Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland Poster


I try to go into most movies without any preconceived notions, simply waiting to be impressed. If anything, I was even a little excited for Tomorrowland, because if there’s one fictional sub-genre I can get behind, it’s sci-fi. Despite it appearing in the trailers as a massive Disney advertisement for its own theme park, I saw George Clooney looking grim and Hugh Laurie acting evil, so I though I might as well go in with a good attitude. What a quaint notion that seems now. Lesson learned, though: never have a good attitude about anything, if it can be helped.

As a product of the early 2000s myself, I’ve got a certain amount of nostalgia for director Brad Bird’s work. He directed The Iron Giant back in 1999, which pulled at my juvenile heartstrings even then, as well as The Incredibles in 2004 and Ratatouille in 2007. Though Bird technically made the transition from animation to live-action with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in 2011, I can’t help but feel that something was lost along the way.

From a conceptual standpoint, the art design looks really sleek and cool and sci-fi, and in all honesty, the futuristic city of Tomorrowland seems pretty well realized. In practical terms, however, the CG quickly begins to look laughably fake. I don’t know if I’m just noticing it more frequently now, or if RealD 3D just makes everything look like shit, but I’m appalled at how many 3D films this year look visually repulsive. Seriously, sit too close to the screen and you can see the virtual stitching starting to come undone. It’s like the Star Wars prequels all over again. Maybe I’m being over critical and maybe the sensible, 2D version looks fine, but all I can say for certain is that we badly need to get over this 3D fad before we all contract haemolacria.

Before I get into the minutiae of what ardently destroyed the experience for me, I want to briefly mention the cast. George Clooney, to his credit, really does try the best he can with the pile of trash of a script that he’s insolently been asked to work with.

Likewise, it’s good fun to watch Hugh Laurie hamming it up as the bad guy, delivering the most tortured one-liners ever put to film and slap-fighting Clooney near the end. And even though I was initially down on Ellen Page wannabe Britt Robertson, I kind of warmed to her when I realized that she was trying to act in front of a featureless green screen for ninety-five percent of the movie. She might be forgiven, then, for seeming to over-react to a comical degree in nearly every situation, but one must bear in mind that there was actually nothing for her to react to. Maybe she should have been in charge instead of Bird, since apparently her imagination was way more exciting that whatever was happening on-screen.

And now we’re getting to it, I guess. I’ve danced around this issue long enough. The story. It was only during the credits that I discovered who was responsible for this train wreck: none other than Damon “Prometheus-ruiner” Lindelof. Well, that explains it! I thought. Lindelof’s putrid fingerprints are all over the script, from the insipid, directionless characters to the pedestrian, pseudo-philosophical “fate is what we make it” ending.

The first awful character we’re properly introduced to is Robertson’s Casey Newton: a precocious, tech-savvy young woman, completely without flaw and who, through optimistic energy alone, is able to alter the fabric of space-time. I wish I were making that up. Then we’ve got Clooney’s character, Frank Walker, who’s a bit more well-rounded, being a jaded cynic, basically resigned to the fact humanity is shafted—I found him the most relatable, incidentally. So what happens when you toss these two powder-keg personalities into the same situation? Nothing much at all, frankly, but that might have rather more to do with their dialogue sounding like it was written by someone who’s never interacted with another human being.

My real problem is twofold: 1) neither character is deep or complex enough for me to feel more than superficially invested in their struggles, and 2) neither character really has anything to do, specifically Clooney’s, until right at the very end. The story is your typical “sightseeing tour” affair, with the characters visiting exotic locations with nothing much to do once they get there. In fact, Casey Newton asks at one point, “am I supposed to be doing something?” An appropriate question, to be sure, but I would have extended it to every animal, vegetable, and mineral in the plot up until that point. Hilariously, there’s this ongoing subplot involving the two leads being hunted by kill-droids from an alternate dimension (which sounds way more interesting than it actually is), but it’s blatantly obvious that its entire purpose is to contrive a reason for the protagonists to move along to the next boring set-piece when the story is done cramming exposition down our throats at the current one.

