A Comparison of Merida and Rapunzel

Guess which one scares me more?

It struck me there just last week that we’ve seen two major princess movies from the Disney umbrella in the last few years, although despite claims that we’ll see no more, one is already well under way. So I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the two already released to see just how different, or similar they are. The two in question are of course Merida from Pixar’s Brave and Rapunzel from Walt Disney’s Tangled.

For starters, they’re both teenagers. Yes, every adults favourite people to hate and for good reason. Teenagers tend to be obnoxious, whiny, annoying, conniving, rude, clumsy and above all, rebellious. Both Rapunzel and Merida imbue all these qualities ans more in their respective films. Merida directly disobeys her mother as does Rapunzel.

Both seem to have issues with issues with the life that is set out for them. Merida as a wife to an eejit and Rapunzel as an everlasting source of life for Mother Goethal. Neither is satisfied and both disobey the requisite adult. However, that is where the similarity ends, as Merida dashes off into the woods, her mother is fully aware that she has left. Rapunzel, in contrast, sneakily knows that her mother is gone and is more than willing to head off without her knowledge. Rapunzel is clearly the fuller character in this case.

Both characters coincidentally have wild hair, but whereas Rapunzel’s is a plot device, Merida’s is more of a set piece that is played up multiple times throughout the film. It’s fair to say that while Rapunzel’s hair adds to her character, Merida’s can’t help but distract the viewer, as was the case when it was highlighted in just about every single review of the film.

Both princesses are strong female characters 9the kind we all know and love) but Merida is undoubtedly the lesser of the two. The reasons here are complicated, but the long and winding gestation and execution of Brave are probably the root cause. In Tangled, Rapunzel’s character evolves throughout the film. She has to learn to trust Flynn Rider Eugene Fitzherbet (a good ol’ Irish surname there) and only by going through her experiences does she learn the truth about her past.

Merida on the other hand is very much presented as is. Yes, she does learn a lesson in the course of the film, but that doesn’t change her character. She’s still fundamentally the same person at the beginning as she is at the end. We learn (comparatively) little about her. A rather disappointing state of affairs given the wonderful setup we’re given (ancient Scotland and all that).

The princesses approach to love is also drastically different. Rapunzel is more than happy to comply with the established Disney norms; Merida, not so much. It should be noted that neither approach is right or wrong but in Tangled, love is clearly meant to imply marriage whereas in Brave, marriage does not necessarily imply love; an important distinction but one that tends to go against the formula for princess movies.

Overall, both are likeable character that despite their teenage label have mass appeal beyond the kids. It’s curious how different the two characters are despite Pixar’s attempt to make Brave a different kind of film. In the end though, we should be grateful that both films give the characters enough room for them to come into their own.

 

Twitter Responds To Finding Nemo 2

Twitter is a fun service to use and also to read (@Charles_Kenny is where you’ll find me). This is especially so when news breaks and everyone responds. Witness yesterday when Twitter users responded to the (sadly unsurprising) news that Andrew Stanton has started work on a sequel to Finding Nemo.

First there was my take:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Charles_Kenny/status/225292245933371392″]

Then there was the A.V. Club:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/TheAVClub/status/225300097573990401″]

Some positive ones:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/bigscreentoons/status/225315447246041088″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/jamiekarrot/status/225338260140994561″]

A negative one (but far from the only specimen):

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Nora_LUMIERE/status/225308803413979137″]

The man himself jumps into the fray:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/andrewstanton/status/225380771039420416″]

And lastly, some friends with opinions/thoughts/truths

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/jslipchi/status/225300781736280064″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/BoxnRoundhead/status/225374669207904257″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/225393350050725888″]

And my personal favourite of them all:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/EmmyCic/status/225343569710415872″]

Brave Review: Merida is Not The Feminist Heroine Many Were Expecting

Via: Nerdy Feminist

“You’d better say it was excellent.”

Such was the direction I received from the fiancée for this review. However it is something I simply cannot do for the entire film. For parts? Sure, we’ll get to those in a minute, but as a whole film, Brave is very good, but it isn’t excellent; there are simply too many areas where it comes up short.

First, the good stuff. Yes, the scenery really is as good as it looks. Pixar has done a superb job in replicating rural Scotland, complete with the wild open spaces and the intimacy of the woods, that provides ample eye candy throughout the entire film. Perhaps it is because of my bias (I’m from the part of Ireland that is just as, if not more, wild and rugged) I was entranced by the scenery for the entire film. Well done to Pixar for doing their homework!

Now onto the not so good stuff.

