“Yo Ho Ho, and a Bottle of Rum”

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

The middle film in the original trilogy, when Disney decided to expand on the success of the first film. Story wise, it mainly serves to set up the third film (they were filmed back-to-back). There’s great action, another great soundtrack (composed by Hans Zimmer), and the characters are nicely developed. But where Curse of the Black Pearl could stand on its own as a fulfilling story, this one needs At World’s End to tie up loose ends. Bill Nighy (he went on to play Minister Rufus Scrimgeour in Deathly Hallows, and he was the art professor in Doctor Who‘s episode on Vincent Van Gogh) joins the cast as Davy Jones, Stellan Skarsgård (he plays Bill in both Mamma Mia movies and is Dr. Erik Selvig in the MCU) is Bootstrap Bill, Tom Hollander (he appeared alongside Keira Knightley in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice) is Lord Cutler Beckett, and Naomie Harris (Eve Moneypenny in the more recent James Bond films) is Tia Dalma [those two characters barely look like each other…wow].

It opens on a rained-out wedding, Will and Elizabeth’s. Will has been arrested by a new batch of British soldiers for his actions in freeing Jack Sparrow. Lord Cutler Beckett is in command and also has a warrant for Elizabeth’s arrest, as well as James Norrington. Norrington resigned his post and is no longer at Port Royal. With our stars already in trouble, we cut to the Black Pearl, waiting outside some sort of prison. Coffins are being thrown into the ocean; a bird lands on one, then is shot off. A hand emerges, followed by Jack. Once aboard the Pearl again, he delivers his treasure, a drawing of a key. The crew is not initially impressed; it’s been some time since they’d done honest pirating and they want a more shiny reward. But Jack talks them around, though the crew also notices he’s acting stranger; for instance, his compass isn’t working.

Back in Port Royal, Beckett has a proposition for Will; in exchange for Jack’s compass, Beckett will grant the man letters of mark, pardoning him and allowing him to survive as a privateer for England. Cutting back to the Pearl, Jack ventures into the hold for some more rum and discovers an old friend: Bootstrap Bill, covered in barnacles. Bill congratulates Jack on getting the Pearl back; Jack informs him that his son, young William, helped in that matter. Bill is dismayed that Will has turned to a life of piracy, but continues with his message: time’s up for Jack. Davy Jones is calling in his debt. He passes on the Black Spot to Jack. Jack proceeds to wake the rest of the crew and informs them to head towards land.

Will visits his betrothed in prison and explains Beckett’s deal. Governor Swann doesn’t trust Jack to help Will and Elizabeth and wants to pursue other courses of action. There’s a funny bit when the couple speaks to each other, Elizabeth’s father standing only a few feet away and Elizabeth informs her fiancé “if it weren’t for these bars, I’d have you already,” startling her father. He breaks a light similar to Will had broken in his home in the previous film. Governor Swann later sneaks Elizabeth out of prison, intending to put her on a ship bound for England. His only concern is his daughter; he’ll help Will as best he can, but knows that the lad will most certainly hang and all the better for Elizabeth to leave Port Royal. Doesn’t seem like he completely approves of his future son-in-law. Their plan is ruined when Beckett’s man kills the friendly captain. Elizabeth snuck out of the carriage in the commotion and holds a pistol to Beckett. She tries to warn him of the cursed Aztec gold, but “there’s more than one chest of value in these waters,” Beckett informs her. She takes the letters, but Beckett warns her he will still want Jack’s compass.

elizabeth vs beckett

Will is eventually led to an island where the Pearl sits on the beach. He’s captured and taken before the natives’ chief: Jack. Jack speaks nonsense words with the natives and finally whispers “Save me” to Will, despite Will stating that he needs Jack’s help to save Elizabeth. Once Will is put with the rest of the crew in hanging bone cages, Gibbs informs him that while the natives view Jack as their chief and thus a god, there is a ceremony to free the god from his human form; the fire they’re building is for that purpose. Will takes charge; they must escape Jack plays along, insisting on more wood and when the opportune moment comes, he runs away. He’s caught and gotten ready for the fire. But the crew has been caught climbing the cliff (Mythbusters tested whether that could be done; the cage could not be swung the way its shown in the movie, but a crew can climb up a wall). Jack has another chance to escape. He joins his crew back at the Pearl; Will first insisted they couldn’t leave without Jack, but upon seeing the whole village of natives chasing the man, he quips “time to go.” They get safely away.

To rescue Elizabeth, Jack states they need to go upriver. They visit Tia Dalma, who informs Will “you have a touch of destiny about you.” To Jack, she cackles, “Jack Sparrow does not know what he wants.” When Will asks about the key, which Jack has told him ultimately leads to a way to save Elizabeth, Tia Dalma tells the crew about Davy Jones. He fell in love, but eventually, the love was too painful, so he cut out his own heart and buried it in a chest. The key unlocks that chest. She reveals Jack’s Black Spot, showing that Jones is after Jack. Since Jones cannot step on dry land except once every ten years, land is where they will be safe, so they will carry land with them. She gives Jack a jar of dirt. Then she casts for the location of the Flying Dutchman.

They come upon a shipwreck. Jack sends Will over, the lad’s plan is simple enough, cut down any in his path to the key. Oh, and if Will needs, tell them that Jack Sparrow sent him to settle his debt. Will eventually comes before Davy Jones as he offers the dying sailors from the other ship the chance to forestall judgment day by serving one hundred years on his ship: “do you fear death?” When Jones comes to Will, he asks his purpose. Will says what Jack told him. The captain visits the pirate aboard the Pearl. Their deal was Jack got to be captain for thirteen years; time’s up. Now Jack is to serve aboard the Dutchman for a hundred years. Jack wishes to further postpone that trip and haggles for how many souls is his worth. Answer, one hundred. Jones will keep Will for the time being. After their encounter, Jack orders Gibbs to head for Tortuga.

Elizabeth has apparently snuck aboard another ship, changed into men’s clothing and the crew finds her wedding dress. They first think it’s a sign from a spirit. Elizabeth comes up with the plan to use that notion to her advantage and direct the ship to Tortuga. There, Norrington comes forward under the guise to join Jack’s crew. Really, he wants revenge for the pirate ruining his life; his clothes are filthy, he’s drunk, he lost his ship, his crew, his position, everything. So those two men start a riot in the tavern. Elizabeth joins in and eventually knocks Norrington out when he becomes too annoying. She then tracks down Jack and asks about Will. Jack spins her the tale that in order to save Will, she needs to find the chest, revealing that his compass “points to the thing you want most in this world.” (This is where the line from the new Disney intro “we have our heading!” comes from)

Aboard the Dutchman there is confusion over an order for “Mr. Turner;” both Will and Bill respond and that confusion lets a canon drop on deck. Five lashes are issued to Will. Bill steps in to take the punishment. Davy Jones inquires why he would take the punishment; Bill responds “he’s my son.” Jones finds it poetically cruel and forces Bill to whip is own son’s back. Later, Will retorts he doesn’t need his father’s help, though Bill is urging Will to get off the ship. Will has sworn no oath to Jones and is not bound to the ship. Will tells him about his search for the Dead Man’s Chest, which a veteran crewmember (who is almost completely one with the ship) informs them don’t stab the heart. The Dutchman needs a living heart, or there will be no captain. We’re still left a little confused. But Will comes up with a plan; he challenges Davy Jones to the game Liar’s Dice. He wagers a lifetime of service in exchange for the key, which makes Jones reveal it’s hidden in his tentacle face. Bill jumps into the game and in the end throws it so his son will remain free. That evening, after Jones falls asleep at his organ, Will sneaks in and steals the key. Bill has a boat waiting for him and gives his son a knife. Will takes it with the promise that he will find some way to free his father; he won’t abandon him. [I think that’s a bit of a dig at Bill abandoning Will and his mother years ago]

Back in Port Royal, Beckett meets with Governor Swann. He warns the man that he has ships in pursuit of Jack, Will, and now Elizabeth. There could easily be a battle and the father can only imagine what will happen to his daughter. In exchange for possibly saving Elizabeth, Beckett wants Swann’s authority as governor, his influence in London, and ultimately, his loyalty.

 

dmc will
Gotta say, Will looks more like a pirate this time around (and I like it)

Will manages to hitch a ride on another ship, the same one Elizabeth used to get to Tortuga; he recognizes her wedding dress. But the ship seems to have struck a reef. That’s how the other ship was caught by the Dutchman. Davy Jones has discovered Will’s deception and forces Bill to watch as the Dutchman’s crew calls the Kraken and sends it to the other ship. Will does escape (at one point, sliding down a sail with a knife to slow his descent: Mythbusters also tested this but found that it didn’t work due to the ribbing in the sail; my argument with their test, the ribbing was done in a different direction in the movie, vertical compared to horizontal), briefly catching his breath on a piece of driftwood (a callback to his first appearance in the previous film), before eventually hiding in the front of the Dutchman. Jones orders for them to make for his chest, attempting to beat Sparrow.

In the meantime, Norrington overhears Elizabeth, Jack, and Gibbs discussing the letters of mark. Gibbs comments that if the East India Company controls the heart, they’ll control the seas, which is bad for every pirate. Norrington (I’m not sure why he does this aside from he’s still mad that Elizabeth chose Will over him) insinuates that Elizabeth is attracted to Jack. She’s appalled. Later, Jack notes that they are similar people, he and Elizabeth. She retorts that Jack lacks a sense of honor, decency, a moral center, and personal hygiene. Jack responds that Elizabeth will come over to his side, of piracy, because she’ll want the freedom. Elizabeth counters that Jack will want to be a good man; he’ll want the reward. They get very close to one another, almost seducing the other. They’re interrupted by coming upon the island.

Jack, Elizabeth, and Norrington go ashore to dig up the chest. Will arrives just as the chest is found, Elizabeth happily embraces and kisses her fiancé. He has to thank Jack for his reunion with his father aboard the Dutchman. Elizabeth realizes that everything Jack told her was a lie. Jack can’t let Will stab the heart, freeing Bill, because then who will call off the Kraken? He holds his sword to Will, Will returns the favor, and Norrington pulls out his sword; he can’t let Will stab the heart because he needs to deliver the chest to Beckett to get his life back. So, all three begin dueling each other. Ragetti and Pintel (the pirate comedic duo) steal the chest, Elizabeth goes after them and they’re soon fighting the crew of the Dutchman (with only two swords between the three of them; Will has Elizabeth’s). The trio of men end up at an old church with a water wheel attached, all fighting over the key. The duel takes them aboard the wheel once it’s broken away. It’s a great bit of choreography and I’m sure not easy to film.

wheel duel

In the end, Jack is able to open the chest and takes the heart and stuffs it down his shirt. When he gets back to the rowboat, he puts it in the jar of dirt. Norrington finds the letters, and spots the mess with the dirt. When Will finds the chest, Jack knocks him out to prevent him from opening it. Cornered by the Dutchman‘s crew, Norrington offers to take the chest and distract them so the others can get away. He eventually drops the chest, letting the crew take it.

