The Oscars Were Right: Brave is Better than Wreck-It Ralph


So, I finally got around to watching both Brave and Wreck-It Ralph over the past couple of weeks. Which means I couldn’t comment on the minor controversy that got kicked up when Pixar’s Brave took home the Oscar gold instead of Disney’s pixelated fan-favorite.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems — from most all the sites I follow — that the public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of Wreck-It Ralph instead of Brave. Particularly after the Academy Award, people seem to be out for Pixar’s blood. At least a little bit.

Thing is… I’m pretty sure the gold guy went to the right movie. DISCLAIMER: I haven’t seen Rise of the Guardians yet. This debate is just meant to be between these two.

This is actually a pretty natural comparison. Other than being warring Oscar nominees, both these movies start with frustrated main characters trapped in systems. Ralph and Merida come out of the gates looking for appreciation… though they’re looking in different places.

Specifically, Ralph needs to find a way to appreciate himself, while Meridia already appreciates herself just fine. Instead, she wants her mother (and by extension, her society) to get on her level.

brave family

For me, this is the first thing that truly elevates Brave above Ralph, and it’s one of the reasons Pixar resonates so strongly with audience. Not that self-acceptance is a bad message or anything, but it’s a fairly solitary enterprise. Pixar movies, on the other hand, typically base their movies on conflicts born out of relationships and group dynamics.

To wit, Brave’s entire storyline grows out of the seemingly simple communication problems between a mother and daughter. To any of you who think the driving focus of the movie is Merida’s tomboyishness or the subplot with the other kingdoms, think again. The movie’s climax makes it clear that this relationship is the core.

SIDE NOTE: This (meaning the importance of good mother-daughter communication) is a really great message to pack in an all-ages animated movie. It’s sort of the anti-Tangled. Not as fun, no, but much more nuanced and applicable to daily life.

ralph cherries

On that note… one of the things that really bugged me is that Ralph, unlike Merida, has no real character flaw. Clumsiness doesn’t count. Brave’s story may be a little cliche, and it kinda wanders for about fifteen minutes in the middle, but the engine of the plot is almost always Merida herself. Because of her rebellion and impatience, she ruins the archery competition, destroys the tapestry, strikes a deal with the witch… etcetera.

Conversely, Ralph’s initial ostracization, freeing the bugs, getting in the escape pod, destroying the car — all either complete accidents or ultimately someone else’s fault.

Admittedly, the two characters are vastly different, but let’s look at another Ralph-like animated figure: Shrek. He’s another good-hearted brute misunderstood by the world. The difference there is that at the end of Shrek, the titular ogre has to come to grips with the fact that it was his own fault that Donkey and Fiona got pissed off at him. There’s no such epiphany with Ralph, because he hardly does anything actually wrong.

This is another reason Pixar’s movies tend to hit home. Their characters don’t just change, they HAVE to change to fix the damage they’ve done. Notice how rarely Pixar’s villains are the primary conflict in a movie*? Like I said earlier, there’s nothing wrong with self-appreciation, but… I like Pixar’s M.O.

It’s also part of the reason I’ll go ahead and say that King Candy is a really excellent movie villain. He actually drives most of the plot, has a thematically relevant story, and is a total video game character.

Admittedly, Brave’s emotional moments aren’t as bold or powerful as the ones in Wreck-It Ralph. They tend to be smaller; less overt. But I do think they’re more honest, with maybe the highlight being the cross-cutting conversation Merida and her mother AREN’T having with each other after their first fight.


Now, don’t hear me saying that Brave doesn’t have issues. It bites off more than it can chew, the plot is rushed and a little messy at times. Part of the reason so many people considered it a disappointment is that it’s essentially a shadow of most other Pixar movies. Despite the stunning beauty of the Celtic countryside and the surprisingly legit threat of the bears, the movie can’t help but feel like a small outing.

Wreck-It Ralph, what with a narrative gateway to all of the tropes and history of video games, should have easily come out feeling like the bigger, more expansive movie. Instead, it made the bizarre decision to localize over half its action in one made-up-for-the-movie game.