And for a rollicking sci-fi fantasy adventure, there’s a hell of a lot of half-baked exposition that Lindelof insists on spoon-feeding us. The action is so choppy and stop/go/stop because he has to slam on the breaks to crowbar in even more expository bullshit. Show us, Lindelof, don’t just tell us. The indecisive tone doesn’t help the fractured pacing either, as scenes in which multiple people get atomized with no remorse are juxtaposed with scenes in which Hugh Laurie struts around uttering the aforementioned tortured one liners. Speaking of, let’s get around to my other major sticking point, the evil plan.

For the vast majority of the movie, the Earth is threatened with destruction in a wholly unspecific way, allegedly due to a big machine that George Clooney built while he was bumming around an alternate dimension. Neither Lindelof nor Clooney seem to know exactly what the big machine actually does, but the consensus seems to be that it can predict the future somehow. No one knows why the world is going to end though, so they’ve got to travel to the source to figure it out. Once there, Hugh Laurie reveals that he’s the one who’s seeding trans-dimensional bad-vibes to Earth, which is making everyone get really depressed or aggressive or something. But here’s the thing: Hugh Laurie outright admits that even if Earth gets destroyed, it won’t have any impact whatsoever on Tomorrowland. So my question is, why continue to do it even if you know it won’t make any difference to you and yours? Just for kicks? The whole thing is such a contrived, unintuitive mess from start to finish that it’s making my brain hurt just trying to remember it.

And at the very end of the movie, when George Clooney is giving a bit of an epilogue after the big machine gets destroyed, he says something to the effect of, “this is going to be a lot harder than destroying a big evil tower.” Okay, great. Thanks for drawing attention to how idiotic the plot was, Lindelof. But why don’t you change it and make it less idiotic instead of sitting there, grinning and pointing at the massive shit you just took? Lindelof’s absolute delirious contempt for his audience is nothing new, but this reaches a whole new level of awful.

So, to make a long story short, my hopes of a sci-fi fantasy epic were DOA, Damon Lindelof demonstrated what he thinks of the people who see his movies, Disney gets to masturbate over it’s own intellectual property for a while, and 3D is still terrible. See you, space cowboy…

Rating: 2 out of 5

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster


Glancing at a “news” article recently, I read that Avengers: Age of Ultron is the highest-grossing U.S. film release of the year. In other news: water is wet. For God’s sake, this is a non-story considering the drivel it was competing with during Q1. According to Wikipedia, Age of Ultron is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time but, as we know, just because something is successful doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.

After the heart-stopping success of the first Avengers film, Joss Whedon reprises his position as both writer and director. If you’ve seen The Avengers, you’re essentially in for more of the same; that is, a heavy emphasis on frenetic, computer generated action sequences. Indeed, they deserve an in-depth focus because that’s basically all that’s on offer. Like The Avengers, we’re treated to a slew of highly choreographed, fast-paced, but ultimately superficial fight scenes, all of which fail to disguise the fact that the plot is an insipid, go-nowhere sightseeing tour of exotic locations.

The problem with a lot of the fight scenes in Age of Ultron is that there’s no weight or impact to what we’re seeing. The heroes dispatch the enemies with such expediency that it hardly makes a difference whether the bad guys are there or not, meaning that any dramatic tension dissolves right before our eyes.

Before the advent of CG, there was a school of thought that dictated that superhero movies were an unwise proposition because even with the most intricate practical sets, it was still a tall order to capture the larger-than-life spectacle of comic books. Now, however, I can’t help be feel that we’ve gone too far in the opposite direction as we find ourselves living in a time when the average superhero movie can be made of ninety-five percent green screen.

Chunks of rubble and smashed scenery fly around like they’re made out of cotton, and the over-reliance on computer generation means that everything has a weirdly clean, unreal-looking quality to it in a way that reminds me unsettlingly of the Star Wars prequels. I noticed a significant visual downgrade as soon as the action sequences started up, although I did have the misfortune of seeing the film in gimmicky RealD 3D bullshit vision—which inevitably makes everything look atrocious—so I’m willing to give the film the benefit of the doubt there.

