Review of Brave – Girl power in the 10th century

Pixar has a track record of making some of the best animated films over the last fifteen years – Toys, The Incredibles, Cars, Monsters, Inc. – and now they try their skills on a quasi-fairytale set in the Middle Ages. The result is a good film that kids will enjoy and adults find entertaining enough.

Brave focuses on two strong female characters – Princess Merida, a redheaded teenager, and her mother, Queen Elinor. Merida hates being a princess that has to follow etiquette and the confines of royal life, and would rather be free to ride on her horse and shoot off arrows (she is pretty good at that). Meanwhile, her mother is working away on making Merida a prim and proper lady, and the two quickly clash.

Things get worse when Elinor and King Fergus decide it is time for Merida to marry, and invite the three other lords of the land to his castle so a suitable husband can be found. Teenage rebellion follows, and Merida decides to use the help of a witch to change her fate. Magic enters the story, as does a bear, while the consequences of Merida’s actions threaten to tear the kingdom apart.

The movie, which runs at slightly more than an hour-and-a-half, usually moves at a quick pace, and the plot is easy enough to be followed by most children. Their is a good amount of humour, but that is left for secondary characters, like Merida’s three younger brothers.

Both Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) and Elinor (Emma Thompson) are strong, serious female characters, who show leadership and intelligence. The mother-daughter interaction between the two is the centre of this film and quite well-done.

Meanwhile, there is good number of male characters in the story, led off by King Fergus. I was wary going into this film, thinking that they would be portrayed as bunch of buffoons, but I was left pleasantly surprised. They are kind of like a group of college frat-boys, but they are also courageous, smart (they had a good idea on how to escape the tower roof) and have avoid being one-dimensional.

The animation does a good job of showing off medieval forests and some good action sequences, but there is nothing very new or unique in the filmmaking here. The music is done well too, with a little Celtic/medieval flavour in it.

The film is set in medieval Scotland (according to plot outlines it is supposed to be the 10th century) and for a few seconds we see a map that shows the area of southern Scotland and northern Wales and England. It has a kind of early medieval look to it – no knights in full armour come charging around – and we get some glimpses at Scottish culture.

With it focus on strong female characters, Brave will appeal more to young girls than young boys, and the theatre I was in had a very strong share of mothers with their daughters watching. With a good mix of action, humour and storytelling, most viewers should enjoy this film.

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