Honestly, this was the most shocking thing to me about Ralph. It barely feels like a video game movie. Where are the dungeons, water levels, power-ups, experience points, extra lives, loading screens, level ups? Scott Pilgrim was a far better cinematic adaptation of video game mechanics, and it doesn’t even take place inside a video game.

ralph gamescreen

When Toy Story (a movie Ralph resembles more than once) delivered a movie based on the premise of living toys, the conflicts and characters encountered were specific. That story could only take place in a world where talking toys exist. The opening birthday party sequence is brilliant from beginning to end. With each new “stage” — Andy’s house, the arcade, Sid’s house — we learned more about the universe and had our previous information embellished, twisted, or outright inverted.

Conversely, Wreck-It Ralph’s pop culture touchstones felt much more like window dressing**. Sure, there was some world-hopping at the start***, but mostly just to set up all their plot devices (the bugs, the medal, the beacon). The code thing was kinda interesting, but why isn’t Vanellope’s glitch fixed when her code gets reconnected? If she knows she can just choose to keep her glitch, what does that do to the movie’s key conceit of being stuck with your game role? Isn’t she kind of a jerk for wanting to keep it so that she can essentially cheat at races?

Sorry. This is starting to sound nitpicky. I’m usually not a “plot hole” guy, so it struck me as odd that I kept coming up with these questions. Even if they have answers (and for all I know they might), the fact that I had to ask throws up red flags to me.

ralph felix

I hate to beat up on Wreck-It Ralph — I really wanted to like it. Something I’ve noticed is that it seems that people are eager to dethrone Pixar.  Thing is, even in a relatively weak movie like Brave, they make an effort to put character first. It’s predictable, it’s cliché, but it ultimately works because it’s founded in character decisions and relationships.

Besides, If you guys wanted a true heir to Pixar’s throne, it was How to Train Your Dragon. I’d happily take that movie over Toy Story 3 nine times out of ten. That’s right, I said it.

Based on Wreck-It Ralph’s popularity, and the litany of angry postings on Brave’s Oscar “upset,” I’m expecting some dialogue down below. Let’s just keep it civil, m’kay? I’m just giving my own reaction here.

But I’d urge you to consider that the Oscar may be for reasons other than a political “Pixar did it.”


*And notice that Syndrome is actually Mr. Incredible’s fault?

**Perfect example: The random Darth Vader respirator noise while Ralph is breathing through a straw in Sugar Rush. It’s a little thing, but it has exactly zero value to plot, character, or scenario. The reference is just there because, hey, Star Wars. Also, isn’t this a video game movie?

 ***And some really amusing (and unfortunately short-lived) jabs at violence in modern games.

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  1. I haven’t seen Brave yet, but I was kinda disappointed with Wreck-It Ralph.

    It was entertaining and all, but basing an animated movie around video games gives you so much potential that Ralph just didn’t tap into.

    It could have been so much more.

  2. Sadly, Brave was Pixar’s attempt to stretch a little beyond the “doofy characters with doofy voices” genre of entertainment and they were rebuffed by a lot of “fans” who’d rather see more corny talking animals/inanimate objects doing the exact same humor over and over while using cheap audience manipulation ploys to engage the viewers’ emotions to make the film seem deeper than it is than allow the company to fully utilize their strong storytelling talents. Brave was easily one of the better Pixar offerings and used actual THEMES and ALLEGORIES and other things big-boy movies do to tell a charming and engrossing story about healthy communication between parents and children in a way that was superior to Finding Nemo -whose father/son message was fairly similar to Brave’s mother/daughter one but was utilized much better in Brave. Hopefully the Oscar dissuades Disney from clipping Pixar’s creative wings and forcing them to appeal only to Spongebob-watching plebs, but the “party hard” trailer for Monsters U doesn’t exactly bode well. Haven’t seen Ralph yet, but I would seriously doubt it’s better than Brave. Guardians was good, but not on the same level as Brave. It was a good CHILDREN’S film. Brave is a good FILM, period. I wish to god more people ubderstood that distinction.