So, the action is more of the same, but what about the characters? Well, that’s where Whedon really decided to knuckle-down and ruin everything. A critic I like once made the observation that Whedon has no conception of character voice, meaning that the dialogue of each character is virtually interchangeable with the others. And more to the point, enough with the fucking quips, Whedon! Not every character has to make some pedantic retort or vapid observation every time they open their mouths!

I felt like I was watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where every line of dialogue is some smarmy insipidity that makes you want to kick the offending character’s teeth in. It’s almost like Age of Ultron was written by the same amateurish, ham-fisted—oh, wait. Come on, Whedon. Give us a little substance, for God’s sake—not the adventures of the Bland Brigade.

A big problem with the film is the introduction of the new character, Vision. He’s some kind of android, I guess, infused with the power of one of the infinity stones, but despite establishing that the Avenger’s couldn’t possibly defeat Ultron without Vision’s help, he contributes nothing during the final showdown. Excuse me, that’s not entirely true. He punches him. Once. Ultimately his presence would have meant precisely as much whether he was there or not, apart from Disney having a new toy to sell, obviously.

There’s also been an attempt to characterize Black Widow and Hawkeye, and while I can appreciate the intention, Natasha Romanov’s character seems to have done a complete 180 in between films. From uttering the line, “love is for children,” in The Avengers to “I adore you,” in Age of Ultron, she didn’t seem to undergo an arc so much as Whedon decided to arbitrarily fuck around with his own canon for the sake of poignancy.

I mentioned the plot a moment ago, so let’s refocus our sights. Weirdly, the events of Age of Ultron are decidedly scaled-down compared to those of the first, mainly due to a reliance on telling rather than showing. The alien invasion of New York is swapped for a rouge AI trying to do…what, exactly? Kill everyone, presumably—but his motivation for doing so seem incredibly poorly justified, despite multiple villainous monologues filled-to-bursting with meaningless pseudo-philosophical bullshit.

We’re told on multiple occasions that if the villain succeeds, billions of people will die. The most we see in the film, however, is one little town being terrorized via some kind of anti-gravity device. My point is that it would have helped if we had seen or heard a demonstration of the destructive capability of this plan (like the destruction of Alderan in A New Hope, for example) instead of just having to take Captain America’s word for it. There’s also an early setup about a growing anti-Avengers sentiment among the populace, complete with anti-iron man graffiti on some walls, but that aspect of the plot is quietly dropped and never referenced again.

The larger story, furthermore, is rife with plot holes, mostly concerning Ultron’s evil plan. For example, consider the impossibility of destroying a true, adaptive AI that’s been established to already be inside the Internet, replicating itself. Tony Stark brings it up at one point, but seems to forget about it just as quickly. And again, was Ultron not forward-thinking enough to station one, or five, or ten robots outside of the town that his consciousness could inhabit as a contingency? The devil is in the details, Whedon. Perhaps with a little more polish, the script wouldn’t seem like it was rushed out in a week in an attempt to capitalize on a pre-existing franchise.

I think the reason that the first Avengers film worked was because we were all collectively taken in by the massive lead up, and were mostly happy to see the characters that we had come to love play around in a big, explosive blowout of a film. As cathartic as The Avengers was, it was totally inept when it came to actually telling a story—a problem which is compounded to a rather worrying degree in Age of Ultron.

Some might respond to the points I’ve raised by saying “it’s a superhero blockbuster. What did you expect?” But to them I would respond by saying that excuse doesn’t brook with me when Avengers: Age of Ultron exists in the same world as The Dark Knight.

