increased workload is resulting in lesser films. One thing is for certain, however: after The Hunger Games and now Brave, there are going to be a lot of young girls signing up for archery lessons the world over.

Rating: 3.0 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 4th July 2012
Hoopla Factor: 3.0 stars

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