Sunday, November 18, 2012

"BRAVE": BEAUTIFUL BUT BLEMISHED

Princess Merida is an unforgettable character, with her willful ways, wild hair and luminous eyes, but the story is a bit of a mess and suffers from too many directors (Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, co-director Steve Purcell), too many writers (Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews. Steve Purcell and Irene Mecchi, the only actual screenwriter on the film) and too much studio interference.
    If Brenda Chapman, the original director, hadn’t been fired by Pixar  halfway through the film, BRAVE may well have been clearer and more fluid. Considering the additional directors, writers and the usual formulaic elements tossed in to make the film appeal to the widest possible audience (boys, fights, female boyishness, cartoony male buffoons, goofy sidekicks) it’s not surprising that the pacing suffered, the story got muddled and the director’s vision blurred. Many hands don’t make light work here, too many cooks spoil the broth.
    The only part of the formula that’s missing is the hero. Merida is both hero and heroine and that’s unusual and a cool thing. Too bad she isn’t allowed to be a competent, confident girl without having to swagger, shoot and (improbably) muck out the stables. We understand that Disney’s girly princesses are out of favor but do all future heroines have to be extreme tomboys? 


BEAUTIFUL:
- Her hair! Bravo to whoever designed Merida’s hair! What a fabulous mass of wild, bouncy curls that even get suitably darker and flattened when wet. Give that designer an Oscar.
- Her luminous eyes have character and charm despite being lit like dolls’ eyes.   
- Her skin is soft-looking and translucent and altogether lovely.
- The sumptuous shiny fabrics that move so brilliantly: heavy satins, brocades and tapestry. Not to mention all those kilts.
- Most of the lighting is astonishing. As beautiful and moody as any Vilmos Zsigmond cinematography.
- The excellent acting: Merida’s nose-wrinkling grimace, the close up when we see her thinking, Elinor’s expressions when tasting the magic cake, even the cretinous suitors’ expressions are wonderful.
- The witch is hilarious, so full of sparkle and personality and her mouth movements for the dialogue are terrific.
- The horse is wonderfully heavy, furry and chicken.
- Loved the will-o’-the-wisps.

BLEMISHES:
- Merida and Elinor’s little individual teeth were quite disconcerting.   
- The music wasn’t as inspiring as it could have been, heck, bagpipes can be so stirring.
- the staging of some important moments lacks clarity, drama and often, originality. For example, the split arrow from ROBIN HOOD.
- the story quickly degenerated into a thundering, crashing cacophony of brawls, chases, gallops, corny gags and sentimental music meant to please every type of audience. Once again creativity and vision have been sacrificed for profit.
- The writing is seriously overshadowed by the stunning graphics. 
- And there's the ever-popular but unpleasant superwomen vs. bumbling males concept that’s just as nasty as the opposite. Do we really want kids to grow up thinking men are fools?
- the night scenes are too dark: a black bear at night, no matter how glossy, is hard to see without proper lighting. More moonlight may have helped.
- The male characters were not only all buffoons, but far too cartoony (Fergus is three times the size of Elinor).
- Not showing the morphing of the bear into the new and improved Elinor is a let-down. We love morphing and transformations so, having the Elinor-to-bear transformation happen under a blanket is bad enough without being deprived of the reverse.
    BRAVE is the first movie I viewed on my Kindle Fire and, while I love the intimate experience of curling up with a movie, the film didn’t generate the warm, fiery feelings I expected.
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