Thursday 6 December 2012

Guest Review: Brave Blu-ray

By Munir Abedrabbo.

The Film:

Brave, the thirteenth feature film produced by Pixar Animation Studios arrived with a very high level of anticipation, expectation and controversy. First, it was the first Pixar film to have a female lead character; second, it was the first film based on an original idea after two sequels; and third, it was the film that was meant to be a “return to form” for Pixar, whose previous film Cars 2, released a year ago, received a lot of (somewhat unfair in my opinion) criticism and was labeled as Pixar’s first “bad” film. On the controversy side, Brave underwent some changes, first being called “The Bear and the Bow” and being promoted as the first Pixar film directed by a woman (Brenda Chapman). Chapman was fired in the middle of production and replaced by Mark Andrews (though she retained a director’s credit) resulting in many angry responses from women working in Hollywood and animation. With all this level of anxiety, Brave was poised to be either a great achievement or a great disaster. Which one it was? Keep reading to find out.

In ancient Scotland, under the reign of good King Fergus and his wife Queen Elinor, people live happily and prosper in a land that’s rich on culture, tradition and magic. The kings have three sons and one daughter, who is the eldest, her name is Merida. Merida, a very feisty teenager,  is the complete opposite of what a traditional princess is, preferring scouting through the forest, firing her bow and discovering new things instead of more traditional “lady chores”. This is a source of great conflict with her mother, who expects Merida to behave as a princess and to follow the rules of their society. When the time comes that she must choose a husband from the sons of the other clans, she refuses and a fight with her mother leads Merida to ask a witch for a potion to change her destiny. This potion brings unexpected results and Merida must race against time to try and put everything back to normal and to mend her relationship with her mother before it’s too late.

Brave is the most traditional story Pixar has ever produced and many have seen this as a bad thing, but I think it serves the purpose right. Disney has long been the king of princess fairy tales, but Pixar has produced one that, while maintaining some traditional ground, offers a unique perspective that makes the movie something fresh and exciting. Merida is a great lead character with a unique personality that represents teen angst and her desire for freedom in a way that anyone who’s ever been a teenager can relate to. The Pixar wizards have created another memorable character that is sure to enthrall young and old. Moreover, the relationship between Merida and Elinor feels real and speaks to many people; you don’t have to be a mother, a daughter or woman to identify with the ups and downs of the film’s parent-child relationship.

The cast is excellent all round too, with Kelly Macdonald giving a tour-de force performance in the title role. Emma Thompson and the rest are also perfectly suitable for their characters.

If I have one gripe with the film, it’s that many of the supporting characters fail to make a lasting impression. Whereas in the Toy Story films you easily remember characters like Ham, Rex, Slinky and Mr. Potato Head, in Brave the Lords and the witch can be easily forgotten. With so many unforgettable supporting characters in the Pixar stable, it’s a pity that here many of them fail to make a lasting impression.

On the other hand, as usual, the animation is absolutely breathtaking. You may not like the story but you can’t possibly criticize the looks of it. Pixar, again, has produced a gorgeously animated film with amazing scenery and great characters. Just watch the beauty of Scotland’s landscapes or the beauty of Merida’s hair and you´ll realize that Pixar is still the best in terms of CGI animation. Patrick Doyle’s score is mesmerizing and adds an epic mood that makes the film flow with authenticity.

Controversies and all, Brave may not be Pixar’s best film but is certainly a worthy addition to their growing canon of masterpieces. It provides top-notch entertainment through and through and the whole family will be satisfied with the final product.

Video & Audio

As expected, Brave looks absolutely spectacular on BD. This is another demo quality transfer from the folks at Pixar and everything looks perfect. Detail is strong, colors are lush and vibrant and there are no signs of banding, aliasing or other artifacts. Simply stunning.

Likewise, the audio presentation (presented in both 5.1 and 7.1 incarnations) is a winner with perfect directionality, clear dialogue and no annoying artifacts such as noise or hiss. Just excellent.

