Brave 3D - Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray|
There was a moment a few months back while watching Brave in my theater that I realized I really need to stop going to the movies and just wait for these films to come to my home. It was somewhere in the first few minutes where we meet the young Merida, and her royal parents on a causal picnic in the woods. Suddenly, a giant bear attacks and King Fergus must defend his wife and daughter from the snarling beast. The theater erupted with the cries of a dozen or so younglings who were apparently too young for such a scary encounter, and it was several minutes before things quieted back down.
Disney has always had to walk the line when it comes to kid-friendly content that appeals to adults as well, and while Brave definitely has some lessons that kids need to learn some of the content can be shocking, even when watching in your own home…so be warned. But for those able to “handle it”, Brave is a visual masterpiece, easily the best work in Pixar’s growing stable of CG features, both in graphics and emotional storytelling.
After that initial encounter with the bear we meet up with Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) several years later. It’s her birthday and it seems that the King (Billy Connolly) and Queen (Emma Thompson) are in the process of “arranging” a marriage for their daughter to the son of one of the three clan lords (Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd) who have traveled to the castle to seek her hand. Merida is far too independent to be forced into marriage, so she cleverly devises a plan to have her suitors compete in an archery contest, knowing that no one can best her own expert skills with a bow. After embarrassing the clan lords and their sons the kingdom teeters on war while the furious Queen Elinor locks Merida in her room. She promptly escapes into the woods and stumbles upon an ancient ring of stones where she is lead to the mysterious hut of an old witch (Julie Walters) who prepares a magical cake that will change Merida’s future - a ritual she has done once before. Little does Merida know that once her mother eats this cake, these changes will be far more devastating and life-changing than she could have possibly imagined.
Brave has some great messages for both mothers and daughters, although they may be a bit too subtle or even cerebral for younger viewers who haven’t had to deal with controlling parents. Still, the end message and unified family front is undeniable and the journey we take to get there is magical, fun, and even a bit frightening at times.
Brave blew me away in the theaters, both for its pure visual splendor and its amazing 3D that was subtle but effectively added just enough depth to the scenery and action to really make it pop. That all translates flawlessly to the 3D Blu-ray home viewing experience allowing me to proclaim this to be the best 3D movie in my collection. The scenic depth puts you smack in the middle of the Scottish Highlands; you’ll get vertigo as Merida climbs the falls, and you’ll instinctively duck during a bear attack or marvel at the slow motion release of an arrow from a bow. As trivial as it sounds, the most impressive and standout element of the film were the red curls that spiraled from Merida. But even in 2D, Brave is a technological masterpiece with charming character designs, hilarious animations, and crazy amounts of detail, both in costumes as well as environments and set designs. Lighting, shadows, magical special effects, fur, hair, fabric, stone, plants, grass, flowers, water – it all combines to create something more hyper-realized than all its parts.
Complementing the flawless visual presentation is an equally epic Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless mix that is unmatched by anything in the Disney library and quite possibly by anything else in my library of over 1000 Blu-rays. You have this authentic score that will have you thinking you stuck in your copy of Braveheart, and then you have all these perfectly mixed environmental effects combined with some master-class acting by top talent. The Scottish accents are a bit thick at times and they use some terms that even I had to Google, but it just doesn’t get any better than this. Even the LFE gets a workout with some thundering music to go along with thundering hooves and growling bears. Every channel in your home theater will spring to life and immerse you in this magical 3D world.
You can finish the movie in less than two hours but it will take a lot longer than that to work your way through the generous set of bonus features that kick off with a fantastic audio commentary by Director Mark Andrews, co-director Steve Purcell, story supervisor Brian Larsen and Editor Nick Smith. This is easily one of the most informative commentaries of any DVD I’ve reviewed this year. The obligatory Pixar Shorts include La Luna, also shown in theaters, and The Legend of Mor'Du, a stylistic origin story for the evil bear from the feature film as told by the witch. Other goodies found on the first disc are 50 minutes of Behind the Scenes that include eight featurettes including my favorite that follows the Pixar team on their research trip to Scotland. There are also four extended scenes that provide 13 additional minutes of the film in various stages of production.
Moving on to the second disc we have 14 minutes of Promotional Pieces; basically trailers and scenes used for marketing, and then you have a 3-minute Alternate Opening that shows the initial encounter of Fergus and Mor’Du in a new light. “Fallen Warriors” is a collection of fully rendered shots that were trimmed for the final edit. “Dirty Hairy People” is an amusing 4-minute look at how the artists subtly made the characters less than attractive and much more realistic. “It is English... Sort Of” is a handy reference to interpreting the Scottish slang used in the film. “Angus” is a 3-minute look on how they created Merida’s noble steed, while “The Tapestry” focuses on the importance of Merida’s family tapestry, and last up is a fairly comprehensive Art Gallery loaded with character art, scenery, sketches, and anything else Pixar could find to toss in the collection. In addition to the 2D, 3D and secondary bonus disc, this 5-disc set also includes a standard DVD copy and a digital copy that looks incredible on the iPad and/or iPhone.
If you loved it in the theater then you are really going to love Brave 3D at home on what is easily one of the best Blu-ray releases of 2012. Not only is this a shining example of 3D technology, Brave sets an impossibly high benchmark by which all future CG films will be measured. At times you will forget you are even watching an animated feature. From the fiery red locks on Merida’s head to the moist patches of moss, the ancient stone circle, the rolling green hills, the towering cliffs and cascading falls, or sprawling lakes that mirror the blue cloud-filled skies; every moment spent in the world of Brave is as magical as it is unforgettable.