This movie had amazing scenery. It seemed like I had stepped into Scotland. The animators did a beautify job. And we both laughed out loud throughout the movie.
The world was introduced fairly quickly and the main characters were all strong. The parents were believable, I didn’t realize our main character, Merida, was a teen. DH and I debated the second time around while watching the extras, whether or not she looked like a teen.
I am a firm believer in watching extras. I love watching the evolution of movies or the explanation of edits. Everything is so much more clear. I liked the idea of the first born sons trying for marriage to the princess. Historically, it should have been the fathers but its not such a good kids movie if you have Gramps moving in on your girl.
I could see how general reviews decided the movie was weak. It was intellectual, emotional on a guilt level. I think the chicks in How To Train Your Dragon were stronger. But then again, we are dealing with girl to teen to wife to mother pressure. That is hard to express. We are introduced to the setting , the characters, and then at dinner, bam! the girl has to get married. What?! Where did that come from? She is clearly confused and angry.
Apparently the parents had been in discussion about this and sent out invitations, the mother had been teaching and rearing her for just this thing. But, interestingly for the movie and probably not the case in real life, the princess has no idea why. I chock this up to parents’ lack of communicating, classic fairytale plot line. We do see how nagging the mom is from the teen’s point of view. But never once do we hear, “you must learn this for when you are married and living off in some foreign land, never to see us again.” That would be too obvious, and kill the beautiful and funny mother-daughter dynamic.
At some point they have an out and out fight. Merida picks up a sword and slashes the tapestry her mother has been working on and in retaliation the mother takes Merida’s bow-which females, especially princess, shouldn’t have anyway- and throws it in the fire. Now that something of the teen’s is ruined, she is mad and flies out of the room. The mother immediately takes the bow out of the fire and is heartbroken that the situation has come to this ruination of the symbols of each other.
Early on, we are introduced to a story which eventually comes to fruition. A Camelot-like kingdom will be divided among the heirs when the king dies. The oldest is put off because tradition dictates it should all be his. He seeks out a witch to make him stronger than 10 men, etc. He changes into a bear, a furious beast. And kills most of his people, the rest flee.
This heroine’s story continues when Merida does not want to marry anyone. Despite her best efforts and, truly, ingenious thinking (you go girl!), it is obvious she has to pick one to live with. There is a hint during a wonderfully orchestrated discussion between the mother and father and Merida and her horse, where they mother and daughter are separately trying to converse with each other, role playing, where we learn the mother did not want to marry the father at first. This point is made clear by the father’s comical What? face. If only these two could have actually conversed! But that is not how real life is, despite our best efforts. And it makes for poor fairytale telling.
In an angry mad dash, the princess sees the Will O’ The Wisps (swamp gas, for the scientific) who lead her to the witch’s home. The witch is hilarious! The animators did a great job reinventing the idea (watch the extras!). And the witch’s house is full of wood cuttings of bears, interesting. There Merida asks to change her mother so she won’t try to force the marriage. She is given a cake to feed to mother.
The mother is changed into a bear and she has to battle the full change of becoming wild while fighting to keep her human mind. The young triplets come together to help Merida first get her bear mother out of the “castle” and then back into it, while having the men and their “armies” running willy nilly after “the bear,” what they believe to be a ferocious beast from centuries back. We have see this terrible bear when it almost eats the babe princess in the movie intro.
But, as with most things in life, there is a caveat. The witch has built in an escape clause: you choose your fate, so you can also change its course. As the story unfolds, the mean spirit in the prince keeps himself in a bear, Mordu (I liked the use of the local language, supposedly. I didn’t check independently), rather than heal the wound he created. Merida and her mother are brought by the Will O’ The Wisps to the ruined castle and see the damaged carving of the brothers. There we learn that he did not try to fix the riff. It is then clear that Merida must fix the tapestry she sliced.
They head back to the castle and then the chasing of the mother-bear mentioned above ensues. Fast forward, the clans are warring because of the insult Merida has shown by not picking one of the heirs. Merida gives a pacifying speech with the help of her bear mother’s miming, that says the mother wants her to be happy and merry for love and that the clan sons should also. It is then agreed and everyone is pacified. Then another run of the bear ensues ending in the triplets eating some of the witch’s cake. Three more bears appear and there is more craziness.
Eventually the bear-mother is captured by the clansman but Merida risks her life (wasn’t particularly dangerous) but its clear she is trying to get these men to believe the bear is her mother and not the beast they have hunted for decades. Merida throws the sewn tapestry over her mother but she does not change in the light of the rising sun. We see the princess crying and hugging her mother explaining how sorry she is, etc. The mother becomes human and lavishes kisses on the princess’s face, all is forgiven. Clearly it wasn’t the tapestry that needed to be mended, it was their relationship.
It could have used a bit more drag out arguments between mother and daughter, really build it up so it makes the scene more poignant. They should have tried to get her skill with the bow into one of the danger scenes and not just the marriage trial. That might have won more people over. Would have proved the importance of the bow as a focal point.
While the movie was funny, beautiful to look at, and the characters individual, believable, and stand alone, the important scenes did not seem as important. Maybe they needed more telling instrumentals or hints through dialogue. For example, there is a scene where Merida is trying to get mother-bear to catch and eat raw fish. It is a wonderful bonding experience until we realize the wild bear is taking over and pushing the human mother out. Shocking, and good, but it would have been nice to hear something to the effect of, it’s nice to laugh with you….to balance the nagging, teacher-mother of the opening scenes. The spunk that drew us to Merida in the beginning seemed to be entirely missing from the trapped bear scene. The fight of the mother bear and Mordu was pretty good, the danger building, but, of course, the mother instinct won out.
Finally, I really hoped that Merida would have been a stronger character. The build up with the bow and how great her talent is was missing from the end. Sure, her bow was destroyed, but she could have easily stolen someone else’s and proven herself after some great dialogue to set all the warrior men quiet. Why don’t we have more stories with strong female characters? Little by little we will, Brave, with Merida’s active personality is much better than the original Disney’s Snow White, who is there portrayed as a victim, run away, run away! Saved only by the kindness of men. For the real story, I suggest you look up the tales from various countries, not France. It is well known our current fairy tales were retooled and retold to pleasure the French Court, 1700 maybe?
Oh well. It was still laugh out loud funny. And the extras on the DVD were great.