Disney’s ‘Brave’: How Not To Do It

As I’ve written her before, a writer can learn from his/her favourite works. Just so, s/he may also catch on to warning bells in tales of less distinct preference, or even personal dislike. Whatever it is in the story can indicate to something you want to avoid in your own writing.

There are many reasons why one might not like a novel, film, play etc. It could be a character, the setting, an uninteresting plot, and many more. Yesterday I watched Disney Pixar’s Brave. Usually I will be over the moon about anything Disney produces, but I must admit I have mixed feelings about this one.

On the one hand, Brave is a wonderful film: beautifully animated, with a great setting in early medieval Scotland and the Scottish accents definitely add positively to the overall feel of the film. As soon as it kicks off, you get a sense of the atmosphere. The characters are perhaps not the deepest, most developed that we see in Disney’s history, but work on a superficial level.

However, there are some fatal flaws which become the film’s downfall.

  1. Logic

There are always choices involved in writing – in fact, one might say writing IS making choices. Of course, no piece of fiction is perfect and without loop holes. They are, after all, written by humans. In Brave, there are several flaws in the plot’s logic.

When Merrida is trapped inside the tower, she does not try to mend the tapestry – the one action she knows will liberate her mother – but instead tries to force the locked door to pursue the hunters. Emotional turmoil aside, she is presented as  a street-smart girl and this action simply does not seem in line with her character.

Secondly, when she finally reaches the Stonehengey area and the big bear is killed, and folds her mother, still in bear shape, in the mended tapestry, the clan warriors stand watching, passive. Only in the previous scene they used torches and swords and spears in an attempt to kill this bear, but suddenly they seem aware of the truth – without anybody telling it. There seems to be a scene lacking, or a statement at least, which would inform them of the situation. Now, I imagine children’s fiction can allow for such discrepancies and sudden revelations, but it does not seem to ring true to the story overall.

I also miss a background to the witch’s practice, at least a hint of why she would give a bear spell to the girl, who obviously did not mean to transform her mother into an animal. It seems to me the film begins too early, that the story is not about the marriage per se, but about the spell, and the ancient legacy of the witch and the clans.

Brave is scattered, and refuses to choose one focal point. There seems to be two stories going on, and neither is dominating. Both become part of the tapestry of the film, and fail to impress.

We begin the film before the betrothal is revealed, and end long after it is off. That choice suggests that the film is not, in fact, about the undesired engagement, but about something else. Of course it is.

It is a film about pride and concession; about family bonds and selfishness. Therefore, it would be a more efficient strategy to zoom in on the legacy, instead of using it as a preamble to the story of the clan. The most interesting scene in the film is towards the end where Merrida and her mother bear enter the castle on the cliff, and the truth about the big bear is revealed. But, as previously said, this story line is never explored further

           2. Logic

Too many questions remain unanswered at the end. For example: why does Merrida ‘train’ her mother to be a real bear, fishing etc? Surely she expects her to transform back! What happens with the crown? This item seems like a strong motif in identifying royalty and human reign, and it simply drifts off into nothingness in the second half of the film. Finally, how do her brothers return to humanity?

Brave was friskily advertised before its premiere, and then faded into the list of cinematic feature films without further notice. Maybe the above contributed to the lack of global success of Brave as has been seen before in films like Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Wall-E among others.

So, returning back to the initial statement: in examining my personal response to this film, I pick out the key points and, turning to my own writing, will keep them as sign posts in ensuring that I do not fall into the same traps.

One must learn from mistakes, and an efficient way of doing so is to learn both from your own, as well as others’.

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2 thoughts on “Disney’s ‘Brave’: How Not To Do It

  1. Random blogger stumbling across your post. *waves* I agree with a lot of what you’re saying regarding logic problems in the movie. I had the same issues when I saw it, particularly with regard to the way the betrothal was dealt with. Merida making a speech against something that’s been their long-standing tradition was WAY too easy, even though it looked like the purpose was to show Elinor’s slow change of heart when she listened and encouraged Merida from the staircase (in bear form).

    I found the crown to be significant. I’ve always read that scene as Elinor giving up that “a princess must do this, mustn’t do that, etc.” view of life as a royal since at that moment, she’s learning to behave like a bear and not like a queen in order to survive in the wild. Her views continue to expand, pretty much, though Merida doesn’t really exhibit much change in her character beyond her reconciliation with her mother. And I suppose it’s that last part involving Merida’s lack of development that disappointed me the most when I saw the movie. I enjoyed it overall, but it’s nowhere near my favorite Pixar offering by any stretch.

    • Hi Hayden! Thanks for your enlightening comment! Ah, I see I was too quick to judge. You are of course right about the crown. I suppose my problem then, by extension, is how it isn’t emphasised in the end to symbolise the compromise they reach (which must be regarded as the only sign of ‘change’ as there is little else). Perhaps. I’ll have to ponder a little more on this one. Jo

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