With my last Pixar movie being Toy Story 3 (for some reason I have yet to see Cars 2) I was going into Brave with high hopes.  Luckily I was not disappointed.  What this movie lacks in overall Pixar innovation it more than makes up for with its undeniable charm and breathtaking visuals.  I know by now we expect Pixar to be on the cutting edge when it comes to 3-D animation, but never before have I seen a Pixar movie (or any animated movie at that matter)  in which the landscapes truly felt real.   I’d imagine watching any of the many swooping views across Scottish landscapes would look fantastic when viewed in 3-D, and I’m tempted to take the plunge and find that out.  Of course, a movie isn’t much if it’s just sweeping landscapes.

Fergus (left), Merida (right), Elinor (middle)

Merida, the main character and most interesting ginger since Amy Pond (Karen Gillan, Doctor Who) is a likable character, and that may be due in part to her father, Fergus (who also happens to be a king, oh yeah, Merida’s a princess).  Fergus is about as far from kingly as possible, and he’s always encouraging non-royalty behavior, such as allowing Merida to carry a weapon (her trusty bow, which surprisingly never had a name) and is always there with Merida to make sarcastic comments.  Then there’s Elinor, the Queen married into royalty and is caught up in maintaining the order of things.  She’s not very likable and helps make Merida more likable, but after a series of intertwining events even the Queen becomes a likable character (but that’s due more to Merida than the Queen doing anything).  Rounding out the main characters are Merida’s three little brothers who are always up to some sort of shenanigans for the audience to laugh at (they too are ginger).

Since I’ve been going on about the characters’ hair, I have to take a brief moment to repeat what you have probably read or heard, and that is Merida’s hair is fantastically animated.  It really seems like each strand has its own movement, and consider her hair is larger than Alex Kingston’s it really is an impressive to watch.  Definitely out of all the Pixar movies this one has the best human animation.  The movements of each character feel properly weighted, especially when Fergus, who is rather large, and Merida, the polar opposite of large, are on screen together it is enjoyable to simply see how the animators made each character so unique.

There’s no denying that Disney wanted a new princess with this movie, and as a result there are no daring leaps by Pixar.  But is that really a bad thing?  I don’t think so, as they managed to turn yet another princess tale into something with a fresh feel.  This is in part due to the setting, which as previously mention is breathtaking, but also full of history to explore.  I know this wasn’t Pixar’s most ambitious project, but the overall scale of the environments made it feel like a grand adventure from beginning to end.  Now, this may sound odd, but I had an issue with the movie, and it may seem like a giant one but it isn’t, and it essentially is the driving force of the second half of the movie.  I understand how it works and reflecting on it I find myself liking it more knowing how it relates to an story long thread, but when it first happened I thought the movie was going to falter.  Thankfully it didn’t come close to that at all, but if you find yourself worrying about halfway through then stay with it for a bit more, as it really does help the story rather than overly simplify it.  Another thing you will notice is there are songs throughout that feel like are put there to cover up the fact this isn’t a musical princess movie.  The songs aren’t bad and have a nice feel to them, but I would almost have rather liked them to be in Scottish.  Who knows, maybe I’m just being picky or looking for anything to critique the movie with, as I think it may be the best movie I’ve watched this year.

Sure, there won’t be anything along the lines of Wall-E or Up here, but as far as princess stories go this is definitely up there with the best, and I like it more than three or so past Pixar movies (Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, and Monsters Inc.).  I think there are more subtle bits that people will not get, such as there actually being both parents in a Pixar movie and then there’s the big one which goes against pretty much every princess tale before this one, and allows Merida the title of Brave. I’ll leave it up to you to figure that one out, as I don’t want to provide any spoilers.  I don’t see any reason not to see this movie, it really is that good and I think it lives up to what we’ve come to expect from Pixar: a quality movie that doesn’t over stay its welcome and entertains from start to finish while providing interesting characters and brilliant animation.