Aboard the Pearl, Jack taunts Davy Jones: “I’ve got a jar of dirt! And guess what’s inside it!” [there’s another hilarious remix of this] Well, Jones orders his crew to open fire on the Pearl, send it back to the depths. The Pearl turns and flees; against the wind, the Dutchman is faster which is how it traps its victims, but with the wind, the Pearl has the advantage. Will wants to turn and fight and free his father. Jack smirks that it’s better to negotiate. When the ship shudders, his jar of dirt falls and breaks. “Where’s the thump thump?” The heart is gone. Jones lets the Pearl take the lead; he has his crew call up the Kraken. Will has seen this tactic before and takes charge. They’ll load the gunpowder…and rum, into the cargo net. He hands a rifle to Elizabeth, she better not miss [I forgot this part of the movie, which is sad, cause it’s awesome!].

Meanwhile, Jack has taken the only boat and is planning on escaping. But he catches sight of the plight of his ship and crew and checks his compass. Elizabeth spots him and mutters “Coward.” There’s a bit of chaos and confusion when the net is finally lifted and Will manages to catch his foot in the ropes. Elizabeth loses hold of the gun for a moment when a tentacle grabs her; Pintel and Ragetti save her. When she finds it, a boot is on it: Jack. He takes the rifle and shoots just as Will drops. The tentacles of the Kraken are wrapped around the barrels and they’re blown. Except they haven’t killed the Kraken, they’ve only made it angry. Jack gives the order to abandon ship. Elizabeth stops to thank Jack and kisses him (Will sees…and apparently that bit was not in Orlando’s script so they got a more genuine reaction). What Will doesn’t see is Elizabeth chain Jack to the mast. She claims to the six other survivors that Jack elected to stay behind. Jack frees himself just as the mouth of the Kraken comes over the side. He gets a whole bunch of spit shot at him, including his hat. Striking a hero pose, he snarks “Hello, beastie,” and is devoured.

Jones isn’t as pleased as he thought he would be with Jack’s demise. He checks the chest and finds it empty. He curses Sparrow. Actually, Norrington has the heart and delivers it to Beckett.

The crew of the Pearl hold a memorial for Jack at Tia Dalma’s shack. Will, seeing how upset Elizabeth is, and not completely understanding why, offers to try to get Jack back. Tia asks them how far are they willing to go? Will they brave the haunted and weird shores at world’s end? [title dropping the next movie] They all agree. So, they’ll need a captain who knows those waters. Boots come down the stairs…Barbossa is back. (The cast wasn’t aware it was Barbossa returning, so they’re surprise was genuine)

Overall, I still find this movie better than the fourth and fifth installments. As stated previously, I liked the character development. I still really can’t stand Jack (a bit too dishonest), but I can appreciate that they are showing different sides of him and showing a more genuine heroic streak. Norrington is still a bit of a jerk; I hate Beckett. He wants power for power’s sake and will use any means to obtain it. It was insinuated that he’s had a run in with Jack before and is most likely the one responsible for branding Jack as a pirate and possibly the reason Jack had to get the Pearl back in the first place, thus causing his deal with Jones.

I have mixed feelings about Elizabeth. What I dislike the most about this film is the ridiculous love triangle they felt inclined to include. It was shown that Elizabeth like Will from a young age, putting aside social barriers to befriend him and she only made the deal with Norrington in the first film to save Will. The whole flirting bit aboard the Pearl between Jack and Elizabeth is nonsense. Yes, it points out that underneath it all, Elizabeth has a pirate streak and Jack has a good streak and Jack is more likely to flirt with a woman that speak honestly. But what bugs me the most is how it hurts Will. A man who always tries to do the right thing. He finds out his long-lost and believed dead father is actually alive and bond in service aboard the Flying Dutchman; he’s angry for a little bit, but still decides to save his father, rather than leave him to his fate. While he does view Jack as a friend on occasion, the main reason he goes after the pirate is to save Elizabeth. I still like the fact that Elizabeth will join in the fight for her freedom, and Will’s. But she doesn’t tell Will what she did when the Pearl was taken and lets her fiancé stew.

Now, the action was amazing. They were ingenious in how the Pearl fought the Kraken, throwing in nice dramatic moments. The duel on the wheel was incredible and even just having a three-way duel was cool; two people sometimes joining to fight one, or all hacking away at each other individually. The featured cellist in the soundtrack was superb; a cello brings such warmth and emotion to a piece. The Kraken’s theme echoes the sense of something stalking the hero, waiting for the right moment to strike, then wreaking terrible destruction. Very cool to bring in the organ in such a manner, not only having it play a mournful tune, but also underneath the attack.

We’ll finish up next time with At World’s End

“Drink Up Me Hearties, Yo Ho!”

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

I adore this movie; love the storyline, the action, the soundtrack. It came out when I started high school; it premiered in Disneyland, home of the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride and was the first movie to premier in Disneyland. Major cast list includes Johnny Depp (the go-to actor for Tim Burton…I don’t watch Tim Burton films) as Captain Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom (Legolas in Lord of the Rings) as Will Turner, Keira Knightley (she had been in Princess of Thieves and as the handmaiden in Phantom Menace before this, but I think she got really popular after) as Elizabeth Swann, Geoffrey Rush (Shakespeare in Love) as Barbossa, Jonathan Pryce (Bond villain in Tomorrow Never Dies and the antagonist in What a Girl Wants) as Governor Weatherby Swann, Kevin McNally (appears as Frank Devereaux, the paranoid guy in Supernatural…I did not put those two together) as Mr. Gibbs, and Lee Arenberg (who later appears as Leroy/Grumpy in Once Upon a Time) is Pintel-one half of one of the comedic duos. Zoe Saldana (later stars as Nyota Uhura in the nuStarTrek movies and Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy) features as Anamaria.

Fun fact I discovered, the ship that was used for the Interceptor, Lady Washington was used in Once Upon a Time as Killian Jones/Captain Hook’s ship The Jolly Roger. Cool! The figurehead on the ship that brings the Swanns to the Caribbean bears the coat of arms of the United Kingdom and is the real figurehead of the H.M.S. Victory, which was commanded by Lord Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar and now serves as a museum and is the oldest commissioned warship in the world. Speaking of sailing vessels, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (based on the Aubrey Maturin series of novels by Patrick O’Brien) came out the same year…and the same year as Return of the King (my brother was not pleased that Return of the King beat out Master and Commander at the Oscars…I was pleased).

I appreciate that the prologue to the film was not narrated or an exposition scene; we start right in with young Elizabeth Swann singing A Pirate’s Life For Me. Gibbs tells her off, warning that it will bring about pirates. Elizabeth is excited to meet one, claiming it would be “fascinating.” Governor Swann does not approve of his daughter’s interest and Lieutenant Norrington doesn’t help matters when he informs young Elizabeth that he plans to put an end to piracy by giving any man who sails under that banner what they deserve: a short drop and a sudden stop (as Gibbs mimes, hanging). Out of the fog floats a boy on wreckage. He’s recued and Governor Swann puts Elizabeth in charge of him. The ship discovers the rest of the wreck, sinking and in flames. Gibbs says what everyone is thinking: pirates. Elizabeth takes in her charge and discovers he’s wearing a gold coin with a stylized skull, a pirate medallion. She tucks it away as her charge comes to for a moment, long enough to say his name is Will Turner. As they sail past the smoldering wreck, Elizabeth glimpses a dark skip with torn sails, and a skull and crossbones flag.

Eight years later, Elizabeth wakes from her dream. She pulls to coin out of its hiding place and tucks it away as her father enters bearing a gift, a new dress and corset to wear to the promotion ceremony. Norrington is now a Commodore. While servants lace Elizabeth into the new fashion (“women in London must have learned not to breathe”: as someone who has worn a corset, yes, there is a fine line between holding you and being too tight, and they do making breathing and sitting more difficult) Will Turner, apprentice blacksmith waits downstairs. He presents Governor Swann with his order of a new sword for the promoted Commodore. Governor Swann is pleased and passes along his compliments; looking at Will’s face, we know that it was Will who made the sword, not his master, “a craftsman is always pleased to hear his work is appreciated.” Elizabeth arrives downstairs and is very familiar with Will; they’re friends. Will is aware of the status difference between the governor’s daughter and an apprentice blacksmith. But once she leaves for the ceremony it is also plain that Will is in love with Elizabeth Swann.

jack sparrow entranceWe cut to Jack “sailing” into Port Royal; his little dingy is sinking, so not much actual “sailing.” While there is a big to-do going on up at the fort [in case anyone is interested, the fifes and drums are playing Rule Britannia at the start of the ceremony], he sneaks aboard the Dauntless, throwing the guards into a tizzy. When they ask his purpose in Port Royal and demand no lies, he informs them “it is my intention to commandeer one of these ships, pick up a crew in Tortuga, and raid, pillage, plunder, and otherwise pilfer my weaseley black guts out.” In the meantime, at the ceremony, Norrington speaks to Elizabeth. With this promotion, it throws light to the matter that he is not yet married to a fine woman. He views Miss Swann as a fine woman and wishes to marry her. The heat and confining nature of the corset take a toll on Elizabeth; she can’t breathe and passes out, falling over the edge and into the ocean. Norrington is cautioned to wait; it’s a miracle she missed the rocks. Jack and the guards see Elizabeth fall as well; the guards can’t swim so it’s up to Jack to rescue the damsel in distress. Underwater, the coin pulses and the wind changes. Jack must leave the gown behind to get Elizabeth to safety; once on the dock, he cuts away the corset when Elizabeth isn’t breathing…good thing he’s been to Singapore. Jack recognizes Elizabeth’s coin.

Norrington and his men have arrived and Governor Swann, seeing the nature of undress his daughter is in, wants to hang Jack. Elizabeth protests, he’s the man who saved her. Norrington offers congratulations, but reveals that Jack has been branded a pirate by the East India Trading Company and the tattoo marks him a Jack Sparrow. His effects include a pistol with a single shot and a compass that doesn’t point north. He is by far the worst pirate Norrington has ever heard of; “but you have heard of me.” When Elizabeth protests further, Norrington insists that “one good deed does not redeems a lifetime of wickedness.” With Elizabeth close to him, Jack holds her hostage and manages an escape.