  3. If Pixar had done wreck-it-Ralph then Brave would have won
    Pixar lost because Brave doesn’t hold a candle to most of their back catalogue, and that cost them, regardless how it compares to wreck-it-ralph (which is also inferior to most previous pixar movies obv)

    Pixar are victims of their own success here

  4. I saw all 5 movies that were nominated and Rise of the Guardians and more. Paranorman was the best animated movie this year easily so the argument becomes moot on which of these movies should win.

    1. Paranorman
    2. Brave
    3. Wreck it ralph
    4. Rise of the guardians
    5. Frankenweenie
    6. Pirates

    You can argue your own order but Paranorman was just wonderful in so many ways. Best animation as well if you ask me.

  5. Brave was just a bunch of fancy colors flying around on the screen with a sorry excuse for a story in the back rattling around.

    Wreck-it Ralph had a waaaay better story but al the fancy colors to along with it.

    Another sad example of how Hollywood is going to hell in flying colors…

  6. To me, ParaNorman was an admirable effort but a bit of a mess onscreen. I got what they were going for but the actual execution kept feeling clumsy to me. I get why people like it, though… it feels like a product of genuine passion.

    Its animation is neck-and-neck with Brave, too. Brave’s scenery was stunning, of course, but I was also caught off guard several times at how nuanced the facial animation was on the lead character. ParaNorman’s style is more fun, but the darkness felt more real in Brave

    So… mixed feelings all around. I’d have to revisit parts of ParaNorman to go into more detail than I am now, but my personal stop-motion favorite was Frankenweenie. Which, would easily be my favorite animated movie of the year if not for a cop-out ending that I can’t decide how much to let bug me.

  7. I thought Wreck It was better and easily. Brave was actually kinda boring to me and bit of a disappointment after I waited all that time to see it. The Oscars got it wrong.

  8. I’d say you’re wrong about Ralph not having character flaws. We see from the beginning that he begins the movie angry, self-centered, and irresponsible. The main conflict of the movie isn’t Ralph trying to get his medal, it’s Ralph almost ruining everything because he couldn’t see how his own actions affected everyone else. Wreck-It Ralph is a movie about self-acceptance, but it’s also a cautionary tale about taking responsibility for your actions.

  9. Brave was ok, it surely wasn’t a bad movie, but I was unimpressed, mainly because several elements in the movie I have already seen them and executed much better in other places. Also I disagree is more engrossing story because it didn’t warranted a happy ending or not in the way the movie lead up to it. However to be fair the mother/daughter relationship isn’t common and the behind scenes mythology was nice.

  10. I very much like this comparison, even though I didn’t see Brave. I did see Wreck-it Ralph and am happy that you touched on my key, disgruntled complaint. For a movie that posters, previews and even the Blu-ray cover seem to show a made up titular character being consoled by known villains from actual games… the end product was far from that. I understand licensing, and appreciate the nods to the genres, but ultimately the majority of the movie ended being up made up characters in a made up game that, as a gamer, I would have scoffed at. Give me a turtle shell or nothing at all.

    What I expected is my fault, but I insist that it was based on what was being sold.

