This story takes place amidst picturesque scenery and the highlands of Scotland in a magical and mythical time. Brave centres around Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a budding archer and rash daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Merida makes a hasty and in-the-moment decision that frees unintended danger which forces her to take action and right her wrongs.
I love Merida’s character. I think that she’s the most inspiring out of all the Disney princesses, the reason being because she is very unDisney. To be a Disney princess is to constantly have issues with one’s mother. Cinderella’s stepmother wanted her locked up forever, Snow White’s wanted her dead and Rapunzel’s wanted to profit out of her hair. All Merida’s mother wanted was to teach her daughter how to rule. She’s got it pretty good. Merida is the black sheep of the princesses and is a ginger haired lassie from Scotland that matches her fiery spirit. She’s headstrong and is assertive of what she wants, though that hair looks like it hasn’t seen a comb…ever. This is one of many things that Elinor badgers her about. She is very unladylike. Merida is basically a very severe tomboy. She is the heir to the kingdom and Elinor tries to teach her this, but has a hard time doing so. Merida wants to climb mountains, shoot arrows and ride horses but Elinor wants Merida to know what it means to be queen and all of this entails being a “lady”.
Daily, Elinor trains Merida in the conventions of ladyship. This includes how to stand, how to eat, how to talk and how to walk. She teaches her lute-playing and educates her in their kingdom’s history and geography. Merida feels like she’s in a prison with the constant lessons and with each lesson, she receives a telling off for being unruly like a boy and that’s not how young princess should act. Her life isn’t her own and all she craves for is her own independence and identity. Not the identity that her mother has carved for her. She is locked in a cage of her mother’s making. Elinor adds the icing on the cake when she announces the Merida needs to be married. She’s to be the prize given to the winner of an archery contest. Marrying for duty and not for love is all too common among royalty whether that be in fiction or in reality.
“A princess must be knowledgeable about her kingdom. And above all, a princess strives for…well, perfection!”
Merida is having none of it, her teenage angst tells her that she will compete for own hand. Even though Merida has oft shown us that she has a mind of her own is a motor mouth, Disney-Pixar have also shown us that women (princesses) are objects for men (princes). She’s a strong female character but they have shown her to be just another object of desire for the young clansmen. She wins her own hand enraging the lords and her mother, the queen. Her epic rage is still not over, back at the castle she cuts through a tapestry showing the royal family. Her mother, father and three brothers are on this tapestry with her standing next to her mother. She cuts through gap between her and her mother. She calls her mother a beast and flees from the castle with her flaming hair illuminating her path. She finds her way to a creepy looking cottage and in typical fashion, unappealing cottages are always the homes of witches. The Witch (Julie Walters) tries to sell her some of her merchandise but Merida makes a different deal instead that will change her fate. She wants to change her mother which will change her fate. In return, Merida offers to buy all of the witches items.
This film is heavily about family. You may argue with your family much of the time but they’re your family and they’re not perfect nor will they ever be. You can’t choose your family but they will always have your best interests at heart even if it doesn’t look like it right now. This film is about Merida’s relationship with her mother more than any other member of her family. They clash and are polar opposites but what makes their relationship so unbearable for them both is that neither will compromise for the other and that’s a textbook parent-child relationship. Elinor has Merida’s interests heart even if she has planned out Merida’s life.
Elinor is a control freak to begin with but she develops overtime. She begins to see Merida as a human being and a confident young lady rather than a failed project. Merida is more able than she ever dreamed of. Furthermore, she guides the kingdom away from the ancestral betrothal scheme that it has eagerly taken on, historically. Instead of winning the princess like a material object, the prince must win her heart before winning her hand. Merida is the one who changes the most. She matures and sees that her mother isn’t a beast at all. Her mother does what she does for the good of the realm and these are all duties that a queen must carry out. One day, Merida will be queen and these are things that a queen needs to know. All the things Elinor teaches Merida, can’t be ignored or put down. This is one thing that Merida can’t runaway from.
Brave is filled with magic. Not the kind you see in Camelot (Merlin) or Hogwarts (Harry Potter) nor the kind that you see in tales such as Rumpelstiltskin. Aye, all magic comes with a price. Merida paid that price but she undid her wrongs. The magic in Brave is akin to something like Starz’s Outlander. It’s not the wand waving magic, it’s spiritual. It’s the ancient Scottish setting. It has a dark, mysterious aura that’s enigmatic and keeps itself to the shadows. For example, the mythical will-o’-the-wisps. The strange floating lights that will lead Merida to her fate. The film reflects a pre-Christian Scotland.
Alas, I liked the very unDisney feeling of this movie. Even though the animation was typical of Disney-Pixar, I like the more proportionate body sizes which can’t be said about films like Tangled or Frozen. I also enjoyed the less conventional forms of magic but also the depiction of Scottish culture and the great additional voices from the cast that included Kevin McKidd (Percy Jackson) as Lord MacGuffin, Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter) as Lord Dingwall and Craig Ferguson (How To Train Your Dragon) as Lord Macintosh. I also liked that it is not another kids film where the moral of the story is that a handsome prince must rescue the helpless princess from an enchanted sleep. It was refreshing to see a change. A great film filled with beauty, humour with the odd fierce beast lurking in the shadows. With all the clans, castles, royalty, magic and all, I felt like I was watching Disney’s take on a blend of Game Of Thrones and Outlander. When watching the clans, I couldn’t help but think of the Andals, the First Men, MacKenzie Clan or even House Stark and their bannermen.
N.B: I’m also excited that ABC have decided to use Merida in Once Upon A Time as well.