A movie with a lot of potential, failing miserably. Maybe for the ladies, you don’t particularly mind, but there are great flaws that ruin the movie for me.

The main conflict of the film is between Merida and her mother, Ellinor. The film ostensibly wishes to show them joining together to better deal with their conflict. Their relationship is a CLICHE. straight up cliche. Merida is a rebellious princess and wants to be free. Ellinor is the stiff mother who wants the best for her child, and of course, that involves smothering her and teaching her everything that makes her a successful queen. Did I mention that they are Ferguses? Apparently papa Fergus is the king of the land and Merida is the princess heir who must unite the people who are rather clannish.

Now, I’ve got no problem with the concept. Not a one. The problem I have, the problem all things have, is the execution of it. The main thing is that Ellinor gets turned into a bear. They then go on a journey of self-discovery. The mother learns how to relax. The daughter learns responsibility. Here’s the thing. MERIDA TURNED HER MOTHER INTO A BEAR. It wasn’t the witch they went to. It wasn’t the little pastry, it was Merida. She denies it up to the end, and even then, the only lesson is that Merida ‘follows her heart’ BS that SHE ALREADY KNEW. Merida’s regret isn’t something heartfelt or lifechanging, her regret is that she turned her mother into a bear. Bloody HELL. That is the definition of a static character. She should have matured into a something like her mother, responsible, caring and certainly not rebellious. At the end of the movie she’s exactly the same. Her entire character development cycle involves begging for forgiveness for CHANGING HER MOTHER INTO A BEAR.


Now that we got that over, let’s talk about the rest of the story. The ‘villain’ of the show (the ‘big bad’ is Merida’s pride. Which she doesn’t over come at all) is Mor’dhu, a giant magical bear. He took King Fergus’ leg and whatnot. He’s an ancient cursed prince who killed a bunch of people. He’s a ravaging beast who… by the end of the story… wanted to die? Well, I don’t really get that part. Point is, that part is rather weak. The bear-prince is among many ‘shape-shifted’ princes/princesses legends. There are two endings to the vast majority of them. The first and my favorite is the romantic happy ending. The other is the tragic ending with a glimmer of hope that things will be better later. This is neither, this is just a tragedy disguised as a family comedy with flat characters. Now at the end of this post I will exposit on a great plot that these characters could use without changing much.

One of the most impressive, yet unimportant villains ever to grace Pixar.

Mor’dhu isn’t much beyond a passing fancy. Mor’dhu is a threat in that he’s a strong bear with a violent streak. He’s gone for everything besides 3 scenes. The first is in the beginning, introducing the main characters and Mor’dhu. The next shows Ellinor’s concern, as a bear, for Merida and Merida spending an entirely useless time realizing that Mor’dhu is an ancient prince who went crazy. The last is the final scenes with Mor’dhu’s doom and Merida learning a lesson. Never turn your other into a bear. Keep in mind, the final fight between Ellinor and Mor’dhu is pretty awesome. Mama bear indeed.

Moving on. Much of the plot is centered on Merida. Who is the very example of a rebellious princess, has a very poor sense of self. I feel that she’s as confused about herself as Mor’dhu is berserk. That is she’s absolute buttered CRAZY CRUMPETS about her identity. Merida is up in Scotland (honestly thought they were in Ireland, all the names can also work in Ireland, and the main CHARACTER IS A RED-HEAD with evidence that they are on an island. I’m going to spend the rest of the review, referring to it as Ireland) during some indistinguishable time in the low-dark-high middle ages. (Romans, Normans and Vikings all described as being concurrent. When they weren’t)

Now, I know that most people are not historians or historically minded. I’ll boil it down for you. Every day, in either Scotland or Ireland, someone was dying or being murdered. I just don’t mean dying peacefully of old age, I’m talking plague, starvation or war. First off, Merida would be familiar with death, fate and purpose. In the real world, heck, in real fairy tales, the princesses know that they have duties to the land and people to be princesses. They understood that, 9/10ths of the time, they were to be the proper lady and not shoot arrows at people. That was for princes/magical familiars. The other 1/10ths of the time they relied on their femininity, endurance and cunning to win their man. Because the ONLY TIME they would have to do the fight personally is when the man is literally mind-controlled/captured and incapacitated.


Lets shift a little. Say Merida is around 15. Most girls of royal blood would be, at the least, engaged years ago, if not already married. In other words, the psuedo-conflict of who she should marry would have already be established. Lets assume that her father dithered. By now she is almost certainly at the medieval child-bearing age and her clock is ticking. The sad fact is that she potentially doesn’t have more than 45 years in her, that is, 30 more years to live. You might say that’s enough, but the hygiene would ensure that every child would be a danger that would mount every subsequent birth and every year she lives. In other words, by 25 she might be having issues finding a good marriage choices.

