(Warning – spoilers)
I utterly agree with this review. I’ve had this movie getting my hopes up for the past year, and I had two or three different possible storylines in my head before watching it. Sadly, any of those would have probably been better than what I got.
I am mainly unable to ignore the giant gaping plot hole in the middle of the movie. Why, exactly, did she need to bring the bear with her into the castle? Couldn’t she have gone in to get the tapestry and some thread and brought it out to the bear?
And what part of the spell said that it had to be fixed near the bear? She could have gone in, with the bear hiding outside, fixed the tapestry (which is a perfectly natural thing for her to want to do, she can just say she regrets that she ruined her mom’s tapestry and wants to fix it as an apology, which is actually kinda the truth even if nothing supernatural is going on, so anyone who passed by should believe her), and then gone out to see if it worked.
No explanation was given for why she had to risk her mom’s life by sneaking her through a room of people who kill bears on sight and who are all actually carrying weapons at the time. She obviously didn’t need her mom’s help to fix the tapestry (I’m not sure how the bear would have done it anyway, with no thumbs), because she ended up doing it herself anyway. No explanation is given for why she apparently needs to bring the fixed tapestry TO her mother, as I would make the assumption that just fixing it would do the trick regardless of where the enchanted bear happens to be.
Also, I’m rather disappointed that they don’t really do anything more with the prince guy. I was hoping that they’d go back to HIS throne room and mend HIS broken engraving, and make HIM human again somehow. It’s really a bit sad that most of my better alternative storylines directly undermine the whole “female empowerment” thing that this movie was trying to do by causing the girl to fall in love with someone and realize that getting married isn’t so bad after all, but dammit, this is a disney princess story with no love interest!
They made all three of the suitors unlikable on purpose so that it felt less like she was objecting because she wasn’t ready to get married, and more because all three of her options were ugly as sin and she hates all three of them accordingly. You are rooting for her less because you agree with her viewpoint and more because you can’t stomach the thought of anyone getting married to any of them. I was personally rooting for the monster-bear to turn out to be a handsome prince like in Beauty and the Beast, and I was pretty sad that they just outright murdered him.
It plays out more like the parental-disobeyment fantasy that was The Little Mermaid. “I don’t agree with what my parents tell me to do, so I’m going to run away from home and consort with dangerous shady characters in order to get what I want, and see? Everything turned out just the way I wanted in the end, and everyone’s happy with it, especially my parents! I was right all along!”
But honestly, nothing at all was resolved. She thinks she got what she wanted, but all she ended up with was a compromise that she STILL has to choose one of those three horrendously ugly boys, but now she picks which one to marry based on which one can win her heart rather than which one is (perhaps accidentally) better at archery. It seemed to me like she still wouldn’t be allowed to choose whoever she wants. What happens when she’s older and she falls in love with someone who ISN’T the firstborn of one of the clan leaders? I sadly smell a sequel.
From the previews, I was expecting more of a “oh, you want to change your fate? *cackle evilly* Your new fate is to DIE!!” and gets teleported somewhere far away where she gets attacked by a bear, but she somehow befriends the bear and it helps her get back home to her family, because she misses her parents and they miss her, and upon defeating the evil witch and being reunited, they all come to a reasonable compromise about the situation.
Or the witch says “oh, you want a different fate? Here, take mine!” and switches bodies with her, so that the witch has the body of a young girl, and everyone else sees Merida as an old woman. Not sure where the bear comes in on that one though. Maybe she befriends the bear somehow so that she can have a powerful ally in hunting down the witch.
Maybe combine the two! Witch teleports her far away AND takes over her life, expecting that the girl will be killed by the bear and the witch will be free to enjoy the cushy life of a princess. Merida befriends the bear using her awesome courage and travels back home to stop the witch.
Ultimately, I think her request of the witch was utterly foolish. Ask to change your fate? Without giving any thought as to WHAT you are changing it to? Are you insane? That could be interpreted any number of ways. Do I just think this way after a lifetime of seeing this trope played out in terrible ways, and someone without such stories wouldn’t think about it? Honestly, she deserves it, after making such an open-ended request of someone who is so incredibly obsessed with bears. And we never do see her family’s reaction to the crazy number of bear knick-knacks that suddenly appear at the castle two weeks later.
But really, the witch doesn’t feel much like a villain. She doesn’t have any ulterior motive in doing any of this, other than “ooh, that thing is shiny AND IT HAS BEARS ON IT. Okay fine, I’ll make your stupid spell. Gimme!” She’s a well-meaning, misunderstood crazy person.
A Disney princess story that has neither a love interest nor a coherent villain? No wonder this movie was disappointing.
I will give it one thing, though, the music was astounding. I’ll leave you with my favorite song from this movie. It really makes me want to feel the wind beneath my wings again.