He eventually finds himself in the blacksmith shop; the master is asleep. Jack sets about trying to break his manacles apart. A hammer doesn’t work, so he gets the wheel running and that does the trick. But Will has returned from his errands. He notices the hammer out of place and notices a strange hat. Before he can touch it, Jack slaps his hand away with a sword. The boy seems familiar, has he threatened him before? Will grabs his own sword and the duel plays out. At times it’s almost like a test; Jack compliments Will’s form and footwork. (The sword strikes seem to be timed perfectly to the soundtrack, or vice versa, anyway…it’s brilliant!) The pirate goes to leave, but Will throws his sword, hitting right under the lock so Jack can’t leave. He retrieves another sword and they’re back at it, around the wheel, onto a cart, and into the rafters.

smithy duel

It’s brilliant fight choreography: they got Errol Flynn’s sword master (in case it’s a genre you don’t watch, Errol Flynn is a famous swashbuckling actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, most recognized for his portrayal of Robin Hood – I will be getting to that film not far in the future) Bob Anderson, who has also worked on The Lord of the Rings trilogy [he was working on the Hobbit trilogy when he died], several James Bond films, the original Star Wars films, and The Princess Bride. It’s creative, engaging, and shows off a lot of hard work. I love a good sword fight!

In the end, Jack cheats, pulling his pistol in an effort to get Will to let him leave. Will’s master sneaks up and knock Jack out as the soldiers arrive. Of course, he gets all the credit. That night, a dark ship sails into port and opens fire on the fort. The crew comes ashore and begins terrorizing the town. Will arms himself and joins the fray, fighting the pirates. Elizabeth’s maid urges her mistress to hide, while Elizabeth instructs her to run to the fort for help when she gets the chance. A band of pirates break into the governor’s mansion and two seek out Elizabeth; the gold calls to them. She’s got fire in her; she holds them off at one point with her bed warming pan and tries to pull out a ceremonial sword. She eventually invokes the right of “parlay,” which the Pirate Code allows her to speak to the captain.

Two of the other pirates find Jack in the dungeon. They remember him, but he’s supposed to be dead, they left him marooned. His comeback is that “the deepest circles of Hell are reserved for betrayers and mutineers.” One pirate’s hand turns to skeleton in the moonlight when he grabs Jack; “so there is a curse.”

Aboard the Black Pearl Elizabeth negotiates a cessation of hostilities with Captain Barbossa; “I want you to leave and never come back.” Barbossa is “disinclined to acquiesce to your request….means ‘no’.” Very well, she’ll drop the pirate medallion overboard. No! When Barbossa asks her name, Elizabeth gives them the surname ‘Turner.’ Barbossa agrees. But he doesn’t return Elizabeth. When she protests on basis of the Code, he responds that her return was not part of their bargain, she would need to be a pirate for the Code to apply, and ultimately, the Code is more of guidelines rather than rules.

The men of Port Royal discover that Elizabeth has been taken come morning. Will wants to rush right out, willing to even ask Jack Sparrow for help. On his own, he visits the pirate in jail. He offers to free the other man in exchange for help rescuing Elizabeth. Jack agrees only once he knows Will’s surname of ‘Turner.’ The pair sneaks aboard the Dauntless and when the Interceptor (the faster of the two ships) comes alongside so the British can board, they sneak over to that ship and sail away. Norrington pursues, willing to sink his own ship rather than have it in the hands of a pirate. Once safely away, Will asks Jack about his father; Jack had known that he was named for him. Aye, Jack knew William Turner, one of the few who knew him by that name, “everyone else just called him ‘Bootstrap’ or ‘Bootstrap Bill’.” Will’s father was a pirate, not the merchant sailor Will was meant to believe. Jack lets Will “hang around” with that information for a minute. The lad can either sail with a pirate or not, it’s his choice. Will agrees and they head for Tortuga.

The island draws inspiration from the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Jack is greeted by two women, both of whom slap him. He may have not deserved the first, but he probably deserved the second. They wake Mr. Gibbs and Jack buys the man a drink while he listens to a proposition. Jack is going after the Pearl; he has leverage now to convince Barbossa; Bootstrap Bill’s only child.

Aboard the Pearl, Barbossa hosts Elizabeth for dinner (it was either she dine with him in a dress he had onboard, or she dined with the crew, naked). When the captain encourages her to eat, Elizabeth fears the food may be poisoned. Barbossa admits they have no need to be killing her, yet. He tells her the tale of the gold coin she was wearing, cursed Aztec gold presented to Cortez to stop the bloodshed. Anyone who possesses one of the 882 pieces will be punished for eternity. The crew didn’t believe the curse and found the chest and spent it. Afterwards they came to realize that they are not living, so they cannot die, but neither are they dead. Moonlight reveals them for what they truly are, skeletal figures. Elizabeth is once again daring and brave and stabs Barbossa. Only it doesn’t affect him. They must reclaim all 882 pieces of gold, the last of which is the pendant, and repay the blood sacrifice. “You best start believing in ghost stories, Miss Turner. You’re in one.”

Jack is gleeful during a storm, they’re catching up to the Pearl. Will receives a few answers about Jack from Mr. Gibbs. He had originally been the captain of the Black Pearl, Barbossa had been his second mate. They’d gone after Cortez’s gold and Barbossa weaseled the location out of Jack. He led a mutiny and marooned Jack. The man apparently got off the island by wrangling a couple of sea turtles. The story ends there; it’s time for Will and Jack to go ashore. If the worst should happen, Gibbs and the crew are to hold to the Code: those who fall behind, get left behind. When Will comments there’s no honor amongst thieves, Jack points out, that although Will has a poor opinion on pirates, he’s well on his way to becoming one: he stole a ship from the Navy, sailed with a pirate crew, and is completely obsessed with treasure. “Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.” They’ve found Barbossa and his crew, Elizabeth standing behind a chest. Jack instructs Will to stay put and don’t do anything stupid; they’re to wait for the opportune moment. Will does not trust Jack, so he knocks the pirate out and swims around.

Barbossa throws the coin into the chest and slices Elizabeth’s hand, letting droplets of blood fall on the pile. The crew doesn’t feel any different, so Barbossa shoots one. He’s not dead. The blood didn’t work. Barbossa turns on Elizabeth, demanding who is her father, was he William Turner. No. Barbossa backhands her and she falls down the pile of treasure. Will finds her and they escape, grabbing the medallion back. The crew starts turning on Barbossa, but he keeps order and sends them back after Elizabeth. They run into Jack, who mutters “parlay.” The two captains confer; Jack knows why Elizabeth’s blood didn’t work, and he knows whose blood Barbossa needs. He tries to wrangle a deal with Barbossa to get the Pearl back, but they’ve come up on the Interceptor.

interceptor vs pearl

Will wants to know why Elizabeth used his surname with the pirates; she doesn’t give an answer. In regards to why she took the medallion eight years ago, she didn’t want Will to be a pirate. Will continues to struggle with the knowledge that pirate blood runs in him. He’s above deck with the Pearl comes in sight. He suggests lightening the load so it gives them more speed. It works, for a little while, but the Pearl runs out the sweeps on the cannons for added speed. Elizabeth suggests the idea to drop the anchor on one side, demonstrating her knowledge of sailing as well; they’ll swing around and be able to broadside the Pearl. Barbossa also turns his ship, so both now have canons facing each other; the Interceptor loads theirs with whatever they can find. Explosions abound, pirates swinging on ropes, boarding the Interceptor; it’s all rather exciting! Will and Elizabeth realize the other crew is still after the medallion; Will goes for it. But a shot from the Pearl brings down the Interceptor’s mast and damages the hold below. The ship is taking on water. Jack escapes the cell on the Pearl and swings over to the Interceptor, helping Elizabeth against a pirate. But she’s taken, as is the medallion by Barbossa’s monkey (named Jack). The Interceptor‘s crew is taken hostage and the ship is left to explode. Elizabeth fears (and we do for a moment) that Will was killed in the explosion, but he managed to swim out in time.

He boards the Pearl and demands Elizabeth’s release. He is William Turner, son of ‘Bootstrap’ Bill Turner (the spittin’ image of ol’ Bootstrap, sent back to haunt them) and if Elizabeth does not go free, he’ll use Jack’s one shot pistol and be lost to the depths. Barbossa agrees, but Will failed to mention how Elizabeth was to be set free. She and Jack are forced on a gangplank and will be marooned on the same island Jack was on last time. When Elizabeth asks Jack if they can escape the same way he did last, he reveals that contrary to the popular myth of sea turtles, he actually had spent three days waiting for the rum runners who used the island as a cache and was able to barter passage. Elizabeth has the start of an idea. First, they light a bonfire and sing A Pirate’s Life for Me, getting Jack nice and drunk. When he wakes in the morning, it’s to the smell of smoke.

“You’ve burnt all the food, the shade, the rum.”

“Yes, the rum is gone.”

“Why is the rum gone?”

“One, because it is a vile drink that turns even the most respectable men into complete scoundrels. Two, that signal is over a thousand feet high; the entire royal navy is out looking for me. Do you really think there is even the slightest chance that they won’t see it?”

“But why is the rum gone?”

(There is a hilarious remix video that was made featuring this bit)

The Dauntless indeed finds Elizabeth. She pleads with her father and Norrington to go back and rescue Will; he turned to piracy to rescue her. Her final plea to Norrington is for him to do it as a wedding present. She’ll accept his proposal if he rescues Will. On board the Pearl, Will asks that crew for more information regarding his father. Old Bootstrap never agreed with how they turned on Jack; he sent his coin off to Will, saying the crew deserved to be cursed. So Barbossa tied a canon to his bootstraps and threw him in the ocean. Ironically, it was after that incident that they realized they needed his blood to lift the curse. Now it’s Will’s turn to spill blood; but he’s only half Turner, they plan to spill it all.

Jack’s plan is to go in, convince the pirates to come out, so the Dauntless crew can capture (or kill) them, rescue Will, and Norrington will be a hero. The flip side, when he sneaks in and talks to Barbossa, is for the pirates to attack, overtake the British and now Barbossa will have two ships, the start of his own fleet. Jack will take the Pearl, sail under Barbossa’s command and give the other captain a percentage of his plunder. And in exchange, Barbossa presumes, Jack wants him to not kill the whelp, Will. “No, by all means,” Jack scoops up a handful of coins, “kill the whelp,” but wait until every last of Norrington’s men are dead. Will sees Jack palm one of the coins and realizes that this was Jack’s plan all along. Barbossa agrees, but sends his men on a walk…underwater. They sneak aboard the Dauntless and start slaughtering [reminder, it is rated PG-13].

In the meantime, Elizabeth has snuck off the Dauntless and back to the Pearl to rescue that crew with the hopes that they’ll help her rescue Will. They’d rather stick to the Code and retreat, so she heads into the cave alone. Jack has managed to get a sword to Will, because “honestly, it’s the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they’re going to do something incredibly stupid.” Jack goes after Barbossa, and Will gets free and goes after the other pirates. Elizabeth arrives to snark “if you like pain, try wearing a corset” and help Will. At one point (in the completely epic fight sequence that again matches the rhythm of the soundtrack) Jack stabs Barbossa. Tsk, tsk, Barbossa can’t die, remember. So he stabs Jack. The other captain chokes for a moment, then backs up into the moonlight and reveals he too is a skeleton. By holding on to one of the coins, he now can’t die either. The old rivals are back at it. Will reads when the opportune moment is and heads for the chest; Jack throws his coin, with a bit of his blood on it. When Barbossa pulls a pistol on Elizabeth, a shot rings out. From Jack’s gun. Barbossa thinks he’s lucky for a second, then Will drops the gold into the chest. The wound is now mortal. He falls down, dead.