Bonus Material

Brave comes with two BDs, one with the movie and some bonus material and other just filled with bonus features. While most of them are great and informative, I felt that the overall package fell a little short of Pixar’s usual standards. For example, I’d have loved to see the Cine-explore option that had graced previous Pixar releases. Anyway, here’s what’s included:

Disc 1:

“Audio Commentary”: An excellent audio commentary by director Mark Andrews, co-director Steve Purcell, story supervisor Brian Larsen and editor Nick Smith that delves into the production of the film in great detail. While it’s too bad that Chapman wasn’t included, this piece shouldn’t be missed by anyone.

La Luna”: This wonderful, Oscar-nominated short that preceded Brave in theaters is one of Pixar’s best short productions. A must-see!

The Legend of Mor’du”: An exclusive short film created exclusively for this BD, it delves the legend of the big, dark bear. I thought it was really underwhelming, as it used mostly what looked like painted storyboards and didn’t add anything that we didn’t already know by watching the film. Anyway, still warrants a view but it’s not one of Pixar’s best home video shorts.

“Brave Old World”: An excellent featurette that follows the Pixar team (Chapman included) on a field trip to Scotland and shows how they got inspiration for the looks of the film.

“Merida & Elinor”: This featurette deals with the creation of both characters and how their relationship was crafted.

“Bears”: A featurette that deals with the creation of, surprise, surprise, Bears.

“Brawl in the Hall”: A featurette that explains the creation of the many battles between the clans and how they incorporated violence and humor in equal measure.

“Wonder Moss”: explains how they created the various types of moss in the film by using mathematical formulas.

“Magic”: Delves into Brave’s fairy tale roots and inspiration, such as the Brothers Grimm tales and more.

“Clan Pixar”: introduces many of the talented artists that worked in the film and what they do in the film’s production.

“Once Upon a Scene”: shows different stages from the film’s opening.

“Extended Scenes”: shows some additional footage that was cut in the following scenes: "Meet the Lords," "Triplets' Distraction," "The Ruins" and "Blockade."

Disc 2:

“Fergus & Mor’du: An alternate opening”: Shows a different beginning for the film.

“Fallen Warriors”: a fun piece that shows little pieces that were completed but eventually cut from the final film.

“Dirty Hairy People”: shows Pixar’s commitment to make the story as authentic as possible by introducing hair, dirt and other subtle elements into the characters.

“Angus”: a featurette that explains the process of creating Merida’s horse.

“The Tapestry”: shows the process of creation of the tapestry and explains its importance in the film.

“It’s in English… Sort of”: A featurette that discusses the casting choices and the use of some Scottish words instead of their English counterparts for the sake of authenticity.

“Promotional Pieces”: Trailers and some fun promos.

“Art Galleries”: Divided into five sections: "Characters," "Color Keys," "Development Art," "Environments" and "Graphics."

A DVD copy is also included.

Closing Thoughts

Maybe it’s not the masterpiece that everyone was hoping for but Brave is a reminder that Pixar is still the best Animation Studio right now and this film offers plenty of heart, humor and gorgeous animation that will satisfy most fans. The Blu-ray offers spectacular video and audio and a nice collection of bonus features. Whether you are a Pixar completist or like good animated movies, Brave is for you. It’s one of the best animated films of the year and this Blu-ray set is the best way to own it. Highly recommended!

Technical Specs

Theatrical Release Date: June 22, 2012 (US).
Blu-ray Release Date: November 13, 2012.
Video Codec: MEPG-4 AVC
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio Options: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Near Field Mix, French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital.
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish.
Content: Two 50 GB BDs and 1 DVD.
Region Free


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Thanks to Munir for this great review, we look forward to sharing future reviews of his with you. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, and thanks, as always, for visiting A113Animation!

Related posts: Check out our review of Brave on Blu-ray here.

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