Monday, June 25, 2012

Brave Story

Character A has a conflict with Character B based on pride and control. Character A's will to power accidentally does something to put Character B in jeopardy, so Character A has to rescue Character B. During the rescue, the two characters reconcile their differences and learn to accept each other.
That's the underlying structure of Brave. It's also the underlying structure of Toy Story.

We may never know the story that Brenda Chapman intended to tell before being removed from the director's chair, but the story we have is a retread. It comes in a visually attractive package with qualities that were unachievable just a few years ago, but it feels like Pixar, having rejected Chapman, reverted to something it felt comfortable with. So while Brave isn't one of the Pixar sequels already released or yet to come, it still feels overly familiar with only the environment to set it apart. A reliance on setting, rather than story, smacks of the later drawn Disney features.

There are echoes here of How to Train Your Dragon, Mulan, Brother Bear, Donald's NephewsBeauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, The Sword in the Stone, Princess Mononoke, and The Adventures of Robin Hood. That's evidence of a story team taking the easy way out, using elements they know will work, rather than letting events grow out of the characters' actions.

Brave will make a lot of money and shows the heights the Pixar artists are capable of reaching.  However, I personally take more pleasure from films like Persepolis, The Illusionist, Spirited Away and Mary and Max than I do from Pixar's recent films. While they may not be as slick or elaborate, those films have singular points of view.

My opinion of Brave won't change anything. Mainstream animated features are too successful to let dissenting voices bother anyone with influence. But animation has once more decided to live within a cage of its own making and is happy to stay put, safe and secure.  Frankly, it's a waste of talent.

10 comments:

chris said...

"But animation has once more decided to live within a cage of its own making and is happy to stay put, safe and secure."

Too bad Steve Jobs is dead. Perhaps what Pixar could use is someone taking some of the Pixar staff, going to another building, putting a jolly roger flag up and creating an animated film that really breaks new ground. Is Brad Bird reading?

The studios are too big. Too safe.

The next real breakthrough in animation will probably come from a small crew working with a teeny budget.

JPilot said...

Hey Mark,

The recipe for success, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The musical equivalent here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dffUS2oI850&feature=fvwrel

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Shame really Mark. I'd rather have a good story than the same retread I've went to before.

Brubaker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brubaker said...

I'll give you points for being the first review to not promote that it's the first Pixar film to feature a female protagonist, or the feminist message within it.

Michael Sporn said...

As usual your analysis is excellent and spot on the mark. Pixar will never step out of the loop of Robert McKee's rules. Everyone's answerable to management rather than the film, itself.

There were a couple of positives. The retread use of the Queen Mother Bear, however, did give us some really wonderful animation. Not the usual cgi activity. Also, the animation is unlike that of any other studio. The movement is based on real life rather than the popping from pose to pose that other studios usually use. These other films are hardly able to develop a real character using this method of animation. All the characters act alike under the clichés in which they're shaped.

Anonymous said...

I've heard the best parts of the film (including the story, design, and casting) that still remain are, in fact, the handiwork of Brenda Chapman's direction. I felt the film was schizophrenic, changing tone quite fast, quite often. The fighting was poorly staged and choreographed, and isn't very clear either visually or from a story point of view. And a lot of the action was confusing and too fast. There seemed to be a lot of "filler" in the film (chasing into and out of the castle). I liked the overall film well enough, but maybe not for repeated viewing.

anik said...

Very good point. I wonder how interesting and unique the works of Mozart, Fellini or Kafka would be if they were products of brainstorming sessions. If a film's goal is to touch one's soul in some unexpected way, an army of brilliant professionals is not necessarily the best way to go.

Anonymous said...

I bet Pixar's glad Brad Bird is back in house working on the sequel to The Incredibles.

anik echo said...

anik said... Very good point. I wonder how interesting and unique the works of Mozart, Fellini or Kafka would be if they were products of brainstorming sessions. If a film's goal is to touch one's soul in some unexpected way, an army of brilliant professionals is not necessarily the best way to go.

... because it needed to be said more than twice.