Norrington has made it back to the Dauntless and with the curse lifted, Barbossa’s crew is no longer immune. The ship is back in the hands of the British (I have no idea why Governor Swann tries to be cool and mimics punching a pirate). Inside the cave, Will and Elizabeth almost share a tender moment, but they’re interrupted by Jack’s noise. They must be getting back to the Dauntless, and Elizabeth’s fiancé. Will missed his opportune moment.

Back at Port Royal, Norrington prepares to hang Jack. Elizabeth feels it is wrong, but her father states that Norrington is bound by law. Will, in some fancy new clothes, realizes what he must do, as a good man (and some urging from seeing Cotton’s parrot). He announces to Elizabeth, Governor Swann, and Norrington, that he has always loved Elizabeth. Then he makes his way to the scaffold. Elizabeth faints again as a distraction and Will manages to throw his sword to relieve Jack’s hanging. The two fight alongside each other for a minute (there is an awesome flip from Orlando, or his stunt double), but are soon surrounded. He’d rather throw his lot in with Jack and be a good man; his place is between Norrington and Jack. Elizabeth joins him. Jack uses the distraction to say his farewells: he was always rooting for Norrington, things would have never worked out between him and Elizabeth and Will…nice hat. This is the day they almost caught…and he trips over the edge. The Pearl is waiting for him (they decided the Code was more of a guideline). Governor Swann philosophically states that “on the rare occasion, pursuing the right course demands an act of piracy. Piracy, itself, can be the right course.” Norrington decides to let Jack go; they can afford to give him one day’s head start. To Will, “I would expect the man who made (such a beautiful sword) to show the same care elizabeth and will kissand devotion in every aspect of his life.” Essentially giving the new couple his blessing, and a warning; you hurt Elizabeth, I’ll kill you. Governor Swann is still a bit surprised at his daughter’s choice; after all, Will Turner is a blacksmith. “No, he’s a pirate.” She removes his hat and they share one of the best kisses ever! Music swelling, and I am swooning.

(There is an scene at the end of the credits, of the monkey sneaking back into the cave, stealing a coin, and turning back into a skeleton. He’s creepy.)

As I mentioned previously, this movie came out when I was in high school; it was a summer blockbuster that was fun and exciting. At that point, I wasn’t into Lord of the Rings quite yet, so I preferred Orlando Bloom in this role; the young, handsome hero who has a good soul and gets the girl. A story of how piracy could be cool; there’s two sides, Barbossa who wants to kill the innocent protagonists and Jack and his crew who want to keep people safe. And I already like swashbuckling films, so I was captivated by the sword fights. The soundtrack soon became a favorite of mine, with its driving rhythm. I’ve actually played selections from it twice, once in concert band and once at District Orchestra. It has also become a great running playlist for me (I ran Cross Country for six years in school), setting a good pace with some breathing spots.

Will Turner is my favorite character (yes, partly influenced by Orlando Bloom’s attractiveness). But he’s the hard working, respectful man that many women, including me want. The knight who was hasten to rescue the fair maiden, braving any dangers. Though Elizabeth earns points by taking matters into her own hands as well; she doesn’t sit idly by, she actively tries to escape more than once. She is the one to talk to the pirates to get them to leave. She manages to persuade everyone to do the right thing. Jack – he’s got too many plans going on for me to fully trust him, but by the end, we can see his heart is in the right place.

We’ll continue to dive into some of the other themes and plot points in the following two movies. I will save fanfic and music recommendations for the end of the original trilogy; I’ve seen the fourth and fifth installments and I don’t like them, so, I will instead put my focus into other series.

Questions? Comments? Your opinion on swashbuckling films?

Next Time: Dead Man’s Chest

“Everybody Wants to Live Happily Ever After”

Enchanted

Disney’s parody of its own movies. I’m sure most people recognized a good portion of the cast. Leading lady is Amy Adams (Lois Lane in the new Superman movies) as Giselle. Leading man is Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) as Robert Phillip. James Marsden (Cyclops in the first X-Men trilogy) is Prince Edwaard, Idina Menzel (pre-Frozen) is Nancy Tremaine [possibly an homage to Cinderella’s stepmother?], Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter) is Nathanial, and Susan Sarandon (Hollywood legend) is Queen Narissa. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz returned to produce the music. Pointed out on the Disney wiki site, “several actresses who have played character in Disney films have cameos: Paige O’Hara (Belle), Jodi Benson (Ariel) was Robert’s secretary, Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas), and Julie Andrews was the narrator [that, I could recognize the voice].

The film starts by entering the castle in the Disney logo and we find a storybook like the first Disney movies featured. The book opens in traditional animation, in the fantasy land of Andalasia. The land is ruled by an evil queen who dreads the day her stepson, Prince Edward will ascend the throne, marry, and his bride will take her crown. Away in the forest, lives Giselle, who has been dreaming of a prince and true love’s kiss (akin to Snow White, complete with woodland creatures, and a talking chipmunk named Pip). Her singing attracts said prince, who too is waiting for his true love to complete his duet. Edward is currently hunting a troll with his *cough* faithful companion, Nathaniel. In his distraction, the troll escapes and wants to eat the fair maiden. Giselle is rescued by Edward and they vow to wed in the morning.

Giselle arrives at the castle the next morning in a humongous white dress, eager for herEnchanted Wedding Dress wedding. But she is waylaid by an old hag who wants to bestow a wedding wish. She pushes the maiden into the wishing well. The hag transforms into the queen and tells her stooge, Nathaniel, that she is sending Giselle to a world where there are no happy endings (similar to the premise of Once Upon a Time). The fall through the well transports Giselle to modern Times Square, in live action New York City. Giselle is terribly lost and confused. Help arrives in the form of Robert Phillip and his daughter, Morgan. He’s kind enough to take Giselle home with him, but on the condition that she calls for help. His resolve softens when Giselle falls asleep.

Come the next morning, Giselle decides to tidy the apartment and calls for her animal friends. Instead of bunnies and squirrels, she gets rats, bugs, and pigeons. They do a Happy Working Song (akin to Snow White and the bubbles in the bathroom are reminiscent of Cinderella). Afterwards, she takes a shower, which becomes a problem when Robert’s soon-to-be-fiancée, Nancy arrives and presumes that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. To a modern woman, that’s what it looks like. Giselle does not endear herself to Robert when she makes a new dress out of his curtains. He wants her gone, but he has to go to work.

Edward and Pip (the chipmunk had seen everything) venture through the well to rescue Giselle. Edward “slays” a bus, then runs off in search of his bride. Nathaniel pops through a bit later, on orders from the queen to prevent Edward from finding Giselle; he’s followed by Pip. When he does not have any luck, Queen Narissa sends him three poisoned apples (another homage to Snow White). She plays to the notion that once Edward and Giselle are out of the way, she and Nathaniel will have a chance. Adult viewers know that Narissa is simply using Nathaniel.

At Robert’s office, he argues with Giselle over the nature of love. He’s a divorce lawyer and finds Giselle’s simplistic view of love childish. This stems from Robert’s ex-wife leaving when his daughter was little. They take a walk in the park to prevent her from causing more problems. He points out that one cannot marry someone after one day of knowing them; dates are what’s done, giving the couple an opportunity to talk and get to know each other. Giselle still insists that love doesn’t have to be complicated. If Robert doesn’t tell Nancy how he feels, how does she know? This becomes a full dance and song number, gathering people from across the park. Per her instructions, a pair of doves take a bouquet to Nancy.

A commotion is made at dinner that evening and Giselle lands on the news; Edward has discovered television and now has a clue to Giselle’s whereabouts. He finds a lot of wrong doors in the apartment building while Giselle and Robert continue their argument. Giselle has never been angry before. In the morning, Edward knocks on the door. Giselle (in another new dress) does not immediately want to return to Andalasia; she wants to go on a date with Edward, giving themselves an opportunity to talk. In the meantime, Narissa declares she is coming to the real world to deal with Giselle herself. She rises out of the man hole and shoots lightning at the billboards.

Both couples ultimately attend an conveniently arranged costumed ball. Giselle and Morgan bond more during a fun shopping excursion. Giselle shows up in a modern gown compared to the traditional gowns the rest of the guests are in. And the ball has a convenient tradition to have the gentlemen dance with a lady they did not arrive with. Edward dances with Nancy while Robert dances with Giselle. Nancy sees the look that Giselle has and retrieves her boyfriend. They share a kiss and Edward starts to lead Giselle away. The hag reappears, with a final apple, promising to take away Giselle’s pain; it would be like it never happened. Giselle takes a bite and passes out. Robert and Edward rush to her rescue. Nathaniel exposes Queen Narissa. Edward takes his stepmother to task; she will be stripped of her crown. Giselle can only be waken with true love’s kiss. A kiss from Edward does not work. Nancy tells Robert to try. That’s the ticket.

evil stepmother

The other attendees think the whole thing is a show. It gets more dramatic when Narissa transforms into a dragon (akin to Sleeping Beauty). Robert protects Giselle and Narissa is fine with taking him hostage. Giselle rushes off (removing her shoes), taking Edward’s sword to face off against Narissa. Narissa is ultimately defeated.

Everyone gets a happy ending. Nathaniel and Pip both write books, Pip in Andalasia and Nathaniel in the real world. Edward and Nancy end up together, Edward taking Nancy to animated Andalasia. Robert and Giselle end up together, starting a clothing company and being utterly adorable as a family.

Overall, I find it to be a cute movie; it’s fun to combine traditional animation and live action, and the idea of an over-the-top princess in modern-day New York is also fun. At one point, while re-watching the movie, it reminded me of a typical Hallmark plotline; girl falls in love with one guy, but after spending time with another who seems the complete opposite, realizes that the second man is the right one. (Don’t get me wrong, Hallmark movies are fun to watch, but I can take them for only so long). The songs are cute, Morgan is adorable and I love her interaction with Giselle. Her dresses are pretty 🙂

It’s just, part of it is simple: the good guys are good, the bad guy is bad. There are a few grey characters. Pip is annoying when he talks and I don’t think he really learned anything from his time being quiet. Nathaniel was a wonderfully complex character, but there is an instant dislike because watching him, I see Wormtail. Robert and Giselle both grow, but Edward doesn’t. Nancy is sort of just there, and happily pairs up with Edward in the end…no build up to why she’d willingly run away from her current life to instantly get married to an animated prince.

Though, it is funny that Disney paid homage to many of its own clichés, and even mentioned it’s a poor idea to marry someone you’ve just met (again, Nancy does this, so I don’t think they learned their lesson).

