Brave Movie Review – Dolby Atmos

Brave Movie Poster

Pixar’s Brave was another hit for Pixar (at least in our opinion) and this review is our view of the movie as seen in 2D versus 3D, comparing the sound of Dolby Atmos to the standard surround sound, easter eggs, and more. We have presented this review as an audio review as well as the write-up below so you can choose to listen to or read it.

We’re also looking for your feedback as well – and for helping us out, we’re giving away a copy of The Art of Brave to one lucky reader (or listener) – details on how to enter are at the bottom of the review.

To listen to the audio version of the review, click the play button below.

OVERALL DETAILS

Welcome to our review of Disney-Pixar’s movie, Brave.  Throughout the review, we may discuss spoilers, so if you don’t want to hear anything specific about the movie, we’d recommend you stop listening at this point.

Brave Movie Review Ticket Stubs

2D VERSUS 3D

We really liked the 2D version of the movie, but this may have been the best 3D I’ve seen.  The scene that first caught my eye in 3D was the scene when King Fergus is telling the tale of how he lost his leg and the boys are mimicking him by mouthing along as he talks. The depth from the triplet closest to the camera to King Fergus at the head of the table was just amazing. I still have a bit of a problem with motion scenes and the motion jitter of 3D that comes along with it, but overall I liked the 3D version a bit better this time while Julie favored the 2D version still.

STORY

The reviews that already exist for the movie are wide-ranging from glowing to not-so-great.  One of the more common gripes I’ve heard was that it was yet another Princess movie.  I would argue that this isn’t just another Princess movie since Merida carves her own path without worrying about a Prince to save her. This is an original script and if I can get off course for a minute and compare the story to products that we love – many if not all products are improvements of something that’s already been done in the past. That’s how I look at Brave, it’s an improved version of a standard story and that makes it unique in its own regard.

Brave Rotten Tomatos Rating 2012
Rotten Tomatoes Rating as of June 30, 2012

CHARACTERS

The characters are completely lovable and have been well thought out. King Fergus is a gentle giant that has Merida wrapped around his finger. Queen Elinore is so believable as the perfectionist Mother who always means well with Merida. The Triplets – Harris, Hubert, and Hamish are insanely lovable and you can’t help but be endeared to them immediately through their “look” as well as comedic abilities – Julie absolutely loves the boys.

From the moment you meet Merida, you feel her presence as a character. On the obvious front, there’s her hair which commands your attention – but underneath is a well-developed character that almost anyone can associate with at some level. From our standpoint, we associated with the struggle of being yourself but living within the constraints of others.

The lords have received some mixed reviews as well, but I loved them and their quirky looks and attitudes. Personally, I favored Lord Dingwall because of his quick temper and crazy looks (almost a Donald Duck temper). Julie liked Lord Macintosh the best and his implied homage to Apple computers.

Dolby Atmos Theater Image
Photo Courtesy of dolby.com

DOLBY ATMOS AUDIO

For review purposes, we wanted to make sure we could see the movie two ways – in standard surround sound as well as the new Dolby Atmos. There’s not too much to say about the standard Dolby surround as we’ve all heard it before – it’s not to say that it’s bad, we’re just already familiar with it. Dolby Atmos, on the other hand, is a subtle marvel – it really, truly does take film immersion to the next level, but like I eluded to, only in a subtle way. When I heard about the number of speakers (up to 64) I was concerned that the sound would be over the top and in your face could possibly come off as gimmicky. This was certainly not the case and it was amazing to hear the arrows zoom across the room from the right rear of the theater to the left front of the screen as the arrow would hit the target while Merida was riding Angus (her trusty horse).

The other scene that caught the attention of my ears was the scene where the lords are getting into a brawl after introducing themselves (right after Lord Dingwall sicks Wee Dingwall on Lord Macintosh). There is a table that gets lifted and swung around on the screen and as it swings around, the speakers also follow by creating the swinging sound – it almost sounds like the table was swinging around the room and you could almost feel the whoosh of the air as it swung around. I could go on and on about the scenes that it enhanced, but I would also highlight the scene of the witch’s cauldron as well as the final fight scene between Mor’du and Mum bear.

The layout of the speakers for the theater we saw Brave in (Roosevelt Icon Theater – Chicago, IL) was similar to the quick sketch I did on the iPad. In the sketch, you can see that there were seven speakers on both the right and left walls. There were also six speakers across the back wall and a total of twelve speakers suspended in even rows across the ceiling overhead. With there being “up to” 64 speakers in a Dolby Atmos system, that accounts for 32 speakers – I’m not sure how many total speakers this particular theater had (it can vary), but the remaining number would be located behind the screen.

