Last week, I got an email from Visa Signature (my credit card of choice) offering complimentary pre-screening tickets to see Brave 3D the evening of June 21st. Since I’m a cheapskate, and since Pixar has never made a film I’ve walked away disappointed in, I grabbed that offer immediately. I’ve just come home from the film and wanted to offer a few of my thoughts for discussion.
Brave is very much unlike any other film Pixar has ever made. Prior to seeing the film, I looked at reviews on RottenTomatoes.com and found a modest approval with many comments indicating that the film just didn’t meet the standards Pixar has set for itself. I think that many people have come to expect Pixar films to be total creative fantasy from start to finish. Recent films include sequels to the Toy Story and Cars franchises, and we’ve now seen the teaser trailer for Monsters University. This is the sort of material we’ve come to expect from Pixar – either a 100% fantastic world or the real world heavily manipulated by fantastic situations. Brave really has very little of this, and I think it’s left some people a little sour. Brave is set in Medieval Scotland and is a story about a teenage princess who is trying to escape the path of tradition that has pre-determined for her. (That sure doesn’t sound like any film that’s ever been made, right?) The general plot really doesn’t end up mattering in the film so much as importance and meaning of the family relationship. The plot serves only as a form in which the real depth of the story happens. The characters in the film are very much what you’d expect from Pixar. There’s a few moments in the film where I was honestly a little shocked and amused at some of the mildly crude humor, but the characters and the gags evoked a lot of laughter from the audience I was with. The really big thing that stood out to me in Brave was the scenery. Recent projects from Pixar have required the animators to develop cartoonish replicas of the real world. The sets are supposed to be believable in the context in which they are created, and as I stated, the places Pixar has created recently have been totally fictitious. It was therefore extremely interesting to see what they did with a real place that a person can go visit. I can simply say that I was totally stunned with the beauty of the scenery in Brave. Much of the landscape in Scotland is very similar to the landscape I saw in Ireland in October. I witnessed the sun draping the rolling low laying mountains of Connemara and watched it set against the crashing sea on the southern shores. Unless you witness that scene in person, the feeling invoked by that scenery really cannot be imparted to any reader or listener. Yet, Pixar captures that majestic beauty of that part of our world. The aerial shots in Brave were sometimes difficult to distinguish from reality.
Pixar still knows how to pull out all the stops to create extremely emotional moments. Brave has the same emotional elements as other Pixar movies, but it’s a very human story told in the context of the brutal world of the middle ages. When you go to see the movie, remember that Pixar is not trying to replicate Cars or Toy Story. The point of the film is not simply about entertainment (though it is entertaining). It’s really about the bond of family and the freedom of the individual to pursue their own dreams.
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