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Next Time: Prince of Persia

The Wonderful World of Disney

kissing mickey
My friend and I giving Mickey a kiss, during the band trip to Disney

I’m sure some of my readers have wondered how I would ultimately rank the Disney movies I reviewed.  And I am sure that everyone is aware, there are hundreds of these lists and hundreds of ways to rank favorite Disney movies; this is by no way a definitive guide, just my personal preference at the end of the day.

My Ranking of Disney Movies

Beauty and the Beast live action
Winnie the Pooh
Beauty and the Beast animated
Lion King
Cinderella live action
Robin Hood
Pocahontas
Brave
Mulan
Maleficent
Little Mermaid
Aladdin
Moana
Treasure Planet
Tangled
Hunchback of Notre Dame
Tarzan
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Frozen
Lilo and Stitch
Jungle Book animated
Aristocats
101 Dalmatians
Sleeping Beauty
Hercules
Jungle Book live action
Cinderella animated
Peter Pan
Emperor’s New Groove
Sword in the Stone
Snow White

So, the live action Beauty and the Beast tops the list; are we honestly surprised, lol?  I still love Winnie the Pooh, so not terribly surprising that I placed it second.  I’m more surprised at how high I placed Moana, considering I’ve watched it only twice.  But Moana is such an awesome protagonist.  And Tangled beat out Hunchback; again, due to it has a more pleasant storyline.  And of course, Snow White beats out any movie I decided to not review.  I know I have friends who have different opinions.  And that’s what makes it fun to debate!

A few other favorites:

Favorite Soundtrack: Lion King (mind you, if I’m listening to my Disney playlist, I will inevitably want to watch whatever movie I just heard part of the soundtrack for.  Listening to Mulan‘s score, I want to watch Mulan, etc.)
Favorite Princess: Belle (again, not a surprise, see my original post on the movie, lol)
Favorite Prince: I want Adam from the live action Beauty and the Beast, with his well rounded backstory.
Favorite Hero: Robin Hood (this version is the paragon of good)
Best Sidekick: Genie (he supported Aladdin so much, and Robin Williams was genius)

When we get to Best or Most Evil Villain, it becomes more of a discussion:

There’s the evil queen from Snow White; she wanted to kill a girl because she was prettier. Not really a villain in Sword in the Stone. Izma, I always found her more funny. Hook…well, if I had an annoying child taunting me for years, I’d challenge him to a duel. Doesn’t excuse attempting to drown Tiger Lily or blowing up the kids. Lady Tremaine is horrible and abusive to Cinderella. Shere Kahn, he’s a tiger, he’s most likely going to try to eat a boy. Hades, is hilarious. But still tries to take over the world; I don’t think we want a world ruled by Hades.

Maleficent, in the animated, wanted to kill a child because she was snubbed. Very much redeemed in the live action. Stephan was a jerk. Curella wants to murder innocent puppies. Edgar in Aristocats, not high on the “evil scale.” No one villain in Lilo and Stitch, they’re all redeemable.

Hans, let’s discuss. Think for a minute (if Disney would go so far), if his plan had gone through. Anna would have been married to someone who didn’t love her, who only wanted her for her throne (at the very least, she’d be ignored, quite possibly abused). He intended to kill her sister. (Once Upon a Time delves into his villainy a little further). Rourke was a typical villain. Wanted to kill a whole race of innocent people, all for money. Clayton was a jerk.

Frollo, very evil. Murdered an innocent woman, then wanted to drop a helpless baby down a well, in winter. Abuses the boy. Lusts after a gypsy woman. And uses religion as an excuse. Mother Gothel, again, abusive. Selfish. Silver from Treasure Planet is redeemable for his relationship with Jim. Can’t really count Te Kā as a villain in the end. Jafar is nasty. Ursula, well, I’d love to play that role because it would be fun. But she also wants Triton’s throne, is not above dirty dealing to get it, including hypnotizing a man into marriage. (That could go so badly).

Shan Yu does kill an entire village and probably would do that to every village. Mor’du, not exactly the main conflict in the movie. Ratcliffe needs punched. Willing to kill an entire village of people for his gold lust. Prince John is more laughable in this version of Robin Hood.

Still love Scar, and a lot of that has to do with Jeremy Irons. Played brilliantly. But, kills his brother, attempts to kill his nephew (more than once), turns on those who supported his power play and a few deleted scenes had him making moves on Nala. Gaston is the picture of arrogance. He makes it very clear that he wants Belle for his wife, whether she agrees or not (again, would not end well if he won).

Ultimate contenders are Lady Tremaine, the Evil Queen, Hans, Frollo, Shan Yu, Ratcliffe, or Scar.  Going to have to go with Frollo; he terrified me as a kid.

 

Again, if you have any questions, let me know!  Any other favorites you want to know?  Let me know your favorites!

Next Time: Enchanted

“That Voice Inside is Who You Are”

Moana

The movie exposes us to the ancient Polynesian culture (Polynesia incorporates Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, Tahiti and other Pacific Islands), exploring the “Long Pause” in Polynesian voyaging. Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho voices titular Moana (meaning “ocean”), Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson voices Maui, and Alan Tudyk (who was just Weasel) is Heihei the chicken. I heard the soundtrack (Lin-Manuel Miranda, famous for the Broadway hit Hamilton, co-wrote the songs) for months before I ever saw the movie thanks to the kids’ zone across from the store I work at. And I’m going to go ahead and apologize if I misspell anything.

The prologue introduces the legend of Te Fiti, the mother island emerging from the ocean. Her heart could create life and she shared it with the world. Years pass and the demi-god of the wind and sea, Maui; a trickster, a warrior, and shape-shifter, stole Te Fiti’s heart. “Without her heart, Te Fiti began to crumble, giving birth to a terrible darkness.” Te Kā, a demon of earth and fire, blocks Maui’s escape. He’s knocked from the sky, never to be seen; his magical fish hook, which gives him the power to shape-shift, was lost to the sea. The heart, a green stone, is also lost. Little Moana is intrigued by the story, while the other children are frightened. Her grandmother explains that the darkness has been spreading for a thousand years, draining the life from island after island. “But, one day, the heart will be found by someone who will journey far beyond our reef. Find Maui. Deliver him across the great ocean to restore Te Fiti’s heart and save us all.”

Moana’s father (the chief) enters and warns the children that no one goes beyond the reef. They are safe on their island. There are no monsters and no darkness, he soothes. His mother insists the legends are true. While they debate, little Moana wanders down to the shore. She finds a baby turtle stuck on shore and carries a leaf, so the baby will have shade and shoos away birds that would eat the morsel. In thanks, the ocean parts and plays with the small child. It gives Moana a green stone, but she drops is when her father plucks her from the water. “It’s time you knew the village of Motunui is all you need,” he tells his daughter, who will one day be chief. But she’s still called to the water and her father has to keep retrieving her, insisting she stays on the ground, “happiness is Where You Are.” He schools her on the traditions of their village; all they need is provided on the island. Yet his mother still dances next to the water and teaches her granddaughter that while she is her father’s daughter, stubborn and proud, a voice inside may give her a new direction. Moana must discover who she is.

Her father takes Moana to the top of a sacred mountain, showing her a stack of stones, one set down by every chief. When her time comes, she will place her own stone on top. She needs to be who the people need. Moana accepts her duty and starts advising people. Except their harvest is poor. Coconuts turn black. There are no fish; they’ve tried every spot. Moana suggests beyond the reef and the chief still refuses; no one goes beyond the reef. Her mother counsels Moana; her father is hard on her because he was her years ago. He ventured beyond the reef with his best friend, but they encountered a storm and the friend drowned. Her father can save Moana by keeping her on the island. “Sometimes who we wish we were, what we wish we could do, is just not meant to be.”

But, as hard as Moana tries, she’s always led back to the water, always longs to be there. “It calls me/ and no one knows/ how far it goes.” She can try to live in her role, but he ocean still calls. So she takes a canoe out, determined to see How Far I’ll Go; “there’s more beyond the reef.” However, her canoe capsizes in the rough water at the reef; Moana almost drowns. When she collapses back on shore, her grandmother is waiting. Moana claims that her father was right. Instead, her grandmother leads her to a covered cave to learn another legend of their people. Bang the drum, her grandmother instructs, and find out who you were meant to be. Inside, there are larger boats. Once the drum sounds, the sails tell the story of how Motunui was founded; We Know the Way, they said. “We were voyagers!” Moana exclaims. Her grandmother explains further; they stopped when boats stopped coming back, because of Maui and the spreading darkness. She shows Moana that the darkness has come to their island. Then reminds her of the legend that foretold someone would venture beyond the reef, find Maui, and restore the heart of Te Fiti. Grandma gives Moana the green stone, reminding her that the ocean chose her.

Moana rushes to the council meeting, insisting they can stop the darkness by finding Maui. They were once voyagers, they can be so again. The chief has had enough. He marches off to burn the boats. They’re called back to the village; his mother is dying. Grandma whispers to Moana “Go.” She rushes out, her mother helps her pack, and she loads one of the boats she discovered. The spirit of a sting ray (her grandmother had said she would come back as one and bore a tattoo of one) leads her over the reef and “soon I’ll know, How Far I’ll Go.”

screaming chickenThe next morning Moana discovers a stowaway, Heihei the chicken (and the funny scene of the screaming and coconut). The journey is not easy. Her boat turns over again in a storm and she asks the ocean for help. She wakes on a shore – the island where Maui has been marooned. Moana meets the demi-god who insists that he stole the heart to help mortals, he’s their hero. He brought them fire and the breeze and the sun. You’re Welcome. Then he traps Moana in a cave and tries to steal her boat. Moana escapes and the ocean puts her on the boat, even after Maui tries to throw her off a few times. The stone is a magnet for danger, he claims. And they’re soon set upon by the Kakamora (which look like evil coconut people). Moana further demonstrates her cleverness and her determination to see the mission through.

She persuades Maui to do his duty and return the heart; he’d be a hero again. Fine, they find his hook first, then they’ll return the heart. In the meantime, Moana asks Maui to teach her to sail. “It’s called way finding, princess,” Maui corrects. Moana states she’s the daughter of a chief, not a princess. “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you are a princess.” (Leaning on the fourth wall, ey, Disney? While Moana is not in the “official” princess line-up, she is seen alongside the other princesses in clips from Wreck-It Ralph 2, and fits the same criteria as Pocahontas {daughter of the chief, with an animal sidekick, saves her people}, who is part of the “official” line-up. I just thought it was funny that they bring it up in the movie and call attention what everyone notices about Disney’s princesses.)

The pair must sail to Lalotai, the Realm of Monsters in order to retrieve Maui’s hook from Tamatoa, the collector crab. He enjoys talking about himself and how Shiny he is [I dislike this song, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the soundtrack; I understand why, but still, it’s weird.] Moana distracts the crab with a fake stone so she and Maui can escape. His shape shifting powers are on the fritz, though we do briefly see him transform into Sven. Maui tries to leave the mission again. He explains how he came to be a demi-god; he was born mortal, but his parents threw him into the sea. The gods found him and saved him, gifting the magical fish hook. He uses his powers to help mankind, hoping they’ll love him. But it was never enough. Now he’s not sure he’s worthy to be saved. Moana encourages him; the powers and the hook don’t make Maui, he does. Further encouraged by his mini-me tattoo, he gets his mojo back.