Dolby Atmos Theater Sketch

I truly hope that more and more theaters get this technology installed in them because it really did enhance the movie and take it to a new level.  You could argue that since it is so subtle that some people may not notice – for instance, Julie didn’t pick up on as many of the little details as I did (but it didn’t go unrecognized for her though).

Of course, none of this would have sounded as great it if weren’t for the wonderful sound mixing and recording by Skywalker Sound.

To learn more about Dolby Atmos, I really recommend checking out their site where you can watch an intro video about the format as well as see theater diagrams as well – click here to visit the Dolby Atmos site.

UPDATED – July 4, 2012. I stumbled across the video below from Soundworks Collection that discusses the sound of Brave. Although the entire video is good (and I do recommend you watch the whole thing), if you want to hear more discussion on Dolby Atmos, skip ahead to 7:31. Some of the descriptions used for the system match up pretty closely to my assessment – it certainly reinforces my view of Atmos as an amazing system!

MUSIC / SOUNDTRACK

I did a review of the Brave soundtrack prior to viewing the movie so I wouldn’t have any association with the images on screen and I was pretty close on a lot of my assessments – but the one thing that surprised me the most was how much more I liked the songs after seeing the movie.  To me, that means that the soundtrack meshed really well with the movie and supplemented the images on screen perfectly.  When I first reviewed the soundtrack, I liked the songs, “Touch the Sky” and “Into the Open Air”, but after seeing the movie and the scenes they were in, they mean so much more now. Also, I was more critical of “Song Of Mor’du” but I saw how it fit within the movie now and its purpose – now it’s stuck in my head all the time.  Heck, Julie and I were singing it after we left the theater both times.  For in-depth details on the tracks, be sure to check out our review of the soundtrack.

VISUALS & ORGANICS

Julie and I were both mesmerized by the details in the visual aspect of the movie. Julie’s most memorable scenes were when Merida and Angus were walking through the woods – she loved how real the light looked on Angus as they walked through the trees.  She also really liked the river scene where Merida falls into the water – she appreciated that Merida’s hair truly looked wet and how it slowly dried over time rather than just being dry as soon as they cut to the next scene.  I was just floored with how amazing the fog looked as Merida and Mum bear followed the wisps up to the castle where Mor’du was.  The way the light threaded throughout the fog added an extra layer of intensity to the scene that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

WRAP UP & OTHER VARIOUS THOUGHTS

One thing I really noticed is how much “life” the characters had in their emotions.  When King Fergus is laughing with Merida and says that Young Macguffin would rather be holding up bridges than shooting a bow, the look he gives Merida is so perfect and realistic. Also, when Merida is crying at the end, after she has put the tapestry over her Mom and wants her to turn back into her human self, the emotion on Merida’s face was animated to perfection (at least in my opinion).

We also wanted to make sure that we noted the amazing vocal work of the cast who helped bring the characters to life. Kelly Macdonald did such an amazing job with Merida that I couldn’t have imagined her voice by anyone else.  Kelly also stunned us with how emotion-filled her voice was when Angus tossed her into the standing stones for the first time – when she yells, “Angus” and continues to cry – it is so believable that you can feel it.

We liked the movie so much we saw it twice over the opening weekend and may see it again since there are always little things you pick up over each viewing. For instance, Julie noticed the snowflakes during the credits and wondered if that was a tribute to the snow scenes that were removed from the movie (you can read more about the snow scenes in our The Art of Brave book review).

Oh, we also loved the tribute to Steve Jobs during the credits – it was a really nice touch and a great honor to a man that, although having his quirks, assisted with changing the face of animation as we know it.

In case you haven’t seen it already too, make sure to watch through the end of the credits as well as there is a brief scene with the wood trinkets.

EASTER EGGS

If you don’t want to know about any of the films easter eggs, we’d suggest you stop reading now!

Found List:

Pizza Planet Truck – The truck, which can be found in every movie (except for The Incredibles), can be found in the witch’s cottage as a wood trinket.  Once the Blu Ray hits stores, we’ll provide a screencap of course.  Updated July 3, 2012 – a screenshot of the Pizza Planet Truck has been revealed – click here to read more.

Pixar Brave Pizza Planet Truck Easter Egg Carving
ANCIENT DELIVERY – The Witch, an eccentric crone disguised as a woodcarver specializing in whittling wooden bear figurines and conjuring haphazard spells, showcases her mysterious and inexplicable knowledge of the future with a carved figurine of the infamous Pizza Planet truck, an iconic delivery vehicle that’s appeared in nearly every full-length feature film from Pixar Animation Studios since 1995’s “Toy Story.” Disney•Pixar’s “Brave” is in theaters now. ©2012 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Newt – Since so many witch’s potions contain an “eye of newt”, it only made sense that her potion would contain Newt as a whole.  It was almost a way to say goodbye to the story altogether – poor Newt!

