Big Hero 6, otherwise known as: science is fun. I love science and think it is great that Disney released a movie showing how scientific application can lead to amazing inventions. Though, I have yet to meet a scientist who secretly moonlights as a superhero. Unless that is the real reason some of my science professors took so long to return papers. Review contains mild spoilers.
Synopsis: This film explores the special bond that develops between an inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada. After a devastating event puts the city in danger, Hiro and his friends band together to stop the evil villain before it is too late. Follow this group of friends as they transform from science “nerds” into superheroes.
Review: Big Hero 6 is this year’s answer to Frozen, a robotics driven fairy tale for adventurous kids who cannot relate to a princess with latent ice powers. Of course this is not a standard Disney film; it is based off an obscure Marvel comic book series. So Marvel is moving in on the younger generation, it was only a matter of time. The story is set in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, which is an interesting conglomeration of San Francisco landmarks with a futuristic Japanese aesthetic.
Our hero is a genius fourteen year-old named Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter). He is a child prodigy who graduated high school at thirteen and is aimlessly drifting through existence. His one goal in life is to be a champion bot fighter. Tadashi, Hiro’s older brother, encourages Hiro to apply to the college he currently attends. This institution is a self-described “nerd-school” full of intelligent students creating technological advances to usher in the future.Of course the secondary hero is Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit), a huggable robotic health care provider created by Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney). All the charming and amusing parts of the film are built around Baymax. He is programmed to provide health care to all individuals, even the man in the Kabuki mask looking to eliminate Hiro and company. The main emotional drama comes from the relationship between Baymax and Hiro. Their interaction is both amusing and dramatic, but not overly sappy. After Hiro meets Baymax, he is inspired to apply to the college. This causes Hiro to enter a competition to impress the faculty and sets up the plot drivers for the rest of the movie.
A horrific accident occurs and Hiro becomes reclusive and grief-stricken. Baymax , sensing Hiro’s distress, activates and embarks on a mission to help Hiro recover. Along the way, Hiro connects with four of Tadashi’s college friends: Wasabi, Fred, Go Go, and Honey Lemon. These four secondary characters are incredibly one-dimensional and are only included to add some dimension to the story. Wasabi has the best characterization of the four sidekicks and provides the voice of reason. Fred is the requisite overly enthusiastic character with no discernible skills.
Overall the film is action packed and has a lot of humorous moments. It was a semi-lighthearted superhero movie for people not old enough for the more mature Marvel films. I say semi-lighthearted because Hiro spends most of the film dealing with grief and survivors guilt, which are not themes normally found in animated movies. The film also has some great messages built into the story: don’t waste potential, if you think it you can do it, killing is not always the answer, causing harm will not lessen your pain, and sometimes the right thing is not what you want to do. I was actually surprised with some of the emotional drama built into the film. Most children’s movies these days are all about empowerment, feeling good about yourself, and not marrying the first guy you stumble upon. However, since it was a kid’s film, most of these themes are not explored in depth. Instead, they float around in the shadows and pop up once in a while to propel the narrative forwards.
The script is quite funny and not in the forced way of some other animated films. The jokes appeal to all age groups, most of the parents in the theatre were laughing harder than their kids. It is nice to know that Disney is still capable of creating a film that is funny without caricaturing one group of people for laughs. I hate it when children’s films make adults and parents seem like imbeciles in order to drum up some shallow laughs. I do not find it funny. Thankfully, this film does not go down that road. Though Aunt Cass (voiced by Maya Rudolph) is a little clueless about the clandestine activities her minor aged nephew is pursuing.
My one problem with the film is its length. Parts of the film drag a little and some scenes are little too long. I think the narrative would have been stronger if it was about 10 minutes shorter. For an animated film, the art direction was excellent. Animation has come a long way since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the graphics are quite astounding. Big Hero 6 is a pleasant way to pass 102 minutes and is probably my second favorite animated film of 2014. The Lego Movie holds the top honor. If you are looking for a superhero film without the grownup drama, this is the film. Pay close attention in the police station scene, there are wanted posters for Prince Hans (Frozen) and Flynn Rider (Tangled).