Disney has the luxury of having no real competitors in the superhero genre at present, but if they keep pumping out more toothless work like this, then I wouldn’t be surprised if the public eventually recognizes it for the schlock that it is.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Into the Woods

Into the Woods poster

I’m sitting here thinking about the last musical I saw, and I suppose it must have been last year’s Les Misérables, which was also released around Christmastime. I don’t know what it is about the holidays that gets people to the mood to sing, and while I’m not wholly adverse to musicals-on-film as a concept, it’s an exceptionally difficult formula to get right. Originally an exceptionally notable Broadway musical, Into the Woods has been hacked apart and reassembled, albeit with a few bits missing, in order to make it ready for its silver screen debut. Unfortunately, the finished product doesn’t quite hit the mark, and despite it’s star-studded cast, comes across as a bit hurried and slapdash.

Directed by Rob Marshall of Memoirs of a Geisha (2002) and Chicago (2005) fame, the films ostensibly seemed to be inexperienced hands from its inception. Somewhere along the way, however, some of its teeth seemed to fall out, leaving the production a bland and flavorless heap. Even the color scheme—an underwhelming motley of browns, greens, and greys—proved to be as uninteresting as the music itself. Marshall, also serving as the musical stager, was presumably responsible (or at the very least had a hand in) the choreography as well, though he dropped the ball in that department as well. Nearly all of the numbers comprised of characters ducking in and out of the low-hanging trees and mist-covered floor of the woods in question, and got incredibly boring incredibly quickly. I’m not even asking for a the spectacular set pieces and big-budget production value of Les Mis, but at least a little variety would be nice.

Into the Woods features an ensemble cast, members of which include Meryl Streep, James Cordon, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Lilla Crawford, and Jonny Depp for about four-fifths of a second. In my opinion, the cast isn’t to blame for the film’s shortcomings, and indeed, in different hands, less restrictive hands, the production might have turned out exponentially more watchable. Cordon and Blunt seemed to have a good chemistry, and many of their quips found their mark, and even Pine and his on-screen rival played by Billy Magnussen had a joyfully overblown duet which played to the natural machismo of both. Surprisingly, if there was any real shortcoming as far as casting was concerned, it would have to be leveled at Streep, whose performance seemed oddly phoned-in, almost as if she had a number of other places that she would rather be.

Having been chopped up and spat back out as part of the intensive rewriting process notwithstanding, the story deserves close examination, as the film takes though a twisting miasma of several different fairy tales all crammed into a single hour-and-a-half long film. The film takes elements from “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Bean Stalk,” “Rapunzel,” and “Little Red Riding Hood,” and fumbles nearly every one. Characters from one story might appear in another for no other reason than to milk the gimmick, and when they do show up, the can almost never think of anything relevant for them to do. Case in point: Little Red’s story is the first to be concluded (probably within the first twenty minutes) yet she sticks around for the rest of the cast for the duration nonetheless, contributing nothing besides being a part of a truly ill-conceived and ham-fisted romance subplot that’s as nonsensical as it is unnecessary.

It’s tough writing about a topic that one has no interest in, and though I’ve admittedly never seen the Broadway version, this was it’s chance to make me care about the property. Suffice it to say, it the film utterly fails to garner even enough interest to make it worth reviewing. With a go-nowhere story and ultimately uninteresting musical numbers that routinely fell flat, the film adaptation of Into the Woods in certainly worth missing this holiday season.

Rating: 2 out of 5

 

 

Big Hero 6

Big-Hero-6-Movie-Poster-2


It seems like you can’t walk ten feet these days without being mauled by various superhero paraphernalia, whether it be ads for new marvel movies, action figures, or Happy Meal toys. Naturally, since Disney won’t be satisfied unless they have all the money instead of just most of the money, they’ve decided to dig deep into the Marvel back-log and have pulled out the obscure Big Hero 6, on which today’s film is exceedingly loosely based.