John Ratzenberger – John, Pixar’s good luck charm (who voices a character in each movie), voiced the guard who didn’t get his mustache trimmed by the triplets – his name was Gordon and he only said just a few words – I believe it was something like, “the arrival of the lords” and then got slammed by the doors as the lords came marching through.

FOUND – Pixar/Luxo Ball – The Pixar ball has made an appearance in every Pixar film since the second short film, Luxo Jr. In Brave, it is speculated that it was on a shield in the ruins. Any confirmation on this?

FOUND – A113 – The classroom at Cal Arts where many of the Pixarians graduated from college graces the screen in every Pixar movie (and even some non-Pixar movies).  The placement of this has been talked about a lot and there are a lot of bad screenshots showing where people think it may be, but still not 100% confirmed.

Hidden Character from the next Pixar film – Quite often, Pixar hides a character from an upcoming movie.  No one has really chimed in with this one yet, but we’ll see what comes up – have you seen anything?  Did you also know that Brave was featured in the Pixar Treasures book that came out in 2010?

I’m wondering if there could be anything else in any upcoming books – we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled.  Updated July 3, 2012 – it was revealed that Sulley from Monsters University was included as a Celtic burning in the witch’s hut – click here to read more.

Pixar Brave Sulley Monsters University Easter Egg
NO MONSTERS IN THE CLOSET – A carving of Sulley, the lovable blue monster slated to return to the big screen in 2013’s “Monsters University,” appears on a piece of wood in the home of the Witch, an eccentric crone and woodcarver in Disney•Pixar’s epic action adventure “Brave,” in theaters now.©2012 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

UPDATE – GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED

Now that you’ve read our review, let’s talk about some ways you can win a free copy of The Art of Brave.  You can have up to seven entries to win the book and here are the guidelines:

The Art of Brave book Cover

1) The contest is only open to residents of the 48 contiguous United States. We apologize to our international readers (or AK or HI residents), but since we’re picking up the cost of the shipping, we ask for your understanding in this regard.

2) The contest will be open between the dates of June 29, 2012, at Midnight Eastern Standard Time (EST) and July 13, 2012, 11:59 PM EST.

3) The winner will be announced by first name and last initial on our website no later than July 16, 2012, 11:59 PM EST.

4) How can you enter up to seven times?  Note – there is only one entry method that is required and the rest are optional so enter once or for all seven, it’s up to you.

a) Like us on Facebook (Optional Entry – must also complete the online form in step g)

b) Follow us on Twitter (Optional Entry – must also complete the online form in step g)

c) Follow us on Google+ (Optional Entry – must also complete the online form in step g)

d) Follow us on Pinterest (Optional Entry – must also complete the online form in step g)

e) Subscribe to our YouTube Channel – (Optional Entry – must also complete the online form in step g)

f) Leave a comment on this post (below) about your thoughts on Brave as well as whether you prefer to read movie reviews as an audio review or the text writeup (Optional Entry – must also complete the online form in step g)

g) This is the required step if you just want to enter once, or if you’ve entered via any of the methods above, you must ALSO complete this step (UPDATED: The link has been removed since the contest is closed). This online survey will let us know which sites you followed us on and how we can contact you if you win the drawing for The Art of Brave. 

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments in regards to our contest and we wish you luck.

Comments 31
  1. I haven't seen Brave yet, but after listening (!!! LOVED being able to listen to it), I can't wait! Was just watching The Pixar Story documentary last night and can't believe the technological advancements they've made since Toy Story!

  2. We saw the 3D version of Brave and were disappointed, not so much in the movie, but in the 3D experience. Sitting dead-center of the theater, we expected to have an 'optimal' view but, overall, there was a definite blurred effect, even during static scenes, that just gave it a muddied look. It's possible that there were issues with the way it was displayed at the theater we were in. This was a big disappointment, since we really appreciate the attention to detail and depth of color, etc. even in the 2D versions of Pixar films. Otherwise, we thought Brave was a good, not great, Pixar effort. Being fans of nearly everything they do, it was a mild disappointment. I have found that, after a few viewings, I come to like, and sometimes love, Pixar movies that I wasn't altogether impressed with the first time around. I'm hopeful that Brave will be one of those.

