Brave Movie Review - Dolby Atmos

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rotten Tomatoes Rating as of June 30, 2012

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Found List:

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

Click to enlarge - the Pizza Planet Truck can be seen under the witch's right hand

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

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

Need To Find (let us know):  This list has quite a few speculations but no one has confirmed them yet with 100% certainty.

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

FOUNDA113 - The classroom at Cal Arts where many of the Pixarians graduated from college graces the screen in every Pixar movie (and even some non-Pixar movies).  The placement of this has been talked about a lot and there are a lot of bad screenshots showing where people think it may be, but still not 100% confirmed.

Hidden Character from the next Pixar film - Quite often, Pixar hides a character from an upcoming movie.  No one has really chimed in with this one yet, but we'll see what comes up - have you seen anything?  Did you also know that Brave was featured in the Pixar Treasures book that came out in 2010?  I'm wondering if there could be anything else in any upcoming books - we'll have to keep our eyes peeled.  Updated July 3, 2012 - it was revealed that Sulley from Monsters University was included as a Celtic burning in the witch's hut - click here to read more.  We still believe there may be another hidden character in the movie (as Pixar usually hides a completely unknown character as well).

UPDATE - CONTEST has ended.

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

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

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

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

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

a) Like us on Facebook (Optional Entry - must also complete the online form in step g)
b) Follow us on Twitter (Optional Entry - must also complete the online form in step g)
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e) Subscribe to our YouTube Channel - (Optional Entry - must also complete the online form in step g)
f) Leave a comment on this post (below) about your thoughts on Brave as well as whether you prefer to read movie reviews as an audio review or the text writeup (Optional Entry - must also complete the online form in step g)
g) This is the required step if you just want to enter once, or if you've entered via any of the methods above, you must ALSO complete this step.  This online survey will let us know which sites you followed us on and how we can contact you if you win the drawing for The Art of Brave.  

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

Pixar Post - T.J.



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Pixar Post: Brave Movie Review - Dolby Atmos
Brave Movie Review - Dolby Atmos
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