The film comes to us from the superstar tag-team duo consisting of Chris Williams and Don Hall. Williams, also from the 2008 animated extravaganza Bolt, and Hall, also from absolutely nothing, collaborate on this big-budget production, ostensibly a stand-alone universe not convergent with that of the larger Marvel canon. As is the case with mush of Disney’s more recent productions, the visual flash and sparkle was superficially impressive, yet utterly failed to distract me from the tissue-thin plot, two-dimensional characterization, and dialogue that sounded as though it was written by a ten-year-old.

Big Hero 6 features a mostly ensemble cast, including the vocal talents of Ryan Potter as protagonist Hiro Hamada and Scot Adsit as his robotic medical caretaker Baymax. The cheesy-sounding dialogue might be exacerbated, especially in the case of Hiro’s friends, who constitute the other four members of the titular superhero group Big Hero 6, because their every line of dialogue comes across as so obnoxiously enthusiastic, regardless of the situation or the context in which it’s said. There’s very little wit and they way in which the characters play off one another seems very canned and forced at times, not helped at all by the fact that the supporting cast only seems to have one or two archetypical character traits each: i.e. ‘the black guy,’ ‘the slacker,’ ‘the tough-girl,’ etc.

According to Wikipedia, Disney pumped a ton of cash into some state-of-the-art graphical rendering hardware in order to produce the film; while the visuals are undeniably stunning, considerably less attention has been afforded to the story, and the film suffers for it. By far, the most engaging parts of the movie are the interactions between Hiro and Baymax, and while those parts are admittedly filled with a lot of heart, that’s really all the actual substance that plot has on offer. It’s almost as though someone came to the frantic realization that the title of the movie ends in a six and not a two, and basically went “Oh, shit. We’re going to have to cram another four characters in here somewhere!”

Even during the combat sequences (of which there are surprisingly few, given the whole “superhero” thing) the supporting cast hardly seem like they’re even given anything interesting to do, calling into question the necessity it all. It’s pretty clear that Disney is going to try to make an ongoing franchise out of Big Hero 6, so maybe we’ll get more development from the characters as the series continues; honestly, I’m kind of excited to see more, as the visual design and diegetic world-building are all top-notch and really visually compelling.

At the end of the day, Disney gets a new line of toys to sell and Marvel gets to buy another yacht, but for all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Big Hero 6, it’s a barebones action-comedy with a flimsy plot, buoyed by some pretty excellent visual design and a fun and interesting dynamic between the central characters.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Oz: The Great and Powerful Review

Have you ever wanted to be someone else? Have you ever been tired of your normal, everyday existence and instead yearned for a life of excitement? This question is especially poignant in regards to Oz because it lies at the heart of the protagonist’s struggle and also sums up the film’s own aims as well. Aspiring magician Oscar Diggs wants, above all else, to be a legendary performer, while the film itself wants to be Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland so badly that you can almost see the strain. Oz: The Great and Powerful bills itself as the first movie event of the year, yet in reality it’s nothing more than a fizzling disappointment.

Sam Raimi, who has earned a place in the hearts of generations of horror fans for his work on the iconic Evil Dead series as well as a host of other admirable accomplishments, directs this foray into calamity and frustration. James Franco as wannabe wizard Oscar Diggs strikes the wrong note with his slightly overblown and overacted performance which seems disingenuous in all the wrong circumstances. While it’s established that Diggs is nothing but a glorified conman who frequently hides behind a facade of grandeur, he never readjusts when he’s trying to be sincere which makes the tone come across as goofy in many cases. My suspicion is the Franco’s overacting is a compensation for having little to no visual cues when the scenes were shot, as a result of many of the set pieces and even characters being computer generated. In addition to Franco’s floundering, it seems as though the only reason that Mila Kunis was involved in this production at all was to see if Raimi could squeeze her into a pair of tight leather pants. Indeed, even though her performance wasn’t unwatchable, she seemed to have a lot of the problems that Franco did and there were many other, better choices for the role.