Not only that, but the clan balance depends on her marrying one of the three terrible choices. There are major political issues in not choosing any of them. The clans will begin to fracture without some sort of anchor to keep them from separating and remember old grievances. The four clans were almost fighting for a moment, before Merida somehow convinced them that the best solution would be to let her follow her heart. And they give up on any thought of having their boy becoming the future king of Scotland. WHO DOES THAT? She’s a slip of a girl with NO street experience. Except for her father, they would laugh at her. The father would be shamed for letting his daughter speak up like that. He’d lose massive amounts of authority if he didn’t put her down and enforce HIS will on the clan heads immediately.

common past time for the beautiful not-peasants

I could go on. This Movie is a fairy tale. It isn’t a good one either. You see, fairy tales are the consummate example of a heroes journey, or a moral lesson, or an example of cunning to teach children. This is none, unless you count a moral about not turning your mother into a bear. It’s a story that’s almost saccharine. They are trying to be a fairy tale, but without the true essence. Merida should have learned a greater truth, that life isn’t free to live, and that we have a part to play in fate. That’s what was being set up. She didn’t have to choose a husband or anything, but she had to realize that life wasn’t all fun and games. She had to realize something about herself and, once and for all, break her own pride and choose to help her mother, instead of just saying: “I’m sorry for turning you into a bear, mother.” It’s shameful, really. Pixar has had a stellar record for stories. This is below them and is the weakest movie they’ve produced.

BTW they’ve completely rewritten the code for their 3d modeller. Apparently that’s important and should cover up the flaws of the movie. NO. That should never be an excuse. Story and art are separate departments. While art and story interact, neither should dominate the other. Art complements story, not the other way around. With an amazing story, you may overcome terrible art. However, if you have great art, you’ll be able to overcome terrible story… until your viewers/readers realize nothing makes sense and this is terrible. They will leave. This is what has happened to so many games. Final Fantasy 13 suffered from this, great art but the story was unable to keep me interested. If you think I’m alone, listen to the last truly free video game reviewer.


Now I’ve promised a story that Pixar could use with the same characters without changing much.

Princess Merida is the rebellious daughter of Lord Fergus and Lady Ellinor. While she loves her family dearly, she is unable to reconcile the freedom Lord Fergus gives her and the strict training her mother instills in her. Since the bear attack years ago, she has dreams of a dark prince in pain. She goes out to rebel against her parents and find the answers to her strange dreamsĀ  lead by fairies. In the meantime she meets Mor’dhu and the witch. The witch is keeping Mor’dhu at bay since his attack all those years ago. She says that Merida is not yet ready, but that this potion from the fairy queen would help.

At the castle, the three lords have shown up and things continue as normal. They compete for her hand, etc. The mother, during this time, drinks the potion by accident and turns into a bear. Hijinks ensue and Merida is forced to replace her mother in her absence from court. Meanwhile, her mother teams up with the witch. During this time, Merida is able to talk to the prince Mor’Dhu and begin a potential future romance (though it need not be ‘canonized’ if you will). The mother learns about her daughter from the witch and proceeds to understand her better. Merida learns how hard it is to be a queen and begins to understand her mother. It is made especially difficult as Lord Fergus is reduced to a morose man unable to save his wife, forcing Merida to manage the four clans at once.

Mor’dhu, in his berserk form, breaks free of his prison and attacks the mother and the witch. Both escape but Mor’dhu is in a collision course with the castle and all within. Fergus is roused, finally, by his wife appearing, and through actions, convince him of what she is and what’s coming. Merida plans the defense, and with the witch discovers the weakness to Mor’dhu’s curse. Mor’dhu was the prince who rebelled against father and brother, but was cursed by a fairy queen to be a raving beast. He has long repented, seeing that the ravaging bear is a metaphor for his own berserk desires for power.

Merida, finally understanding her mother is able to turn her back. With the witch’s help they once again cage Mor’dhu in iron. The fairy queen who cursed him shows up to test Merida and her family, as well as Mor’dhu himself. Merida demonstrates the lessons she learned filling in for her mother and father. Ellinor tells her daughter she loves her, and is so proud of her. Mor’dhu is turned into a human long enough to talk about his sorrow about his desire for freedom and power. The fairy queen is satisfied and leaves, keeping Mor’dhu as a human.

Que hugs, denial of the other suitors and Mor’dhu setting out to set up his kingdom again and try to atone for the evils he did as a bear and prince. The clan lords accept his claim and he’s able to call up the descendants of the people he used to rule. Merida is able to deal with court life and mature into a woman. King Fergus and Queen Ellinor begin to relax and allow Merida power over her own life, while ensure the kingdom runs smoothly, of course. At the credits, the witch, who was absent every time the Fairy queen shows up, transforms into the fairy queen, and with a smile, disappears.