Some Thoughts on Brave
Cathleen and I went to Brave yesterday. It was fine (the beginning and end were great) but, considering all the recent talk of old Lucas Arts games here recently (Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell had writing and directing credits), I wish I liked it more.
One of the major problems was Merida, the main character, herself. She’s clearly set up as a bit selfish, however, when the big magical incident happens and it’s all her fault, it takes her forever to treat it with any kind of gravity. This all makes her seem like a bit of an asshole.
This combined with the weird choice to make everything take place around like three locations tops makes it all seem a bit insubstantial.
The beginning and end are lovely though. And it looks beautiful.
Spoilery thoughts below:
What makes the problems with Merida stand out is that the second act is exceedingly slack. The stakes don’t get raised until the last third when Fergus believes the bear killed his wife and begins hunting it down.
The movie would’ve been much better had he discovered the torn dress in the beginning and the men had been hunting them throughout the movie. And, if he had taken the tapestry with him (as a memento of his wife he needs to avenge) then it could have set up a cool thing where Merida and Elinor had to track the men tracking them. This also would have removed the weird feeling that the plot was going in circles (“Quick, escape the castle!…Quick, get back in the castle!”).
Of course, they couldn’ do this because they wanted that big scene where Elinor, as the bear, tells Merida she can marry who she wants.
But that whole scene is weird. Not only is the “princess wants to choose her spouse” plot done to death, the beginning of the movie seems to set it up that Merida doesn’t want to get married AT ALL. So allowing her to choose between the suitors doesn’t seem like the triumph the movie pretends it is, rather a lame diversionary tactic.
(Honestly, and I may be completely over analyzing this, but I have a hunch that at least one or two people on the creative team wanted to keep the marriage stuff vague to allow audiences to interpret Merida as gay if they so choose. Seriously, I expect a large lesbian fan base to embrace the character by the end of the weekend.)
If they had streamlined the marriage stuff and cut the need for a return trip to the castle, the plot would have had more momentum and Merida might have seemed less bratty.