[Pixar Countdown Reviews] ‘Brave’ is an Epic, Unapologetically Dark Pixar Fairy Tale

Welcome back to Pixar Countdown Reviews, which we take a look at and review all seventeen theatrical Pixar films every Friday leading up to the release of Pixar’s Cars 3 this summer. Take a look back at some of our previous entries and stay tuned every Friday as we cover all of Pixar’s incredible films. 

Brave is another very underrated film from Pixar. It has significantly split the animation community in half. I personally think it’s a great movie, even though some may find it unoriginal and an overall disappointment. That said, I absolutely loved this movie. I admire its old-fashioned storytelling, dark and gritty nature and a great cast of characters.

The story in the film really brings to mind the Disney films from the golden age Walt era with a bit of Miyazaki thrown in there. Being Pixar’s first fairy tale, it old-fashioned fashioned story and is not afraid to get into really dark territory. It doesn’t shy away from that and that’s what I think me and everyone else who loves the film finds so appealing about it. A lot of people criticize the film for being “unoriginal” and I have to disagree there. While it is a more old fashioned story, I think it breathes new life into the fairy tale genre, something that hasn’t really been done since Walt’s fairy tales. It doesn’t try to be a parody of a fairy tale like Shrek or, to an extent, Tangled. Instead, it is a true, original fairy tale, not based off of any source material and not trying to be “modern” or “edgy.”

The film also has a great cast of characters. Our main protagonist is Merida, Pixar’s first female protagonist, whose fiery personality makes her a lovable character to root for. She also knows her way around a bow and arrow and is an all around awesome character. We also have her mother, Queen Elinor, who you can tell really cares about her daughter, despite her telling her how she needs to conform with tradition. She does, however, learn to not force Merida to do these things anymore through her journey as a bear. It makes for a really sweet mother-daughter story. King Fergus, Merida’s father is goofy, but protective when he needs to be. Then there’s Merida’s triplet brothers, who are mostly there for comic relief but certainly play their part in the story.

The animation is breathtaking. The set design gives off such an authentic feel of Scotland with every piece of scenery and foliage. It does a fantastic job sucking you into the world. The character design is fantastic as well. Of course, anyone who loves animation probably know how Pixar really focused on Merida’s hair. Meant to represent her wild personality, she needed long, wild locks and it actually took not just one person, but a whole team of animators to pull it off! It was certainly worth it, since her hair looks incredible.

The direction in the film is also masterful. The film went through a lot of production problems, even needing to change directors. Mark Andrews replaced Brenda Chapman as director which was really seen as a big deal at the time. I think it was a good choice though, since it ultimately made for a better movie. Mark Andrews knows how to stage epic shots and build up intense moments, while also having Merida interact with her mother as a bear in a believable way, which is way more difficult than it looks. He really got to prove his directing chops here and I can’t wait to see what he plans to make next.

The score is beautiful in every sense of the word. It is composed by Patrick Doyle (Finally someone who isn’t Randy/Thomas Newman or Michael Giacchino!) who uses Scottish instruments to make the world feel even more authentic and believable, sucking you in even more. The intense scenes also get a big boost from the music, as do the more emotional scenes. It is an overall fantastic score and they made the perfect choice getting Patrick Doyle on board to compose it, as he is of Scottish descent and has worked on many epic film scores in the past.

Brave is a fantastic, yet very underrated film. With its epic scope and dark moments, balanced with its emotional mother-daughter story, it makes it a film that, in my eyes, is very tough to hate. It’s so great to see a true fairy tale movie after sitting through decades of parodies of them. This is a true, classic fairy tale film and I admire everything about it.

Film Grade: A+

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