  3. Another great review, thanks TJ and Julie! I loved Brave! I thought the story and characters were wonderful, and the sets, animation and sound were just amazing. I need to see it again to pick up on things I missed and try to find the Easter eggs. I've also heard from others that the 3D is very good in Brave; I'm not a fan of 3D but think I'll try seeing it in 3D – if anyone will make good use of 3D it would be Pixar.I like both reading reviews and audio reviews, but I would probably lean towards reading, unless it was a full podcast that I can download from iTunes – I listen to a few podcasts while driving to/from work.Thanks again for the great and thorough review!

  4. I hear you on having to absorb some Pixar movies. It was kind of that way for Cars 2 for me – at first I was unsure, but now I really, really like it. Hopefully Brave will be the same for you. 🙂

  5. Hey Jeff – thanks for the feedback on the audio portion of the review…always good info! In regards to the 3D, I'll be interested to see what you think – the person that left a comment on the blog right before you said that their 3D experience was a disappointment. Talk soon.

  6. I really enjoyed Brave, much more than I expected. This was a great review. I did not listen to the audio version, as I tend to do other things while on the internet, so I always enjoy having a written version. I am very appreciative of that. But I enjoyed the details you picked out, such as the lighting and Merida's wet hair (which I was particularly stunned at how believable it looked, really amazing). I only saw the film once, so I was unable to catch many little things, but after reading this review, I'll definitely look for them in the blu-ray release. Now, Brave wasn't something I instantly attached to, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. This tends to happen with most Pixar films. The more you notice tiny details, the more you realize how everything comes together. Once again, great review!

  7. Julie- I agree with your thoughts on the 2d vs 3d. I heard in an interview (in fact it may be the google talk one) with Mark Andrews that he is not a huge fan of 3d. So I did not expect the 3d to be amazing. There is so much depth in the artwork in Brave already that 3d almost doesn't work for it. Just my thoughts.I really enjoyed Brave though, it's an absolutely breathtaking film. I've seen it twice already and plan on seeing it at least 2 more times.

  8. I thought that Brave was the perfect mix of Pixar's work. From the beautiful landscape to the amazing characters and epic story, Brave won my heart in a way that no other movie has. I love Merida and her fantastic character. I loved how I could relate to her on so many different levels. Brave truly is a masterpiece that should be enjoyed by everyone. It really saddens me that it didn't get that great of critical acclaim by many critics. To me, Brave deserves at least a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. Oh and I like listening to movie reviews more than reading. It's nice to be able to hear what the blogger's emotions are! I'm not just saying this because its nice, but I really enjoy reading your blog and following you on twitter! You put together a fantastic review of Brave and I can't wait for more!

  9. Thanks for your feedback Ben – it is very much appreciated. You're site is also very informative as well – thanks for Everything Pixar! I agree that the rating should be higher than it is – but it's hard when a company has had such big success early on to maintain that rating – people often look more critically at a film when they already have expectations of a studio. It will be hard for them to hit those high of numbers again (at least for a while). T.J.

  10. I saw Brave twice in 3D—once by myself on opening day and the second time to share it with my siblings and another friend of ours! Being a teenage boy, I probably looked much less odd on the second trip haha. I'm a Pixar geek and so I don't really mind either way. 😀

  11. I really love the animation in the scenes I've seen from the movie so far, especially the one where Merida shoots the third arrow in the contest and it goes straight through the one already on the target. And the clincher was when she turned around and her mother was right in her face. I really enjoy reading reviews about movies I like, especially when they catch onto things I didn't notice or go more in depth into aspects I am thinking about – gives more room for thought. I really enjoyed reading your review. The audio was great but as a reader used to paper books, I enjoyed the visual review more than the audio one.

  12. I've seen Brave once in 2D and once in 3D, and I ADORED it! I loved the stunning visuals and amazing music as always, and I really connected with the story. I'm planning on seeing it a third time with just my mom, and hoping that we can learn to understand each other just like Merida. I tend to prefer to read movie reviews, rather than listen, but if it's Pixar I don't care! 😀

  13. The movie was stupendous, bringing me and my Mom closer. It made me cry and laugh. I believe the message is, \”You don't know what you have, until it's gone.\”

  14. I'm so hooked on Brave its slowly ranking higher than Twilight with me!I can't understand why people have said its another princess movie,Merida is wild and full of this exuberant charm and seeing nothing but trailers and posters and non stop adds for this movie I loved her from square one and waited for the release of the Disney stores limited edition doll, I almost didn't get her which would have made me sad seeing as before Merida the only other girl with freckles was Rapunzle and she tho good was lacking the wild firey ginger hair that I have, crookid smilee blue eyes and the yearning to follow her own fate!To me she is the absolute best I feel for her a lot and I plan on cosplaying as her because she's that awesome!I don't see any other princesses wielding bows and arrows and swords and putting herself in danger.Not to sound like a total b word here but Merida put all the other disney princesses to utter shame, she's not a steriotype and she actually promotes a good point of be you and not some silly little damsel in distress waiting for prince charming to whisk you away to some awesome life that rarely ever happens.In ending I am so team Merida!!!

