Flick-fil-A: The Dark Knight Rises

Yeah, yeah, so movie reviews should probably be posted close to the film’s release date for maximum impact and, you know, relevance.  Well, when has that ever stopped us here at LEG+JCB?

Now, just off the bat (har har), I really enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises. It really does a good job at providing an emotionally-satisfying end to the trilogy (kinda like the finale to “Lost,” whatever that means to you). 

But, of course, since I’m a huge nerd, I have a bunch of nitpicking to do:

**Warnin’: spoilers!**

This is what a two-minute window to draw a doodle will get ya.

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Flick-fil-A: The Amazing Spider-Man

My first conscious memory of Spider-Man was a commercial for the ’90s animated series on Fox Kids (remember that rad theme song? RAD. “SPIDER-MAN. SPIDER-MAN. SPIDER BLOOD SPIDER BLOOD RADIOACTIVE SPIDER-BLOOOD!“) I was around 7 or 8 and had mostly stayed away from superhero comics up until that point; I’m not really sure why–it might’ve had something to do with the fact that anybody who read superhero comics in the early ’90s was a HUGE NERD who should be avoided.

 

(THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD, MATEY!)

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Flick-fil-A: Brave

The first twenty minutes or so of Brave will make you think, “Oh, hey, this is a lot like Finding Nemo, but with a mom/daughter relationship.”  But Brave is, surprisingly, a lot more like Cars.

[Minor thematic spoilers below]

Both films have a Big Message (what usually sets apart Pixar films from, well, nearly every other animation house out there), and both miss graceful executions of said Big Message. Cars meanders too much–which I get is sort of the point, but c’mon, at least make it interesting–while Brave takes its main message and beats you over the head with it.  Brave is not subtle, even using voiceover narration (did the Brave screenwriters ever see Adaptation?!) to explain everything, including how being “brave” doesn’t always have to mean an outward display of courage.

Like the original CarsBrave is a solid B/B-minus and is frustrating because there’s potential there for it to be really good.  The score and songs are really solid, and the animation is simply breathtaking, with a level of detail and depth never before seen in a CGI film; I kept on thinking to myself, “Wow, I wonder what Walt Disney would’ve thought about this?” (this has something to do with Pixar’s brand new animation system, PRESTO).  This film is sure to become a standard in many Blu-ray players.  The themes are adequately addressed, if cumbersomely, but the humor is broad without being particularly clever, which Pixar has excelled with in the past.  The screenplay is just a lot rougher than anything the studio has produced before; perhaps this has something to do with its original director and creative force behind the film being fired midway through production.

[Sidebar: As discussed in this Comics Beat piece on it’s an odd year when it seems like there’s been a role-reversal between Disney Animation Studios and Pixar.  As the competition in the CGI animated field heats up and films from rivalstudios get better (see: How to Train Your Dragon) how does Pixar define itself?]

All that said, the most significant thing Brave has going for it: Merida is unlike any heretofore Disney princess.  There’s no Prince Charming or any love interest, but even so, this is not an typical modern “Girl Power” movie.  Merida’s journey is thankfully not only about relinquishing patriarchal tradition; it sidesteps that for the most part,  focusing more on a themes about admitting your mistakes and trying to fix them, and trying to understand others when their noblest intentions don’t gel with yours.  What sort of impact this unconventional approach to “a princess story” will have not only to Disney’s merchandising team, but also to girls–and boys–in the audience, remains to be seen.  Maybe Merida’s aversion to finding a man will rub off on some of Disney’s other princesses in interesting ways.

Oh, and La Luna, the short attached to Brave, is seven minutes of pure joy. If Cars 2 had you questioning the supply of creativity left at Pixar, La Luna will temper your doubts while putting a smile on your face. It’s really wonderful.

Final Scores:

Brave: B

…and La Luna: A