  11. Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph and Pixar’s Brave have seemingly close results. With Wreck-It-Ralph, it felt more of a Pixar film, but lesser, because it didn’t use its world to its advantage. With Brave, it felt more of a stronger Disney film, with a princess, but much for deeper and defined. With Brave, however, many people wanted more because of the Pixar brand name, and felt disappointed. With Wreck-It-Ralph, it felt more of a success, because it was able to create a good film, that didn’t need to involve fairy tales or musical numbers to boost an effect.
    When watching the two to deciding between the reels, I had to remind myself to judge the film by what it is, instead of what company made it, and after finishing them and analyzing, I realized that my initial thoughts had completely changed.
    Let’s start off with Wreck-It-Ralph. First of all, the premise is definitely original and fascinating. I loved the cameos of the video gaming characters and was completely fascinated by the beginning sequences that showcased their world. However, it all comes down to the story. With Wreck-It-Ralph, the story takes a huge twist from some of the most original concepts, to a downright clique story. The Sugar Rush bit was the least interesting part, and after about five minutes, until more side characters are introduced, and the story becomes contrived and gags feel old (It doesn’t help that the least interested place Ralph visited takes place in about 70% of the film..). Along with this, the humor in the film is… Hit and miss. I definitely disliked the scenes when Vanellope and Ralph interacted by making “duty” jokes, and those scenes often drag out a bit. Alongside this, a lot of the humor tries to appeal to the younger audiences, and caused this film to suffer a bit. While the cameos were hilarious and nostalgic to a person like me, the jokes that tried to get laughs from children, definitely dragged. Despite these minor issues, I did get a bit of heart from the film, and in the end I was one of the many that had a smile on my face.
    Okay. Brave. There were many, including me, that hoped that Brave would be the one film that succeeded to the heights of top notch films that Pixar produced like WALL-E and UP. And to tell you the obvious answer, that it didn’t. Brave was unable to reach the heights like WALL-E and UP because of the fact that its concept wasn’t the most original idea made. With WALL-E you get a robot who has a heart and accidentally travels into space when following another robot, and with UP you get an old man whose wife dies, and he wishes to travel to Paradise Falls, which was his wife and his dream. With Brave, though, you get a fairy tale. Although this may sound negative, I think Brave did much better than some of the Disney fairy tales. For me, I wasn’t to fond of the Disney Classics like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, or Cinderella, mainly because the heroines do not do much in the film. With Brave’s Merida, you get a strong female role who actual does something in the film – which is to fight for what she wants. Merida and her mother Elinor are strong characters, and their relationship is realistic and heartwarming. Along with Merida and her mother, are funny side characters that have diverse, but interesting personalities. When putting the characters alongside Wreck-It-Ralph, you find that they are much stronger. The relationships in Brave, and in any other Pixar film, are strong, realistic, and executed with heart and charm. Disney, in general, has trouble creating relationships in the past, and in the present (the female heroines and their male love interests have an instant, and unrealistic connection…. And in Wreck-It-Ralph, the relationship with Ralph and Vanellope develop awkwardly and aren’t executed very well at all. But the ending is still nice.). The humor in the film is also good, more hit than miss. While the jokes can drag out at times, the characters personalities shine to develop and produce hilarious jokes, and even though I’m not a Scot, I understood many of the jokes implemented to their culture. Along with the humor, the film is darker than your ordinary fairy tale, and I enjoyed those scenes a lot. Scenes like this make the theme feel fresher, and these scenes are inventive and enjoyable.
    The only problem with Brave is that its story is a bit more predictable than most of the other Pixar films. Brave has a fairy tale story (except with a prince, which is much more refreshing), with the witches and curses that you will expect. With Pixar, you can except the outlandish ideas come to life, and in this film, it isn’t one, even though their more common theme is well executed. In Wreck-It-Ralph, you have an outlandish idea, that isn’t executed as well as it could have. When looking at the films, you have to realize that when deciding, you have to realize that the one that is executed well should come on top, because it is a more polished film, and in this case, Brave is the better film. Even though Wreck-It-Ralph is original, it could have developed relationships and its story much better, while Brave comes on top because of its better developed relationships, characters, story, and emotions, despite its slight flaws of the fact that it feels a little more familiar.

  12. hey, u dont hv to describe d whole movie.
    we ve watched it. say watever u like, but Brave is no where near oscar quality.
    oscar movies are more like Rango, Up, Wall-E etc. neither Brave nor Wrek It Ralph worth the oscar. but obviously Wrek It Ralph is better than Brave.

  13. My problem with Brave was that I felt very mislead by the trailer. I felt it was lacking, and being a guy in a family of all boys, I felt the mother/daughter “feud” was pretty dumb. It had entertaining moments, but I found myself generally bored throughout the movie. My nieces, hated it.