The Plot

The plot, while fine as a concept, stutters in execution. Pitting daughter against mother isn’t entirely original, but at least the ancient Scottish setting was a new twist. Sadly that doesn’t come to pass. Brave can’t decide if it’s a serious drama or a comedy. In the end it tries to be both and thus becomes a film of two halves. I’ll let you guess which half sustained my real interest and which was accepting of my superficial attention.

Unlike How To Train Your Dragon, Brave makes the mistake of proclaiming to be a dramatic film but whereas the latter makes no bones about its comedic side, Brave feels like its being funny in order to hide something and one can’t help but suspect that its to do with the removal of Brenda Chapman halfway through production that caused the, quite frankly, lazy use of comedy to patch up the hole left behind.

The Animation

While the background and scenery animation is superb, the same can’t be said for the character animation. Yes, Merida’s hair is stunning, but that is merely a distraction. Every other character seems to pop around as if on a very heavy dose of caffeine and once the action kicks in, I simply could not have been reminded of Shrek at a worse time.

Characters were simply far too jumpy, case in point is the royal family’s housekeeper (the one that, uh, hides the key in that place). As she runs through the castle and finally gets to the kitchen, there is no grace in her stumbles. They speak nothing of her character, she could have been anyone and the effect would have been the same. What differentiates Pixar from DreamWorks at this point? Nothing to be honest, DW at its best could easily pull off character animation as, if not more, graceful than Pixar has in Brave.

The Characters

This is the acid test for Brave. It was intended to be a ‘different’ Pixar film, one with a female lead, a princess, and a setting in Scotland; all traits that Disney itself would have used in the past. The film was marketed as such with a heavy emphasis on how Merida was something different from what we had seen before; a teenager, a rebel and so on.

Sadly, all the characters are stock for a Hollywood film.

There’s the idiotic father, the prim and proper mother, the rebel teenager and the three triplet boys who are simply incapable of doing anything good. While the father and the boys are merely filling comedic space, the mother and daughter who are the focus of the film, should have been much more complex.

For all the hubbub about Merida being Pixar’s first feminist, there is little evidence that she is anything more than a spoiled child who is in need of a life lesson or two. If anything, it’s Merida’s mother who is the strong female in the film, being more than capable of stopping the men right in their tracks, especially her husband!

Merida attempts to make a case for finding her own way, but with such an emphasis on ‘fate’ and placing your future in someone else’s hands, namely a [redacted spoiler],she spends more time being led down the garden path and having her decisions made for her than discovering them herself. She’s not the strong female protagonist that many (including myself) were expecting.

Even the other princesses in the Disney films seem to come off as stronger characters. Jasmine was coy enough to play along with Jafar to help Aladdin. Ariel knew what she wanted but really had to work in order to win over the prince. Belle had to work at the Beast fairly hard and overcome many obstacles to save the day. Merida on the other hand, simply has to reverse what harm she did and follow the steps laid out for her, and that isn’t a particularly difficult task.

Once the big change comes about, the Queen instantly becames a different character, an unlikeable character, a comedic character. She isn’t the same and the change dramatically shifts the tone of the film, for the worse. Yeah, there are a few genuinely loving moments, but I just couldn’t shake the fact that the queenias an innately funny character. A shame really because her serious side could have easily been kept while keeping the humurous side to her transformation to a minimum.

Conclusion

Pixar has been one of the most successful animation studios over the last 25 years. They’ve been knocking out hit after hit after hit on a more consistent basis than anyone else before them. Many have proclaimed that each new film has the potential to be the first Pixar ‘flop’. Cars and Cars 2 were certainly not the critic’s favourites; in a sense they are ‘critical’ flops.

The reality though, is that we are seeing Pixar slowly slide into mediocrity. They set the gold standard for films and unfortunately for them, everyone else is catching up. Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and now Monster’s University represent Pixar slowly cashing in its goodwill chips at least DreamWorks make no bones about using sequels to make money. Expect to see Pixar films doing well, but to become increasingly ordinary; the spread of the Disney corporate machinery is inevitable after all.

Brave is Pixar trying too hard. It’s fine to portray the film as an epic with a strong female lead but when you’ve built your brand on delivering on your promises, it’s devastating when you come up short. Brave was the first Pixar film where I lost interest during the screening. I was expecting so much more from a studio that has proven the ability to deliver, and it almost hurts when to see a film with such a great premise come out half-baked.

ReelGirl Sums Up What Pixar’s ‘Brave’ Really Signifies

The ReelGirl blog, written by Margot Magowan, recently featured a post that discusses Pixar’s upcoming film ‘Brave’ in the context of Pixar ‘firsts’; this case being their first lead female protagonist. Margot sums it up thusly:

Wow, a female hero is as rare and remarkable as a rat who can cook.

