Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Teenage Look at Brave

Many of you have already seen Brave, a film different from Pixar's previous works. Female protagonist, Scottish setting, stunning images. Let me tell you-the animation is incredible. There are people at Pixar who's jobs were to design, draw, computerize, color, move, and control the lighting for Merida's hair.
The story itself stands outs. Cars, Monsters, Inc., and the Toy Story films are all intended as children's movies. Brave comes across as a coming of age film. 
Here's the brief, mostly spoiler free plot summary for those who haven't yet seen it:
Merida isn't your typical princess. Well, not by medieval standards. By modern media standards, it's not remarkable to see another princess who prefers running free in the woods to embroidery.

Though I have to say I've never seen a princess archer before. Impressive.
Naturally, Merida does not want to be married off to some barbaric lord, which causes conflict between her and Queen Elinor, her mother.
While blowing off steam on a gallop through the forest, Merida stumbles across a woodcarver/witch's cottage and a spell guaranteed to change her fate by changing her mother.
Unfortunately, it turns her into a bear.

So they embark on a quest to change her back, gaining a new appreciation for each other's differences, opinions, and strengths along the way.
Spoiler: Their mother-daughter relationship becomes stronger through the turmoil and everybody lives happily ever after.
Now that I'm done playing film critic, let's look at the movie from a teenage perspective.
Merida is a slightly stereotypical misfit rebel (For some reason, redheads are always the fiery, free-spirited girls. Probably because the rest of the population considers them a fascinating anomaly). And of course she's not going get along with her mom at first. She's a teenager, and this is a feel good family movie.
Yet she's not portrayed as a brat, but a sympathetic young woman with awesome archery skills. I know I'm not the only one making comparisons to Katniss.
My favorite scene comes about halfway through the movie. Elinor the Bear struggles to maintain her regal dignity in her new animal form by setting a breakfast table for the two of them using materials she has gathered from the forest. The endearing spread contains twigs used as utensils, leaves as napkins, and nightshade berries.
After Merida gently informs Elinor that the berries are poisonous and the water is filled with worms, she guides her to a nearby stream and teacher her mother how to catch and eat fish. "How do you know you don't like it if you won't try it?" Merida's ability to shoot fish out of the water forces her mother to grudgingly reconsider her opinion that princesses shouldn't own weapons, let alone use them.
Other moments of power include a scene where she gets her suitors and their brawling clans to agree that young people should have a say in their own fate. And that splitting arrow thing she does in the trailer.
Pixar is known for its lovable characters, heartwarming themes, and originality. What if cars could talk? How do toys feel when nobody plays with them? What if you could tie your house to balloons and float it to South America?
Though Brave lives down at least one of those traits, it's still a great story about a stereotyped teenager and a  well-meaning but misunderstanding mother seeing each other for who they really are. 

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