The question at the front of my mind after having seen Oz is this: If the vast majority of set pieces and characters are computer generated (not particularly well, I might add), why didn’t they just decide to animate the entire thing? Instead of the seamless interplay between real world and computer generated objects- a la Avatar (2009)- Oz ends up looking like a 2013 production of Space Jam and frankly, it’s extremely distracting. Computer generated characters move fluidly enough on their own, but when interacting with or even standing near actual people, they suddenly take on this unsettling, uncanny valley-esque range of motion. More surprising is the fact that a Walt Disney Studios film like this one has such shoddy animation, when Disney has consistently produced some of the best animated films around. On the other hand though, maybe we’re supposed to take all of this in through a filter of irony. Just as the original 1939 Oz looks charmingly dated by today’s standards, perhaps Raimi wants to make an artistic statement and come full circle by making his prequel look like complete ass. Yep, and maybe I will declared King of England.

I mentioned a moment ago that Oz bloodily rips off Alice In Wonderland, which in reality is no surprise with the involvement of art director Robert Stromberg, who leant his distinctive visual style to both Alice as well as Avatar. Stromberg’s imagination generally yields impressive outdoor expanses and lush vistas, and while they certainly return in abundance in Oz, their downfall seems to lie in their technical execution rather than their artistic realization. Likewise, Raimi actually wanted Johnny Depp to play the wizard. Allegedly, Depp was initially intrigued by the role, but as fate would have it, he was already busy working an another 2013 release, The Lone Ranger. If Depp had taken the role, they might as well have renamed the film to “Alice in Wonderland 2: We’re really phoning it in now.”

I think that a lot of what was wrong with this film stemmed from the fact that we all knew how it was going to end. I mean, we knew how it was going to end anyway- this is a Disney movie after all- but more than that, we know that the wizard has to save the day so that the events of The Wizard of Oz can occur. Sadly, the plot is so predictable and bland that there’s really not much to save it from stagnation. Though Oz was a miss, hopefully Raimi will be able to redeem himself soon as financier of the highly anticipated Evil Dead remake in early April.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The Incredibles: Who Cares About John Galt?

Pixar, throughout the years, has produced more than its fair share of exceptional films. In my mind, one movie in particular rises above the others. The Incredibles, released in 2004, has everything I could want in an animated film, and indeed, in any film; action with a sense of something at stake, romance with consequences, and brilliantly written characters and a plot which invites the audience to experience something…incredible.

Moreover, the film possesses an intricate and engrossing commentary on the ethics and values associated with Objectivist philosophy, which may (or may not) have been evident to anyone familiar with the work of philosopher Ayn Rand.

Allow me to provide only the barest background into the admittedly labyrinthian intricacies of Objectivist thought. In its most basic form, Objectivism (as far as values and ethics are concerned) holds that there are three virtues which make it possible to honor the ultimate Objectivist value, that is to say, one’s life. These virtues are rationality, productiveness, and pride*. Rand believed that no man of integrity could live without these three virtues and hope to live his life to the utmost.

Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s magnum opus published in 1957, is also referenced through the film as it remains to this day the most complete and comprehensive guide to Objectivist thought. In it, Rand portrays a world in which society’s most productive members have been demonized and have therefore chosen to go into hiding in order to watch a civilization which champions mediocrity to crumble from the inside.

Now, in the case of The Incredibles, the superheroes have been forcibly driven into hiding and are no longer allowed to use their powers which once set them above their fellow man. From the beginning, Mr. Incredible is punished for using his intimate knowledge of his insurance firm’s inner workings to help people who are in need, because the though the company’s profits may suffer. He is discouraged from that “sacred” virtue, productiveness, in the name of the greater good (at least from the point of view of his tyrannical employer).

Likewise, when Mr. and Mrs. Incredible argue over whether their son, Dash, should be allowed to go out for sports, Mr. Incredible laments the fact that theirs is a world in which the mediocre are heroes while the strong are themselves oppressed. He goes on to say that only those who are truly exceptional should be celebrated and acknowledges the fact that Dash’s superpowers may give him an advantage, but argues that his son’s success should not be limited by the inability of others.

