Big Hero 6 Review - The Birth of a New Robot Superstar
Disney's Big Hero 6 is going to be a huge hit with kids, but adults will find more than enough to entertain them in this action-packed and surprisingly emotional movie. It's not one of Disney's greatest hits, but the studio's adaptation of the soft and cuddly robot, Baymax, will usher in the birth of a new movie superstar that could rival the likes of Dreamworks' Minions or any number of Pixar's lead characters.
In many ways, Big Hero 6 seems like a strange choice for Disney's first Marvel adaptation, especially when you consider the fact that, in an interview with Bloomberg last month, director Don Hall said "We were on the hunt for something unique, something we hadn't seen before, but also appealing and huggable." The first two points of Hall's statement are definitely applicable to Marvel's Big Hero 6 comics, but "huggable" is not a word you would associate with the gritty manga-inspired property. It is, then, a testament to what Disney have done with this property that the Big Hero 6 team has been transformed from a team of bizarre and edgy superheroes that couldn't sell comics, into group of comically loveable role models that will likely go on to bring in more than $50 million in domestic box office on their opening weekend.
Set in fictional San Fransokyo, Big Hero 6 is very much a coming of age story centered around the 14 year old genius, Hiro Hamada. Having lost his parents at the age of 3, Hiro lives with his aunt and his older, equally gifted brother, Tadashi. Having already graduated high-school, Hiro spends his time conning competitors in an underground robot fighting ring. Despairing of Hiro's choice of outlet for his talents, Tadashi takes his little brother along to meet his classmates at the robotics lab of the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. This is where the best and brightest come to hone their talents, and after being introduced to Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Go Go, and Fred, Hiro seems convinced that this is where he needs to be. Each of Tadashi's pals comes with their own very distinct, and very familiar personality. Wasabi is a nervous neat-freak, Go-Go is a straight-talking adrenaline junkie, Honey Lemon is the flowery mother figure, and Fred serves as the troupe's comic goof ball. These characters aren't subtle, but this is, after all, a kids film and they each bring something to the table that adults can get along with.
Then we meet Baymax. Undoubtedly the star of the show, Baymax is an inflatable robot whose caring sensibilities were designed by Tadashi with a view to creating a revolutionary mobile healthcare assistant. Baymax, voiced by Scott Adsit, provides many of the movie's best moments, whether they be touching emotional exchanges between he and Hiro, or comical moments of naievety borne out of his limited programming. After disaster yet again strikes Hiro's life, the bond between Hiro and Baymax becomes the movie's central plot with Baymax providing an emotional outlet to a child who has lost so much in such a short life. Though this bond between Hiro and Baymax is strong and incredibly touching, it would have been nice to see more emotional attachment developed between Hiro and the other team members. As far as hero collectives go these guys have a lot of personality, but you never really feel like they care about each other and that fact comes close to undermining everything the movie stands for. Luckily, individual performances and the overall morals behind the storyline serve up enough action, comedic moments and emotion to paper over the character development cracks.
The movie's big bad comes in the form of a masked man who has commandeered Hiro's Micro-bot technology to carry out a plan that never really becomes clear until the climactic scenes. The villain's Kabuki mask looks sinister and seeing him riding a never-ending wave of jet black micro-bots is fairly alarming, but by Disney's standards this was particular villain fell drastically short of expectations. From a studio that has created baddies such as Scar and Maleficent, Big Hero 6's antagonist felt more like something out of Scooby Doo than The Lion King.
Thankfully, stopping the Kabukiman merely serves as a side plot. The real driver behind this Big Hero 6 is watching Hiro pick himself up and dust himself off after a series of tragic losses. As I mentioned before, Baymax is what enables Hiro to do this, both by giving him a sense of companionship as well as serving as a focus for his clearly under-stimulated, but brilliant mind. As the team takes shape and launches its offensive against their foe, some wonderfully constructed action sequences ensue. From Honey Lemon's colorful chemical concoctions to Go-Go's Tron-like wheels, kids and adults alike will be blown away by what unfolds on the screen during the movie's two major battle sequences. But it's not just the action that is pleasing to the eye...
The entire world that Don Hall and Chris Williams have constructed with Big Hero 6 is jaw-droppingly beautiful. San Fransokyo blends American and Japanese cultures with cute small town shops sitting on Cherry Blossom-lined streets. San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge has traditional Japanese styling and the cityscapes, especially during the Baymax flight sequences, are absolutely stunning.
Big Hero 6 blends buddy movie and coming of age concepts to create a really enjoyable story that will, at different times, have you laughing out loud and bordering on tears. The relationship between Hiro and Baymax is the most touching we have seen since E.T and Elliot, but that emotional content is balanced nicely by some beautiful action sequences and genuinely funny moments.