Tag Archives: family film

Film Review: Brave: Too Much a Tale Type

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Brave tells the story of a wild-spirited Scottish princess, Merida, who does not want to marry when her mother tells her to.  In an attempt to get out of the marriage, she visits a witch, and she accidentally changes her mother into a bear.  She seeks to reverse the spell, and after getting to know and love her mother better in her changed-form, only tears and a confession of love and Merida’s wrongdoing cause the change.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I thought so too.

And there’s really nothing new and original enough to justify to me retelling that story.  It was an enjoyable movie, yes, but really, the story itself was a little… flat….  It relied too heavily on a fairy tale type, and never really seemed to transcend the type to compare with the moving, original stories with which Pixar has before impressed me (Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Up, Toy Story 3, The Incredibles).

Many elements, in fact, of this movie seemed too familiar.  Whenever the will-o-wisps appeared, I saw the little bobbley-headed tree spirits from Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke (though I know the two spirits are not identical by any stretch and know too that will-o-wisps are traditional spirits and so come with their own rules, but there was something oddly similar I thought between the renderings of the spirits in the two films all the same), so they seemed unoriginal and not-so-magical because of that.  The scene in which Merida attempts to teach her mother to fish bear-style seemed to be a near-replica of a scene in Disney’s Brother Bear.

Brave probably suffers mostly because of my higher than average expectations of Pixar.  I’ve already listed a number of Pixar films I think are of a much higher quality.

Particularly, the characters in these stories seemed better rounded than the types in Brave, which included the reluctant princess, the king, the queen/the strict mother, the witch, the brothers, the nursemaid.  Few of these characters can be much described by me beyond this.  To me, only Merida and her mother had any real depth to them; most of the others are just fulfilling a role that needs to be filled for the plot to work and their characters were not explored enough to make them “real.”  Some like the nursemaid and the brothers are unnecessary and included purely for pleasure.  These two (or really four characters) are entertaining.  One could argue that they are perhaps the necessary comic relief in the tale, but the witch, necessary to the plot, also serves as a great deal of comic relief, being incredibly quirky and punning briefly on modern-day society (sales pitches and recorded phone messages).

Pixar does again demonstrate its keen ability to convey plot with speechless characters (the queen in bear-form, the brothers, and the nursemaid) and as ever creates a visually stunning piece.  Brave also boasts an incredible soundtrack, one I think I’m likely to purchase.

I know others will fight me on this review, but these are my honest opinions.

In sum, I liked it, but certainly didn’t love it and wasn’t overly impressed by the story.  I would watch it again, but not I think with the regularity of Tangled or How to Train Your Dragon.  I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy it.

***

Brave.  Dir. Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, & Steve Purcell.  Disney & Pixar.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Disney, Pixar, Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: The Inventive Hugo of Martin Scorsese

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I finally did it!  I finally went out and saw films!

One was Hugo, the cinematic adaptation of Brian Selznick’s graphic novel dare I say “revolutionary” graphic novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  I have not yet been able to get my hands on a copy of the book for any longer than to flip through the pages and admire the detailed, dynamic, black-and-white illustrations (for those who will understand, much in the style of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick).  Having done that much, I recognized the dynamism and imagination of Selznick’s illustrations in the film.  Having seen that much, I think I can claim that Hugo in some ways, then, captured the spirit of Selznick’s novel, which I look forward to reading, especially after seeing the film adaptation.

I very much enjoyed the film version of the story, though as the friends with whom I saw the film said afterward, the film’s plot is more loose than I generally enjoy.

But aside from plot, there are real reasons to see the film:

The cinematography is absolutely stunning.

Another feature of note is the risks that the director, Martin Scorsese, took in looking back on a bygone era of film and reintroducing it to a modern audience beside 3-D (Hugo was very much intended to be a 3-D film; even wearing Hank Green’s 2-D glasses to prevent the film from being ruined by my dislike of and discomfort when watching 3-D films, I could tell and appreciate that) and highly advanced computer animation.  Hugo includes snippets of reenacted Georges Méliès films, produced between 1896 and 1913, of a style that would be laughed at if presented alone to modern audiences, I feel.  The colors are strange, the costumes are blatant, and the effects can hardly compare with what computers have allowed present-day filmmakers to do.  For its time, my friends and I agreed, those films would have been fantastic, especially as Hugo talks of them as the introduction of imagination and dreamscape into film.

By including such films, Hugo compares itself to them, naming itself a reintroduction of imagination and dreamscape, a label that I would almost allow the film to claim for its creative storytelling and mix of modern and ancient.  But there are many films more imaginative and more dreamlike than Hugo, including I think it must be said, James Cameron’s visually stunning Avatar (2009).  However, these film clips remind me of the graphic novel upon which Hugo is based, graphic novels being an incorporation of words and pictures and, in some ways, a reclamation of the picture book for older audiences.  The film clips suggest to me that Hugo was made in the spirit of the original graphic novel, as Hugo reclaims Méliès’ films for the modern audience and integrates different storytelling and filmmaking techniques.

A tale of humanity, of searching for love, of searching for purpose, and of the necessity of healthy interactions between humans, Hugo is a philosophically heavy film, and I would actually say that at times, it seems to preach.  But I mostly forgave the film these speeches were poetic, and the tale—the dangers and interactions between characters—kept my  attention.

Hugo.  Dir. Martin Scorsese. GK Films and Infinitum Nihil, 2011.  Film.

This review is not endorsed by GK Films, Infinitum Nihil, Martin Scorsese, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film. It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.