Bows, arrows and a sword: Girls rock this year on film

Princess Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, in Disney/Pixar’s “Brave” (Disney/Pixar)

2012 is turning out to be a banner year for films with significant female lead characters: warriors, weapons and all.

With an estimated budget of $185 million, the new Pixar/Disney 3-D animated feature, “Brave,” opened June 22 and grossed $66 million. Made on half that budget, “The Hunger Games” opened March 25 with a box office of $152.5 million and has brought $400 million in North America and nearly $650 million worldwide. (The DVD is due out Aug. 18.) “Snow White and the Huntsman,” made for an estimated $170 million, opened June 3 and has brought in $137 million in the U.S. alone.

For years my mantra has been: The Pixar-Disney partnership needs a heroine. In all the films thus far the women die or are made to look less intelligent than the male heroes. With “Brave” the studio has tried to deliver, but has fallen short. They don’t know how to break the hallmark mythic arc mold they have created. The story of a Scots clan teen princess named Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) with raging red hair flying across a gorgeous landscape works visually, but the story is poorly crafted. The image of the feminine takes a few more hits.

Merida takes back the power to decide her own fate by pushing against the tradition of an arranged marriage. She whips out her bow and arrow and bests three homely suitors in an archery contest.

But when Merida’s mother Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson) does not listen to her appeals, the girl rides off and impetuously, without regard for consequences, gets her mother turned into an Ursus arctos horribilis. Really? Images of Sarah Palin come to mind.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.” (Lionsgate/Murray Close)
Kristen Stewart in “Snow White and the Huntsman” (CNS/Universal)

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