‘Brave 2′ – What’s Next for Merida, the Warrior Princess?
There is likelihood, or at least a possibility - that there will be a 'Brave 2.' The Pixar movie is a success, and while it would be nice for the wholly original tale to inspire more films not based on a pre-existing work, the truth is that it will sooner spin-off material related to itself, whether in the form of features, shorts or a television series. Hardcore Pixar fans may continue wishing for ‘Incredibles 2', but mainstream audiences with their short memories might be more easily sold on a return to the lush animated world of 10th century Scotland. And Disney, surely surprised by the film’s positive reception from boys, no longer has to fear the property is solely for the less-preferred female demographic.
Not that they have to keep focusing on the first film’s heroine, Merida, or her relationship with her mother, Queen Elinor. In addition to the intended influences of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, the story of ‘Brave’ feels reminiscent of Mary Rogers, specifically her novel ‘Freaky Friday.’ Of course, the princess and the queen of ‘Brave’ aren’t put through a true body-swap curse, yet the magical mishap that brings them closer together through new perspectives isn’t far from the switcheroo contrivance, at least in terms of lessons learned. Based on the course Rodgers took with her characters, the next adventure ought to focus on a father-son bond, a la the ‘Freaky Friday’ sequel, ‘Summer Switch.’
Wouldn’t that be ridiculous, though, for ‘Brave 2' to sideline a protagonist who is being celebrated so positively as being the first Disney “anti-princess,” the studio’s greatest female role model to date, and maybe even a gay icon? She is a wonderful heroine, even if no more complex a character than her fairy tale predecessors and nowhere near as interesting as Pixar’s best creations. Besides, the studio has already given us a father-son story in ‘Finding Nemo’ and will probably reserve the mischievous triplet sons of ‘Brave’ for a quick animated short, hopefully one that shows us what these ginger reincarnations of Huey, Dewey and Louie were up to while the movie concentrated on Merida and Elinor’s story.
My only issue with a possible ‘Brave 2' is that the movie has such a fine standalone story that doesn’t offer much beyond the borders of its narrative. On the one hand, this does avail Pixar and writer/co-director Brenda Chapman a plethora of storytelling options. On the other hand, any hypothetical follow-up seems unnecessary and, in all likelihood, forced. It also has the potential of ruining the ambiguity of Merida’s future. While irrelevant, it’s great if young lesbians want to identify with the character, but there’s no chance Disney would affirm let alone expand upon the notion. And although she does momentarily appear hetero-defined by her reaction to the muscular character mistaken for Lord Dingwall’s son, it’s also best if her sexuality is never really an issue let alone a motivation for plot.
The concern about a romance-focused trajectory previously came up in our column on ‘Snow White and the Huntsman,’ which similarly concludes with a princess not being matched up with a prince. ‘Brave’ is already being lumped with that fairy tale rewrite and ‘The Hunger Games’ as the latest in a welcome trend of strong heroine-driven blockbusters that aren’t too heavily concerned with pairing the protagonists with love interests.
However, the former was met with some disappointment from those who wanted to see Snow White end up with one of her two main male co-stars, and a sequel would surely explore the idea of a love triangle. And though the first installment downplays the book’s soap opera stuff, the ‘Hunger Games’ film series is obviously headed for the same sort of this-guy-or-that-guy drama. In ‘Brave,’ Merida has three rather than two set-up suitors, and maybe she would indeed fall for one of them if given the chance to get to know them. But so far neither she nor the audience has any reason to be on team Macintosh, MacGuffin or Dingwall.
At the end of ‘Brave,’ we are simply meant to be on team Merida, and that’s where things should continue if there need be a sequel. Scotland has had plenty of female warriors and other heroines to serve as inspiration, most of whom were even married but aren’t defined by who their spouse was. We’ll leave it up to Pixar to decide on the kind of crusade or fantastical journey she embarks on for 'Brave 2', but whatever it is let’s hope Merida remains betrothed only to herself.
Note: It’s a shame ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer’ is neither a good movie nor a box office hit, because there are so many great opportunities there for a sequel. I’m not even talking about the multitude of president vs. monster varieties people have come up with or whatever present-day follow-up might be developed from the teases at the end of either Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel or his adaptation for the screen (their epilogues are not the same). Personally, I’d like to see more Lincoln-based revisionist history, preferably something involving his son Robert’s coincidental connection to Edwin Booth and his vicinity to two more presidential assassinations after his father’s. Maybe that could be an unrelated movie anyway?