There are, however, natural exceptions which disqualify this film from being about Objectivism. One such exception is the fact that the protagonist, Mr. Incredible, believes that saving people should be done for its own sake, whereas Objectivist ethics would imply that he himself should be gaining something from that endeavor.

If you’ve never read one of Rand’s novels, I do recommend it. The Fountianhead or Anthem is a good place to start. But be warned, do not accept everything you read as fact, even when Rand may present it as such. And would you kindly remember one last thing for me? We all make choices, but in the end…our choices make us.

*Paraphrased from an essay by Rand entitled The Objectivist Ethics. (1961)

Brave Review

Brave, Pixar’s latest box office extravaganza, is masterfully animated and the voice acting is, as always, top notch, but I found that the film is safe and mediocre in the worst sense of those words. It takes no risks and oversteps no boundaries and is therefore imminently forgettable. In fact, movies not bad enough to verbally crucify and not good enough to canonize are generally difficult to review because I can’t bring myself to get worked up about them one way or the other. Basically what I’m saying is that Brave is an insignificant little crab scuttling unnoticed along the grey shores of indifference.

Like a great number of other people, I began watching Brave not knowing anything about the plot, and as the film progressed, began to wonder if I had sauntered into the wrong theater by mistake. I was prepared for an epic coming of age story set amid warring kingdoms in a romanticized depiction of the Scottish Highlands. What I got, however, was something entirely different. Indeed, the film was unique in that it simultaneously surprised a lot of people and surprised no one at all. Allow me to explain.

The characters are generally likeable and in the grand tradition of Pixar animation, often unbearably cute. In addition, many teenagers will find Merida’s, our protagonist,  relationship with her overbearing mother all too relatable which helps to add an element of humanity to the film. Billy Connolly, in addition, does an admirable job as the voice of King Fergus and infuses the film with a kind of vitality that it would have otherwise sorely lacked. Don’t get me wrong, all of the above areas are where the film really shined, but at the same time they were unsurprising simply because we as an audience expected all of those things from a studio as experienced as Pixar, especially after they showed us that they could deliver the goods in the form of a glittering gold nugget that we call Toy Story 3.

The aspect of the film that did surprise people was the plot, and I believe that it was fumbled enough to bring down an otherwise rich cast of characters and interesting locale. The trailer, much to its credit in fact, leaked little to no information about the plotline. As a result I was both pleased that the film threw me a curve ball and disappointed that the magical elements seemed clumsily handled and almost contrived.  What’s more, Pixar seems to be going a little overboard on the whole “storytelling without words” concept and relies heavily, especially in the second act, on visual gags. I believe the film would have benefited from a more complex interaction between Merida and her ‘altered’ mother than the grunts and roars that constitute a large portion of the dialogue. Also, an interesting commentary on the moral implications of the good of the self vs. the good of the community was ripe for the plucking had the writers cared to explore it beyond something akin to “it’s your duty, Merida!” I felt let down by the abrupt transition between the bitchy Queen to the nurturing and understanding Queen, especially since there was virtually no dialogue to show that a change in her thought process had taken place. But now I’m just critiquing minutia.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Brave is a bad film. In fact, I think it’s a decent film which disappoints me because it could have been so much better. My hope is that Pixar will continue to live up to its reputation as the undisputed king of computer animation and will soon give us a film that will knock Toy Story 3 off of its gilded throne. At the end of the day, and indeed despite my overt cynicism at the beginning of this review, I suppose that one could argue that saying that Brave is mediocre is like saying that one of the diamonds in Pixar’s money pile is slightly less brilliant than all the others.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

FINAL THOUGHT: I’d like to comment briefly on how much I like the trailer for this film. The purpose of a trailer, after all, is to establish the tone of the film and perhaps introduce one or two of the more interesting characters instead of spoil the entire plot in less than two minutes. The Master and Man of Steel trailers are also fine examples of artfully executed hype generators.

FINAL THOUGHT 2: La Luna was brilliant!

FINAL FINAL REDUX: Who else is super fucking excited for Les Miserables in December?!