  15. That's great that Merida has \”spoken\” to you so much. That's also why Pixar is so unique – they put their twist on something to make it new and fresh! Good luck on the contest – we received your entries! 🙂

  16. A lot of animated movies these days attempt to appeal to “the whole family” by pitching their story’s complexity at the pre-school level and maybe tacking on an arch pop culture reference to appeal to the older crowd. Movies like Brave are layered enough to appeal to different generations on different levels – I love that!

  17. Loved the movie, your review is spot on! My wife and I saw it in 2d and loved it. Visually the movie was amazing, I agree 100% with what you said about it being an improvement on \”princess movies!\” Love the blog, keep up the awesome job you guys are doing! #pixarpost

  18. Thanks Greg – We appreciate the kind words and I'm glad to hear you also agree with our review. If there's ever anything we can improve on, answer for you or help with, just let us know – we love to help our our fellow Pixar friends! T.J.

  19. I only saw the movie once, but now that I hear/read (listened and read over) your review, I can't wait to see it again! You pointed out a lot of things I missed, subtleties that were lost in the excitement of merely being able to finally see the film after months of waiting. My theater didn't have a great sound system like the one you described. In fact, it was pretty lousy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the film nonetheless. I love how you mention Merida's hair being wet and the dampness keeping a sense of continuity throughout the following scenes. It looks amazing when it's dry, but I thought it looked absolutely incredible when it was wet. The epitome of Pixar's artistic brilliance shone (ironically) in the dark cave scene when Merida has her cloak on and her hair lies limp through the hood. Though Brave isn't quite my favorite Pixar film (that spot is reserved for Ratatouille) it met all my expectations and then some. It is a great movie and deserves to be celebrated. Thank you for putting efoort into sharing your thoughts and putting together this review!

  20. Hey Amanda, Thank you for your comments! We also agree on the cave scene with her hair – overall, I don't think anyone could say anything bad about her hair – it was a technical accomplishment and then pulled it off wonderfully! I'm also excited to hear that your favorite movie is Ratatouille – I absolutely love that one as well and sometimes I think it gets forgotten among the other greats (Toy Story, Monsters Inc, etc). I can't believe how wonderful the lighting & shading was in Ratatouille – it was just perfect (at least to me)! Anyway – thanks again and good luck on the contest, we received your entires! T.J.

  21. My thoughts on Brave are that it was a wonderful adventure and I felt like I could relate to Merida as far as her tanacity and crazy curls! I watched the movie twice at AMC but have not seen it in 3d or with dolby atmos which I am now excited to try; since I am in the chicago land area I'm going to research more about this Roosevelt Icon theatre that was mentioned in your review. Also, I enjoyed listening to the recording of the review as well as following along. The recording had more personality and I was fine with the fact that it didn't exactly match up with the written review because then I could go back anyways to read anything I may have missed. thanks!-Surai

  22. Merida is epic, crazy, wild and loveable. My motto is “embrace your inner weirdo” ie; be yourself no matter what others may think. You did a wonderful job bringing this story to life. I’ve seen a lot of Disney movies and Brave is a great movie in a very different way. As far as the sound… I saw “Earthquake” in Dolby Surround Sound in the 70.s, and I thought that was Awesome… I love the advances in technology, This new Dolby sound puts the old Dolby sound to shame. You guys did a great job on this film. Thank you for sharing your dream… looking forward to your next endeavor. 

  23. Thanks Morgan, it's interesting how movies do that – how they build and then sometimes fall in our minds. This one hasn't fallen for us, but I understand how it can/could for some people.Keep up the great work yourself as well! :)T.J.

  24. I loved Brave! I gave it 4 stars. But as time goes on, I appear to be less enamored with it. Granted, I do need to see it again. But it falls in the middle of the pack of all Pixar films for me. We did an audio review of Brave on our podcast, The Rotoscopers. Check it out for a LONGER version of my thoughts on the film: Episode 13 (spoiler free) and Episode 14 (with spoilers). Keep up the great work guys!

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Pixar Times recently received an extensive tour of Disney Store merchandise that

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Our first official contest – Win The Art of Brave book
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Our first official contest – Win The Art of Brave book

UPDATE – Contest has ended

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