When I posted my review of Brave, I forgot to give Pixar my kudos for finally giving the world a curly-haired princess, and making her a strong heroine. Typically, women with curly hair are relegated to be villains like Mother Gothel in Tangled or Sideshow Bob in the Simpsons. So hooray for curls!
As I was considering my oversight pointed out above (you’re welcome, Aimee), I also thought about how I said that Brave wasn’t a perfect film. And, if you can’t think of a solution for a problem, then you’re just complaining. So what follows are some ideas that I had that could turn Brave from a good film to a great one.
Warning: Spoilers Below!
Brave is written in three main acts, which I will call 1) The Games, 2) The Curse, and 3) The Cure. These three acts are the cause for the lack of an epic feeling from the film.
Instead of the basic three acts (beginning, middle and end), I would go with a five act dramatic arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement.
In my version, the clans would be coming together not for the games, but specifically for the announcement of Merida’s betrothal. But before Elinor has the chance to announce who Merida will marry, Merida has her transformed. Without the announcement, the clans are offended and each want Merida to marry into their families. The clans break out into war. Merida realizes the error in her ways, but unable to seek help while her father is embroiled in battle, she partners with her brothers (as bear-sidekicks) to find the cure, sending them off on a quest for a (ahem) macguffin that will cure the mom. During this quest, she and her brothers encounter the bear Muldoon, and almost die, but recover the cure, and bring it back to the kingdom to save their mom.
With Elinor restored, a truce is called – instead of warring, the clans will compete in the Games to decide who Merida will marry. The archery contest will begin, but before they shoot, Muldoon attacks, and the clan leaders are at a disadvantage, having given up their weapons under the terms of the truce. Merida uses the spell that transformed her mom to transform herself into a bear to fight Muldoon, sacrificing herself for the kingdom. In the denouement, we see the kingdom in peace, with Merida being courted instead of immediately betrothed, and we discover that Merida and her family are now able to turn into bears at will, which will lead to many more adventures.
I think that’s a basic outline for a way the film could have been more epic. But here are some other short notes:
- The music was good, but forgettable. This could easily had some catchy songs.
- The macguffin. Since one of the clans is named MacGuffin, you’d think this would have been in the movie in the first place. Merida had nothing to really quest for, to move her character on. The cure in the film was a weak riddle.
- Sidekicks. I suggest the brothers be the sidekicks. They could be classic non-speaking sidekicks oft seen in Disney fairy tales. But if not the brothers, how about she befriends a will o’ the wisp. This wisp could have led Merida where she needed to go in a sidekicky fashion, instead of using them as a dotted line to follow like a map.
- Conflict/Drama – Merida encountered the bear a couple of times, but in general, we were never concerned for her safety or had the concern that she might not make it, or that she wouldn’t figure out a way to fix her problems.
- Something new. While I still affirm that Brave is a good movie, it doesn’t move the bar beyond what’s come before. It’s not groundbreaking. Even my thoughts are rehashes of things done before. Are fairy tales over and done with? Is there anything new to do with them? Maybe not. But at least Merida has curly hair.