- Best Animated Feature
A review by spacedcowboy:
For three movies in this category this year, the first paragraph of my review is the same:
“This category causes me heartburn. Year after year, some of the best movies of the year land in the category of Animated Feature. This year, although there are some terrific live-action movies for a change, it is no different. The animated films all incorporate the eternal elements of story, and serve as a reminder of how films should be.”
Plot synopsis from imdb.com:
Set in Scotland in a rugged and mythical time, “Brave” features Merida, an aspiring archer and impetuous daughter of royalty. Merida makes a reckless choice that unleashes unintended peril and forces her to spring into action to set things right. Written by Walt Disney Pictures
There are many outstanding elements to the story in Brave.
First, and most importantly, it addresses a long-standing weakness in Pixar films: a story of a female heroine is finally told. Finally.
And it is told well. Perhaps in a nod to Pixar’s male-centric world, the story requires our female character to live in a realm where women, well, aren’t heroines, they get married. And the overriding pressure to fill that role comes from her mother, and not her more free-wheeling father, the king. There is a certain irony in that.
However Merida is not that type of girl. Refusing to take on this traditional mantle, and passively encouraged by her father, she pursues her own path. However in caught up in circumstances that seem to be beyond her control, rather than settle for this traditional life, she makes her own pact with the devil – a witch in this case – and in doing so, places her mother to a path far worse than she would have imagined.
All of this is told in the context of a fairy-tale like story. There are kings, and witches, and fairy-tale romances (sort of) and a brave spirit fighting against what she is told must be, and what she desires she should be.
What is and what isn’t.
I love the arc that all of the characters take in this this film. Merida realizes her mother in not all-bad, and her mother realizes her daughter’s desire for freedom was in her own breath as a young woman, and still is. Her brothers and father all walk on an enjoyable journey of self-realization as well. It is a delightful journey.
My only disappointment is that the main antagonist, the bear, has no path to redemption – his fate was sealed in the same curse that Merida and her mother fight against in this film. I understand this as a plot device, but I think it was a minor shortcoming nevertheless – the villain always should have a way back to redemption as well.
The animation was superb, as we have come to expect from Pixar, but I will say it was safe. Paranorman this year gives an example of what else may be possible. In Brave, we weren’t taken to a realm that only an animated film can provide, but we were taken to a world of wonder nevertheless. It is a familiar and yet unfamiliar story we explore, but one that fully engages.
I held my breath as this movie was released. If it had flopped, would Pixar take the step to continue on the path of telling stories that are interesting for either or any gender? Fortunately, Brave did well, and has garnered a nomination for which I think a win is well-deserved.
My next challenge for Pixar is to tell a story of a heroine that doesn’t require an apology. We don’t need a story of a “traditional” girl – a girl told to marry by her mother or her father. Just tell us a wonderful story, a story that we are enthralled to see, and that happens to have as its main character, a female. You can do it. It’s 2013. On step further.