They finally reach Te Fiti and Maui goes to return the heart, but the demon, Te Kā throws fireballs and clashes with Maui’s hook. The boat is pushed back and Maui’s hook is cracked. “Without my hook, I am nothing!” Maui shouts, and leaves. Moana now believesi am moana that the mission is truly hopeless and begs the ocean to choose someone else. The spirit of her grandmother comforts her; she should have never put all the pressure on Moana. If she wants to return home, her grandmother will help. “The people you love will change you, the things you have learned will guide you,” does Moana know who she is? “I am a girl who loves my island, I am the girl who loves the sea, it calls me.” Spirits of the old voyagers appear around her. “And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me…come what may, I know the way. I Am Moana!” [that song gives me goosebumps] She swims down to the stone and when she pops back up, the spirits have vanished. But she knows what to do. She repairs her boat and sets off for Te Fiti again.

She dodges Te Kā’s attacks, seems to go for one opening, then doubles back through the other. But a wave capsizes her again, yet Maui flies to the rescue. He’ll distract Te Kā, so Moana can get to Te Fiti. But when she stands on top of the one island, there’s only the outline of a woman below. Then she notices the swirl on her stone matches one on Te Kā’s chest. She shows the stone and asks the ocean to “let her come to me.” The ocean splits and Te Kā rushes to the small young woman. “I know your name/ they have stolen the heart from inside you/ but this does not define you/ this is not who you are/ you Know Who You Are.” Te Kā pauses in front of Moana. The woman places the heart in the center of the spiral. Greenery overtakes the lava stone and Te Fiti emerges. She smiles down at the little heroine. Moana and Maui are brought before her; Maui apologizes and he receives a new hook (the old one was destroyed while he fought Te Kā). Te Fiti gifts a new boat to Moana. The goddess then lays down and reverts back to a beautiful island.

te_fiti_&_moana

Moana offers that Maui could return with her to Motunui. He won’t, but she’ll see him around. He gains a new tattoo of her (he had earlier explained that he receives a new tattoo when he’s earned them). Moana returns home to her island and her pleased parents. Her father remarks that going past the reefs suits Moana and they pull out the old boats. Moana teaches what she’s learned of way finding and they set sail again (a shell sits on top the rock pile on the mountain).

I enjoyed this movie a lot; the story was different, it showcased another culture that I have developed an interest in (due to Hobbit and Lord of the Rings being filmed in New Zealand and the country and people showcased in the behind the scenes features, and starting to watch the rebooted Hawaii Five-0 series). Moana is an amazing character, well rounded and developed. While she loves the water and it calls to her, she is willing to do her duty and doesn’t complain. There is value in serving others and putting them ahead of yourself (or as Spock would say, “The good of the many outweigh the good of the few or the one.” Though there are times when that can be broken, as all rules are subject to). She goes on a physical journey as well as a personal journey. She stands up to demi-god Maui (not my favorite character, until we got deeper; he was very brash to start with, almost Gaston-like). The grandmother was sassy; I like sassy characters. Her death was sad, but did not leave me a sobbing mess.

I didn’t see the ending as a twist so much; Te Kā appeared more as a guardian to Te Fiti. But the scene was beautiful and how the goddess appeared as balancing elements. I enjoyed the bulk of the soundtrack, typically the songs that featured Moana. Not a huge fan of You’re Welcome, again because of the bragging, and Shiny was just weird.
So, that’s it! I’ll be moving on from animated Disney movies, after a wrap up blog next time. A few live action Disney films, mainly Pirates of the Caribbean, then onto some other action-adventure categories. But first, weigh in on what is your favorite Disney animated film (or live-action adaptation). And your favorite Disney hero/princess and villain (i.e., who do you love to hate, or who do you root for, or who do you think is the most well-developed). Heck, what’s your favorite Disney soundtrack?

Coming Soon: Enchanted (could count as a Disney princess movie; we’ll get into that during the post)

“You Can Fix This Fixer Upper Up With a Little Bit of Love.”

Frozen

That movie that everyone couldn’t stop talking about for months. Ranked as the highest-grossing animated film of all time (Lion King holds that distinction in traditional animation), ninth highest-grossing film of all time, highest-grossing film of 2013, and currently fourth highest-grossing Disney film, behind the new Star Wars movies and new Avengers movies. It won two Oscars, for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (Let It Go), a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, and a BAFTA for Best Animated Film. On the one hand, I agree it has a story that departs from typical Disney. My (distant) cousin also designed young Anna. On the other hand, why did kids love this more than other movies? Why did everything go Frozen-crazy for so long?

Proceeding…the film is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Snow Queen, a darker story (aren’t they all?) with the titular Snow Queen as the villainess. The names of the four main characters are inspired by the storyteller’s name: Hans, Kristoff, Anna, Sven (read them quickly together). Kristen Bell (part of several television series, includng the titular Veronica Mars) voices Anna and Idina Menzel (she won acclaim for premiering the role of Elphaba for Wicked on Broadway) voices Elsa. Josh Gad is Olfa, Alan Tudyk (among some other voice acting roles, he’s in Knight’s Tale and the sci-fi show Firefly) is the Duke of Weaselton, sorry, Weselton, and Ciarán Hinds (an Irish actor who has appeared in several period pieces, and Game of Thrones) pops up as Pabbie the troll.

The opening music has a different tone than the rest of the soundtrack; inspired by Scandinavian culture and indigenous chanting (Fun fact: Cantus, the group that performs the piece, is all female). Then we’re into Frozen Heart as men cut ice, aided by a young Kristoff and Sven. My question is, why are they there? Is Kristoff’s father an ice cutter? And no one seems to be paying to this little boy. Then we come to young anna and elsathe palace and meet little princesses Elsa and Anna. Anna begs her older sister to “do the magic!” so they can play in snow. They sneak to a ballroom and Elsa freezes the floor. We briefly glimpse Olaf, who likes warm hugs. But Anna goes too fast jumping from snow mound to snow mound that Elsa creates. When Elsa trips, her shot goes too high and hits Anna. Their parents rush in from the commotion, their father demanding “Elsa, what have you done?” and they immediately head out of the capital, Elsa still trailing ice.

Kristoff and Sven spot the royal family on their venture to the mountain and look on. A collection of rocks turns out to be a troll community (whom promptly adopt the wayward boy and reindeer). The leader can cure Anna, this time; the head can be persuaded, but a shot to the heart is more dangerous. But Anna can no longer know about Elsa’s powers; her memories are changed to remove the magic – but keep the fun. Pabbi did ask if Elsa had been born or cursed with the powers – she had been born with them. Then he warns Elsa that while there is beauty in her powers, there is great danger as well. She must learn to control them, for fear will be her enemy. Her father’s response: lock her away and limit all human contact, even with her sister. I agree with most fans that this is just about the dumbest thing a parent can do. Bottle all your feelings, be scared of an integral part of yourself, and separate you from everyone else, including a beloved younger sibling. Not a smart move.

We watch the princesses grow up during Do You Wanna Build a Snowman? [I like about two songs from this film; this is not one of them]. Anna pleads with Elsa, “we used to be best buddies.” The whole time, Elsa grows more afraid of herself. Their parents eventually take a trip, and their ship is overpowered by a storm. Anna must attend the funeral alone. Afterwards, she sits outside her sister’s door; it’s just the two of them now. On the other side of the door, Elsa is in the same position, with her room looking like a snow blast went off.

Now, there is a fan theory floating around, and I honestly don’t remember which parts have been confirmed or not, but Frozen is connected to other Disney movies. It is tangled cameogenerally postulated that the queen of Arendelle and queen of Corona are sisters. And the king and queen of Arendelle were heading to Rapunzel and Eugene’s wedding when their ship went down. This is supported by Rapunzel and Eugene showing up at Elsa’s coronation (if you’re watching closely, it is distinctly them) and further supported by Frozen releasing three years after Tangled, and Elsa comes of age three years after her parents’ death. It is further theorized that the Arendelle ship is the shipwreck Ariel is exploring at the beginning of The Little Mermaid. This stems from the fact that both original fairytales were written by Hans Christen Anderson and there is a statue of a mermaid in Denmark, which lies along the route Anna and Elsa’s parents would have taken from Norway to Germany (Rapunzel being a German tale). Another option is that the Arendelle ship was blown way off course and ended up finally sinking off the coast of Africa and Anna and Elsa’s parents are in fact Tarzan’s parents, making Tarzan their brother. (Would that make him Rapunzel’s cousin as well?) I side more with the Tangled connection since we actually see the Corona couple at the coronation.

There is another backstory that has been created for Anna and Elsa’s mother. The first half of season four of Once Upon a Time involves characters from Frozen. Here, Elsa and Anna’s mother is named Gerda, and she has two older sisters, Ingrid and Helga. Ingrid has ice powers, which explains how Elsa has them. Without getting too into (and spoiling) the whole plot, events happen that cause Gerda to become queen. I liked the way Once Upon a Time handled Frozen, particularly examining Elsa’s bond with Anna and her new bonding with Emma.

ouat-frozen

Continuing on with the original animated movie: three years pass and Elsa is now of age to assume the crown. Time to open the gates For the First Time in Forever, after Anna is woken (looking like every other woman when she first wakes up). Anna is excited and wishes the gates would remain open; she’s also hoping to meet “the one,” which, considering she’s been left alone and possibly read dozens of romances, not a completely crazy dream (unrealistic, yes). Elsa is nervous, practicing removing the gloves that have been a protective layer for years, urging herself to be the good girl. While exploring outside, a horse knocks Anna into a boat, but she is gallantly rescued by a dashing prince, Hans of the Southern Isles. Anna is adorably awkward, then has to rush off to the coronation. Elsa manages to get through it without revealing her powers, though it was a near thing.

Later, at the ball, the sisters awkwardly stand next to each other. They no longer have the rapport they shared as youngsters. Though they share a love of chocolate. They start bonding, but Anna is soon swept off her feet by Prince Hans and the couple harmonizes that Love is an Open Door. At the end, they share the same crazy thought: “Hey, let’s get married!” They reenter the ballroom to ask for Elsa’s blessing. Elsa refuses, calling out Disney’s age-old cliché: “You can’t marry someone you just met.” Anna insists it’s true love and argues that Elsa wouldn’t know anything about that since she’s shut everyone out of her life. Anna pushes the issue with her sister, pulling off one of the gloves. In confusion and annoyance, Elsa sends a blast of ice. Weaselton, sorry, Weselton immediately declares sorcery and calls Elsa a monster. Elsa flees and is overwhelmed by the crowd outside. At first, they’re kind and adoring, but once she freezes a fountain, they turn on her. Elsa continues her flight, pausing for a moment at the fjord, but her powers allow her to freeze a path. She runs to the mountains, unknowingly leaving a path of ice that freezes the whole capital. Anna and Hans had followed her. Anna insists that she caused Elsa’s panic; her sister isn’t dangerous and would never hurt her, so she should be the one to go after the queen. Anna leaves Hans in charge.

