I went to see the new Disney/ Pixar animated ‘Princess’ film ‘Brave’ on Sunday night. It’s in the same vein as ‘Tangled’ – a kick-ass, feminist take on the traditional princess story. It’s set in the Scottish highlands, with a traditional, almost medieval atmosphere. A visually beautiful animation, the scenery of Scotland is breathtaking. The princess (who is fighting quite hard against the notion of being a princess) Merida, is not impossibly beautiful, apart from her big blue eyes and wild frothy red curls. The curls are a feat of animation genius and have left me quite jealous.
Merida’s mother Eleanor (played by Emma Thompson, I found out afterwards – I love Emma Thompson!) decides that it’s time the clans come forward with their first born, so Merida can choose a suitor. Merida is devastated and not ready, so she flies off into the night crying into her gorgeous Stallion Angus’ mane. She stumbles across a trail of eerie will-o-the-wisps which take her to a witch’s cottage. There she wishes she could change her mother, therefore change her fate, and she gets more than she bargains for. Her mother gets changed into a bear, which looks a lot like the bear that ate her father Fergus’ leg (played by Billy Connolly. He IS funny. Again I didn’t realise til I did my homework) so you spend the rest of the time on the edge of your seat waiting for Merida’s father to kill her mother, in some kind of weird backwards Oedipus-esque situation. From experience, I know that in the cinema surround sound can make things scarier, and so I thought some of the near scenes were very scary for young children. Caoimhe and me were the only people in the cinema who didn’t have children with us. Young at heart!
Merida has the heartache of having to choose a suitor before she’s ready, and trying desperately to get her mother back and to safety before the spell becomes permanent. Ben Child from the guardian writes:
Like many of its predecessors, from Up to Finding Nemo, Brave imagines lead characters with hugely conflicting objectives and achieves its happy conclusion by bringing them satisfactorily together. Disappointingly for Alex Salmond et al, the message is that putting aside one’s differences, no matter how repugnant such a compromise may at first appear, is the path to enlightenment.
SPOILER: You have to watch the film to see, but I disagree while Mr Child. Merida is willing to submit to her mother’s will in order to get her beloved parent back, but when they finally listen to each other truly, they are able to come to a joyful compromise. I haven’t craved a happy ending so much in recent memory. I needed it all to work out in the end, for Merida still to have her mother, unlike 99% of other Disney princesses, and for her to choose her own destiny, and she did.
I was left wiping away a happy tear, and wishing I could channel some of Merida’s bravery, and of course some of those gorgeous curls. They say ‘Brave’ once called ‘The Bear and the Bow’ will do wonders for Scottish tourism and rightfully so- a stunning film, and somehow Scottish accents can add a little more comedy, or maybe that was just Billy Connolly. I also wonder whether Disney and/or Pixar are building up to a same-sex relationship. ‘Brave’ doesn’t hint at this, exactly, but Merida insists on controversially fighting for her own hand, as her suitors are all terrible at archery, her speciality much to her mother’s dismay. (The Hunger Games, anyone?) I’m not sure if the world is ready for this, yet. But it’s definitely great seeing more strong female characters who know exactly what they want, or at least what they don’t want.