Which is basically the truth, strictly in terms of Pixar films.

Can this be held against Pixar? I’d say not. They’ve only released a relatively small number of films, and a good chunk of them were knocked out during just one lunch! It’s a natural progression that they would get around to doing a girl-centric film eventually. Besides, The Incredibles had an actual female hero in Elastigirl. OK, granted she wasn’t the lead, but she was effectively the co-lead and equal partner in the film.

I agree with Margot in that it is a tad unfair to be crowing about a film that is supposedly a ‘first’ and that also features something that should, and has, been a given in animated films for quite a while.

The Atlanta Braves Oppose Pixar’s ‘Brave’ Trademark Application

Hilarious image shamelessly yoinked from Filmdrunk

I’m really not quite sure what to make of this. According to /film (who got it from Stitch Kingdom), the Atlanta Braves baseball team have filed an objection to Disney/Pixar’s use of the word “Brave” as a trademark for the upcoming film, Brave.

Trademark law make a distinction between singular and plural versions of a word, but that has not stopped the baseball team from claiming that:

that damages will occur as a result of Disney’s trademarks being approved as they have used the singular form before on merchandise and insist it is common for fans, media, et. al. to use the singular form when referring to a single player, whereas the pluralized form refers to the entire team.”

Long story short, they’re saying that by Disney trademarking ‘Brave’, poor Joe Public might get confused between a baseball player and a red-haired Scottish heroine who lives in the middle ages.

Yup, that sure is real confusing, especially as one is an actual, real-life team of people playing sports for money and the other is a fictional character who only exists within the film (and on related merchandise).

There’s no way this objection should fly although, as ever, “discussions are ongoing” between the two parties. So expect an “agreement” to come eventually.

Just what a waste of resources though and it doesn’t exactly put the Braves in a good light either, what with the pettiness of their claim and all.

The F**k Yeah John Lasseter Tumblr

Is well worth a look if you like your funny bone tickled and don’t mind some sardonic humour at the expense of one of the best directors around at the moment.

And just remember:

“Never be afraid to laugh at yourself. After all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.”

– Dame Edna Everage

Has Pixar Aligned With Intelligent Design In the ‘Cars’ Universe?

Josh Berta (of P*rtty Sh*tty fame) seems to think so in his piece from yesterday over on Observatory.

The article itself is firmly tounge-in-cheek as evidenced by the following quote:

But there are a couple of crucial elements in the design of this world that point not to a human overlord, but an all-powerful Designer with a bad case of motorhead……if one looks closely enough, cloud formations resembling tire tracks can be seen drifting through the sky. Certainly, it’s no mistake that this most befuddling design element is also the most heavenward. There’s something up there, and It won’t be explained. But It does have a name, and we can thank the tractor trailer character Mack for this revelation. Upon finding his lost friend McQueen late in the second act, he exclaims, “Thank the Manufacturer!” Must we?

The entire thing is well worth a read, especially the comments at the end from those who failed to completely grasp the joke.

 

Cars 2 Currently ‘Rotten’


As of this morning (June 22nd), with release just two days away and with 20 of the top critics reporting, Cars 2 is currently sitting at 55% (EDIT: has dropped to 52% as of the afternoon), which is considered ‘rotten’ over a the movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes.

While it is still far too early to judge the films actual performance (there’ll be plenty of time for that in the coming days), it is nonetheless a worrying sign that almost half of the critics who have seen it have given it the thumbs down. Of course, RT ratings have to be taken with a grain of salt; plenty of films I love have gotten a ‘rotten’ rating from the critics but are loved by the fans.

Compare that with Toy Story 3 last year, which was sitting at 100% from the beginning until one critic decided otherwise. If that doesn’t say something about the difference in quality, I don’t know what does.

So we will have to wait and see, but in what I’m sure is a coincidence, Floyd Norman posted yesterday about when a film isn’t going so well, and he gives us this great sentance:

Most can see the wheels coming off the wagon early on, but we dare not say anything because we risk the wrath of those employing us. So we keep smiling as the train goes over the cliff.

The sad part is that Pixar has had us believe that as much creative energy went into Cars 2 as did Toy Story 3.

How To Enjoy ‘Cars’

According to this headline:

5-Year-Old Critics Agree: Movie ‘Cars’ Only Gets Better After 40th Viewing

You know, I do kinda miss that ability to watch a movie over and over and over again day in and day out without ever getting bored of it.