Elsa is making her way up North Mountain and ponders everything that had brought her to this point. She finally had to let some of her emotions out, after trying for so long. “Don’t let them in/ don’t let them see/ be the good girl you always have to be/ conceal, elsa dressdon’t feel/ don’t let them know. Well now they know!” She Let[s] it Go. She’s able to use her power freely; and it’s beautiful. She creates a magnificent ice castle and to match her new mood, she creates a new (iconic) dress. The cold never bothered her, so she’s comfortable where she is. She’s never going back and tosses away her crown. According to Disney trivia, this song was the turning point the in the development of the film. At this point, the Snow Queen was not longer the villain. The song has also topped the Billboard list and that was the only song we heard on repeat for about a year, I think (Piano Guys did a beautiful crossover between this song and Vivaldi’s Winter; as I have often found, I prefer Piano Guys’ covers to the original). It was during this song that I figured out Idnia Menzel voiced Elsa, because the singing tone matches Defying Gravity from Wicked. I personally believe that the lyrics to this song are an aid to those who bottle up their emotions and worry about being themselves.

Meanwhile, Anna is still searching for her sister. Her horse bolts, leaving her freezing. She finds Oakens’ outpost and manages a costume change and meets ice deliverer Kristoff. After Kristoff is sent to sleep in the barn, Anna approaches him (with the supplies he needed) and requests/demands he take her to the North Mountain where the worst of the storm is, figuring that is where Elsa will be. Kristoff reluctantly agrees. He sides with Elsa, that you cannot marry some guy you’ve just met. Before their conversation can go much further, a pack of wolves attacks. Anna is helpful in chasing some of the pack away, but they’re still forced to jump a gorge, letting the sled fall. Anna understands if afterwards, Kristoff doesn’t want to help anymore. Sven persuades Kristoff, and they set off further up the mountain. Along the way, they encounter a talking snowman, Olaf, who likes warm hugs. Elsa made him, a reminder of her childhood with Anna. The little snowman dreams of what will happen to him during Summer. [Personally, I agree with Kristoff, let’s tell him what happens! I also find Olaf annoying; he’s the tagalong who never shuts up.]

Back in Arendelle, Hans is assisting the people when Anna’s horse returns without its rider. He wants to head out and calls for volunteers to help find the sisters. Weasel sends two of his burly guards, with instructions to put an end to winter (meaning, kill the queen. Buddy, that’s treason).

When Anna and Kristoff finally meet with Elsa, she still wants to be left alone. It’s for Anna’s protection, she doesn’t want to hurt her sister (again). However, she did not realize that she had caused eternal winter back in Arendelle. To her, this is just another reason why she should be alone and she hasn’t gained control of herself or her powers. Her emotions spiral and she shoots another blast, unknowingly hitting Anna. Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf leave, firmly persuaded by a new giant snowman. More like, chased off the mountain. Kristoff notices that Anna’s hair is turning more white and decides it’s time to introduce her to his love expert friends; they’ve had dealings with that sort of thing before. His love expert friends are the trolls who took him in. They’re so excited that Kristoff has brought a girl home, they at first don’t listen to the pair’s protestations, declaring that love is power and can help both Fixer Uppers. When Anna collapses, Pabbi comes out. But this time, the power struck her heart, only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart. Both Anna and Kristoff figure a kiss from Hans will do the trick.

Hans and his volunteers find Elsa’s new castle and battle her giant guard. A few manage to duck, Weasel’s two guys aiming to kill. Elsa defends herself and almost kills both attackers. Hans urges her to not turn into the monster people believe she is, be better. He knocks a bolt out of the way, but it severs the chandelier, knocking Elsa out when she dives out of the way. She wakes up in a jail cell, chained, her hands manacled. Hans informs her that Anna hasn’t returned, but they all need her to unfreeze the capital. Elsa doesn’t know how.

Kristoff and Anna arrive at the castle; Kristoff stays outside and the servants take Anna to Hans. She begs for a kiss, explaining that Elsa froze her heart, by accident. A act of true love will thaw it. He makes her comfortable and leans in…only to say, “if only there was someone out there who loved you.” He extinguishes the candles and fire and reveals that it was all a ploy. As thirteenth in line for his own throne, the only way he would become a king was to marry. Nothing was known about Elsa, but Anna – young and eager, it was easy. He originally intended for an accident to befall Elsa after his marriage to Anna. Now, he will just have to kill her and that should bring back summer, making him a hero. He leaves Anna alone and informs the council that she is dead, only after they managed to say their vows, making him the ruler of Arendelle. His first act, execute Elsa for treason for murdering her sister.

In Elsa’s cell, ice spreads and she manages to break free. She sets off across the frozen fjord. A storm swirls around her. Sven is trying to persuade Kristoff to go back, for Anna. When he catches sight of the storm, they take off. Olaf makes his way through the castle and happens upon Anna’s room, lighting a fire to keep her warm. Anna urges him to stop, he’ll melt. “Some people are worth melting for.” He also figures that Kristoff is the one who loves Anna, not Hans. The blond man raced to get her to the castle, and sees that he is racing back. They escape the rapidly freezing palace (Anna slides like a lady, straightening her skirts after) and Anna makes her way to Kristoff. Hans finds Elsa, telling her that it was too late to save Anna; “she’s dead because of you.” Elsa collapses in grief, which freezes the center of the storm (snowflakes are frozen in place). Anna and Kristoff see each other and Kristoff races to Anna, but Anna hears a sword and turns to see Hans behind her sister, ready to strike. She makes a decision and steps between the two, stopping the sword as she freezes solid. Elsa turns around and sees the new statue of her sister and hugs her, crying, as Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf look on.

anna-save-elsa

Anna starts to slowly thaw. The sisters embrace, Elsa in disbelief that Anna would sacrifice herself for her. Anna simply responds “I love you.” Olaf realizes “an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.” Love. That gives Elsa an idea. Armed with new knowledge and a reprise of the opening track playing, she unfreezes Arendelle. Luckily, the heroes were standing over a locked ship. Olaf starts melting, but Elsa gives him “my own personal flurry.” Hans gets up and Kristoff starts marching towards him. Anna stops him. She strides over to Hans, tells him “the only frozen heart around here is yours.” Turns, then turns back and punches him in the face. Brilliant!

Hans will be returned to the Lonely Isles to face his twelve older brothers. Weaselton will no longer be allowed to trade with Arendelle for his actions against the crown. Kristoff is the new official Ice Master for the capital and Anna gifts him a new sled (keeping her promise to replace the one that burned). He’s so happy, he could kiss Anna. May he? He may (they’re adorable together). Elsa makes a pond for everyone to skate on in their courtyard and she and Anna declare they are never closing the gates again.

A short, Frozen Fever was released in 2015 alongside the live action Cinderella film. A sequel to the full-length movie is due out this November.

I enjoyed the “Hans is actually the bad guy” twist; I believed he was good right until he betrayed Anna. While she was falling in love with Kristoff, I thought maybe Hans would pair with Elsa. But this made it a more complex story, which is good. Again, I appreciated both Elsa and Kristoff warning that one cannot marry someone they just met. The relationship between Kristoff and Anna was built on working together and accepting each other’s flaws. The relationship between Elsa and Anna was wonderfully done; they were adorable as kids and understandably awkward once they were in the same room again, having grown up separated. (And again, horrible decision on their parents. Anna could have helped Elsa so much). And I appreciated that the “act of true love,” was between sisters, because that is a very strong bond. Siblings give their loyalty to each other first. A partner may come and take their own place, but a sibling grew up with you and knows all your secrets.

Overall, not my favorite soundtrack; it’s cute and fun, but doesn’t have quite the depth that Disney has shown (Lion King for example). It is a fun movie, though it took me a while; I tend to not be eager to jump on band wagons. I resisted Harry Potter when the books first came out because I didn’t want to read what everyone else was reading just because everyone else was reading it. But it is a cute story and I certainly want to see more of Anna and Elsa.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.  This is shockingly, my thirtieth blog (more like, how did I get this far?)  There’s still lots more to come!

Next Time: The last Disney animated film I’ll be blogging, Moana

Fanfic Recommendations:

Burning in the Fire of a Thousand Smiles by qqueenofhades is a modern Alternate Universe story involving the Once Upon a Time characters, pairing Emma with Killian and does include Elsa as one of Emma’s friends.

“Be as Strong as the Seas are Stormy, and Proud as an Eagle’s Skeen”

Brave

Pixar’s contribution to the Disney princess line, the film did win a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Oscar for Best Animated Film. It features an all-star cast, headed up by Kelly Macdonald (Evangeline from Nanny McPhee and Helena Ravenclaw from Death Hallows Part 2), who voices Merida; Billy Connolly (Il Duce from The Boondock Saints [I’ve seen that movie precisely once, and loudly exclaimed – at ten ‘o’clock at night – “That’s Dain!”] and Dain from Battle of the Five Armies) is her father, Fergus; the ever-brilliant Emma Thompson (amongst other roles, the titular Nanny McPhee, also Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies) is Queen Elinor; Julie Walters voices the witch (I did not know that; and Julie Walters may be most recognized as Mrs. Weasley), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid, and an ally-of-sorts for James Bond) is Lord Dingwall; and Lord Macintosh is voiced by Craig Ferguson (Gobber from How to Train Your Dragon and host of his Late Show).

The film takes place in a mysterious age in Scotland [which is a huge reason why I love the movie]; there are elements of Scottish history and culture from every age thrown into the movie (i.e. Vikings and corsets are not from the same era). It’s not a true musical, as the characters don’t sing to further the plot, but it does feature three songs on its soundtrack and piqued and interest in Julie Fowlis. There is also a fun drinking song that the men sing; and a lovely lullaby that mother and daughter share; overall I simply love the soundtrack – I love Celtic music.

The story opens on Elinor playing with a young Merida on her birthday. Her father gifts her with her own bow and the little red-head eagerly practices firing arrows. One goes astray and she ventures into the woods to fetch it. She encounters will o’the wisps that lead her back into camp. Just in time, for a hulking scarred bear emerges behind her – Mor’du. Fergus and his men attack as Elinor and Merida ride away. Merida narrates as we fast forward in time (while watching beautiful vistas…visiting Scotland is top of my bucket list)

“Some say our destiny is tied to the land, as much a part of us as we are of it. Others say fate is woven together like a cloth, one’s destiny intertwines with many others. It’s the one thing we search for, or fight to change. Some never find it. But there are some who are led.”

merida family
Clan Dunbroc Family Portrait

Fergus lost a leg to Mor’du, but cheerfully vows revenge on the beast. Elinor bore triplet sons, who are the definition of mischief. And Merida is in training to become a proper princess; she has duties, responsibilities, expectations; her whole life is planned out. And she sounds none too pleased about it. But on her birthday, she can do whatever she wants, which means riding her horse Angus through an archery course. At home, her mother chastises her for setting her bow on the table; in her opinion, a princess should not have a bow. Important mail is delivered; all three clans have accepted their invitations. Invitations to what, Merida asks. Fergus hems and haws about telling her, so Elinor simply states that all three lords will present their sons as suitors to win Merida’s hand in marriage. This is news to Merida; she does not want to think about betrothal or marriage. She storms off in a huff, working out her frustration by hacking at her bedpost with a sword.