    Wreckit Ralph on the other hand was about the underdog. The bad guy who really isn’t all that bad. I found it easier to relate to Ralph. All the video game references were just icing on the cart (pardon the pun). Sugar Rush reminded me of my favorite racing game of all time, Mario Kart 64.

    I watched Brave once. I have watched Wreckit Ralph with my son and my wife, probably over 30 times, and counting.

    In my opinion, Ralph was just too contemporary for the judges. Some of the references were probably beyond the judges, and even yourself. My wife didn’t understand the Konami code King Candy used to access the game’s code, while I burst out laughing. Granted I could be biased on my opinion being I’m a lifelong gamer, but most people I talked to hated Brave or thought it sucked.

  14. After reading your review, I have to disagree. I have seen both movies and enjoyed both movies. However, my initial reaction to Brave was that it was a little boring. Your first point I feel is flawed. I think that Ralph also feels fine about himself, and same as Merida wants everyone else to accept and embrace him for what he does/is. She shoots, he wrecks. Both are misunderstood. She may be a bit more outward in her desire, but she is a teenager. Also he may be a little quieter in his fight for acceptance, but he also has to compete with the threat of being labeled as “going Turbo.” She wants acceptance from her mother, and as you say, by extension her society who views her as a woman with only one role. He wants acceptance from the Nicelanders, and by extension his greater video land society who view him as a bad guy with only one role.

    On to the idea that Ralph has no character flaws and does hardly nothing wrong I also think is incorrect. His character flaw is that he’s easily angered (although they don’t really touch on this as much as they could have) and he doesn’t see how his reactions affect those around him. I believe Merida to be very similar. Hot headed and so determined to make her case to live how she chooses, doesn’t understand how that would affect everyone else. Ralph does plenty wrong. He leaves his own game to find a medal. One that he only can find once the game is going, aka the arcade is open. This means he has leave his game in order to get this which he should know will put his game out of order. Then he crashes into a completely different game, and instead of worrying about the damage he’s doing, his only focus is on getting his medal so he can return a hero. Not to mention he goes on a rampage destroying the candy citizens while he’s covered in the green candy goo trying to retrieve his medal from Venelope.

    In your comparison with Shrek you said that Ralph has no such epiphany that his actions are the cause of his current predicament. I couldn’t disagree more. The entire scene when he returns with his medal displays this perfectly. When he says that “this isn’t what I wanted,” and the other character responds with, “well, what did you want?” I think this perfectly sums up his situation. He was only thinking of himself, and now he has hurt several people due to his selfishness.

    In the end I felt like both of us maybe went into these movies with expectations and when they weren’t met, we left with a bad taste in our mouths. For Brave, they advertised as being a story so moving that it only happens once in a generation or whatever ridiculous phrase they used in their campaign. It was far from that. From what I’ve read it seems like you went in with expectations of what a “video game” movie should contain. I am a fan of video games and grew up with all the ones referenced and loved the fleeting references, but enjoyed that they didn’t fall into the trap of using every video game device. Yes, they could have used more, but I like the fact that they looked at the world behind the game as opposed to the world of the game.

    Ralph has its issues: i.e. the Venelope code thing. I can say that
    the “glitch” problem didn’t go away because it was her superpower. So
    she was always supposed to have it, but she didn’t understand what it
    was because she had no memory. However, if that’s true it doesn’t
    explain why she couldn’t leave the game. But, Brave has issues too. I
    feel like Brave didn’t introduce anything new. I guess a princess who
    doesn’t look picture perfect, but she was still pretty. A strong central
    female lead? Several Disney movies have this. (This isn’t to suggest I
    don’t love me a good strong female lead, I’m just saying it isn’t
    original). And the miscommunication between a daughter and her family.
    Hello Little Mermaid. Now, granted it is usually between the father and
    the daughter. In the end though, it just felt tired. And they tried to
    bill it as new and amazing. Ralph felt fresh to me and a new way to
    envision the video game world. Both were nice stories and done well.
    Neither was revolutionary. But I think Ralph should have taken the

    And I completely agree with you on How to Train Your Dragon. It was superb.

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