Elinor tells the legend of an ancient kingdom, ruled by a wise and just king who was much beloved. When it came time, he decided to split his kingdom into four equal sections and give a part to each of his sons. But the eldest, wanted to rule all the land by himself. “He forged his own path and the kingdom feel to war and chaos and ruin.” When Merida passes it off as a simple story, Elinor chides that “legends are lessons.” The two women separate, venting their frustrations to their companions. They insist that the other does not listen. Merida does not want to get married yet, or maybe even at all. She feels like marriage is an end; she does not want her life to be over. Elinor maintains that marriage is not the end of the world, this is the culmination of everything they have been preparing Merida for. [Personally, I think it was an unwise decision to spring the whole concept onto Merida suddenly. It should have been discussed prior to the invitations being sent.]

The gathering continues as planned and Elinor stuffs Merida into a new fancy dress and corset [as someone with a bit of experience in a corset; they take some getting used to and another thing that should have been prepared in advance. The dress is beautiful, but not Merida’s style.] The visiting clans: MacGuffin, Macintosh, and Dingwall, compete against each other in rowing before they even arrive. They compete in announcing their respective sons, making each to sound like the finest warrior. The triplets get bored and cause mischief which sets everyone to fighting. Fergus shouts “Shut It!” and all is still for a moment. Then one man lets out a yell and it all starts back up. Elinor calmly settles everyone and announces the rules. Merida perks up when she discovers that it’s all first born who have a right to compete; and she gets to pick the challenge. She announces archery.

Young MacGuffin misses, young Macintosh just misses the bull’s-eye, but young Dingwall happens to hit a bull’s-eye. Fergus leans over to jokingly congruatluate this daughter, shootin for own handonly to find her not there. Merida steps out, hair freed from its wimple, annoucning “I’ll be shootin for my own hand!” She has to tear the dress at the seams in order to allow arm movement, then proceeds to shoot three bull’s-eye in a row, splitting Dingwall’s arrow. Elinor is furious and throws Merida into a room in the castle. They shout at each other and Merida calls her mother a beast; she will never be like her, and slashes a tapestry. In retaliation, Elinor throws Merida’s bow into the fire. Merida rushes off in tears and Elinor realizes what she did. She pulls the bow out, but it’s too late; it’s cracked.

Angus and Merida pelt across the landscape and Angus throws Merida. She’s inside a standing stone circle and Angus is not pleased. She spots wisps again and follows. They lead her to a cottage in the woods. Entering, she discovers its filled with bear carvings, a crazy old woman working in the corner. Merida’s already wary of the place, then witnesses the woman’s broom sweeping on its own and the crow talks. She calls the woman a witch and barters for a spell the change her mum in order to change her fate. (She buys the whole lot of bear carvings with a pendant) The last customer the witch had was a young prince who wanted to change his fate as well and wished for the strength of ten men. Merida receives a cake and mysteriously ends up back at the standing stones.

Elinor greets her return in the kitchen and Merida persuades her mother to try her cake as a peace offering, pestering the whole time if she’s changed her mind. Elinor gets sick off the cake and the two women retire to her chambers (Fergus is “entertaining” their guests with The Song of Mor’du). Underneath the covers, Elinor rumbles and grows, emerging as a bear. Merida screams and backs away and the bear reacts as Elinor would. It takes a few confusing moments before Elinor realizes that she’s been turned into a bear. Merida blames the witch. Elinor is not impressed. They have to sneak out of the castle and get the witch to turn Elinor back. Along the way, they bribe the triplets for help after Fergus has caught the scent of bear.

The two ladies manage to find their way to the cottage, but it’s empty. A cauldron issues a message from the witch, something she forgot to tell Merida earlier; the spell will be permanent by the second sunrise, unless they med the bond torn by pride. They can’t accomplish anything that night, so Merida erects a shelter. A memory comes to her as it rains, of another storm years ago, being comforted by her mother and sung a lullaby, Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal). In the morning, Elinor has attempted to gather breakfast, but didn’t realize that they were nightshade berries, which Merida informs her are poisonous. The water was also dirty. Merida shows Elinor how to fish and the two share a pleasant morning. Though as they’re getting ready to leave, Elinor’s eyes change, growing darker and for a moment, she wasn’t human inside. She shifts back quickly, but they understand that time is urgent. They follow the wisps that have appeared, hoping they’ll lead to answers. They enter a ruined kingdom and Merida falls into an old throne room. A carving is smashed, showing the eldest prince separated from three brothers. Merida realizes that all the tales are joined, the ancient kingdom and the prince wishing for the strength of ten men, meaning the prince became Mor’du. Who appears. Merida escapes and she and Elinor end up back at the stones. They must now sneak into the castle and mend the torn tapestry.

Elinor leads them into the castle, but the clans are fighting in the great hall; the visitors insisting Fergus decide which of their sons marries Merida, Fergus declares none of the boys fit. Taking inspiration from her mother, Merida calmly enters the fray, allowing Elinor the opportunity to sneak upstairs. When the clans gets restless again, she now takes after her father and yells for everyone to “Shut It!” She opens with the legend of the ancient kingdom and continues to say that she has learned her lesson. Their kingdom is young and while their stories are not yet legend, a bond was struck when they joined together to repel invaders. Each clan leader saved the other (sometimes by accident) and when Fergus rallied all their forces, they made him king. Now Merida will do her part to mend the rift that was created, but her mother stops her and pantomimes a new idea. They will break tradition – and let the young people choose their own love, write their own stories. All three sons agree and everyone is happily onboard. Before Elinor can be discovered, Merida sends everyone to the cellar for spirits to celebrate. Elinor pantomimes how proud she is of Merida and they head to the tapestry chamber.

Before they can stitch up the tear, Elinor reverts back to a true bear and attacks Merida. Fergus has come looking for Elinor and discovers the scene. Merida tries to stop Fergus from unknowingly attacking his wife. Elinor comes back to herself and flees. Merida takes a moment to attempt to explain the situation to her father, but Fergus doesn’t believe her. He’ll avenge his wife, and locks Merida in the room. Three little bears wander by a few minutes later; the triplets found the cake. Merida once more enlists their help and they’re soon racing back to the stones, the boys steering as Merida sews.

merida fight

Elinor is surrounded at the stones; they manage to tie her down, but before Fergus can strike a killing blow, Merida shoots the sword out of his hand (Cool!). Fergus pushes Merida aside, letting Lord Macintosh hold her. She flips him, draws a nearby sword and takes down her father (also cool!) “I’ll not let you kill my mother.” The three bears jump on their father and he realizes that they’re his sons, making Merida’s story true. Mor’du shows up and the clans rally again. Deprived of a weapon, Fergus declares “I’ll take you with my bare hands!” Merida tries to assist, but her arrows are no good against the large bear. Elinor has the most luck against Mor’du, coming to her daughter’s aid. The two bears have a go at each other, though Elinor ultimately outwits Mor’du and has one of the standing stones fall on him. The ghost of the prince rises, nods to Merida, and turns into a wisp.

They haven’t much time now, the second sunrise is fast approaching. Merida drapes the mended tapestry over her mother and the light touches the mend. However, Elinor’s eyes darken. Merida heartbreakingly apologizes to her mother; “you’ve always been there for me.” “I love you.” She cries and everyone around her gets teary-eyed. Then a hand rests on her hair. Elinor is back! She kisses her daughter’s face and Fergus cheers and kisses his wife and they’re soon joined by three naked boys.

The movie ends with Elinor working on a new tapestry with Merida. The clans are leaving (the boys trying to sail away as well). Merida echoes her opening speech while riding with her mother,

“There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own. But I know better. Our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it.”

brave ending
Notice Elinor’s new hairstyle; an indication that she has relaxed

Overall, I like this movie. I love the message of choosing your own destiny; that Fate is not set in stone. It’s actually akin to story lines that I have been reading for years [I will admit, I read Scottish romances; that’s where my interest in Scottish history developed]. I think it was great that the movie did not end with Merida choosing one of the suitors, a break with Disney tradition. The dynamics between Merida and both of her parents is nicely complex: she seems to take more after her father and he indulged in teaching her to use a variety of weapons, and the mother/daughter relationship is shown to have gone through stages. They were close when Merida was young (as shown in the flashback), then they became strained when Elinor became more demanding on Merida to conform to tradition. At the end, they’re on their way to a close relationship again. Even the relationship between Fergus and Elinor is adorable; Fergus doesn’t mind when Elinor takes over duties he’d rather not do and they seem to genuinely love each other.

As already stated, I love the soundtrack and the animation. And I don’t mind the mixture of Scottish elements. However – I have a few small points of contention. I got so excited before the movie to see this action princess who shoots arrows…and then the story revolves around bears. Yes, the way that both Elinor and Merida have to save each other is wonderful, but I just found Merida whiny at times, and as already mentioned, Elinor and Fergus could have brought up events earlier. My biggest peeve about the movie is the witch. They’re in a land with a history of wonderfully complex witches [Arthur’s sister, Morgause, was married to King Lot of Orkney; the Orkney Isles are under the jurisdiction of Scotland]…and we get a joke. I realize a lot of this was done to make it acceptable for kids; I wish they’d make version of the film for adults with a proper witch that you can’t decide if she’s good or bad and a truly kick-butt princess. Thus, Brave still ranks high on my list, but does not hold the top position.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Up Next: Frozen

Post Script: I remembered that there is a huge crossover that came about between Rise of the Guardians, Brave, Tangled, and How To Train Your Dragon, called either “The Big Four,” or “Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons.”  It’s not sure how the crossover was started; crossovers are not uncommon in the fandom and fanfiction worlds; we can cross anything over.  My guess is that they were all popular at the same time, all depicted as teenagers, and all willing to fight to change their futures.  So, fans figure out a way to team them up to fight a big bad.  There’s a whole slew of fanart [some of it is saved on my Pintrest boards].  Some fans also pair Hiccup with Merida [I saw a video somewhere years ago, of a fan asking Merida at Disney if she had ever heard of Hiccup; I don’t think the actress had].  At one point, I was a fan of that; historically, Vikings had invaded Scotland, then settled, so not that outside the realm of possibility.  But, Astrid and Hiccup make such an adorable couple!  For me, a cool idea, but I’m also fine just enjoying each movie on its own and exploring those worlds.