Big Hero 6 Review
Do you like super heroes? While I never really collected comics myself, I cannot remember a time when the exploits of these fantastic characters did not dance through my head. And I’m not alone. It seems that the American cinema has been overrun with costumed do-gooders of late. Spider-man, Batman, The Avengers, and the X-Men have been rounding up the bad guys in record numbers at the cineplex these days and making fistfuls of cash for all their exploits. Most of us have heard of these iconic heroes before, but is there room for some new heroes to come in and save the day? Well, that may have been the question Disney execs were asking themselves when they green-lit the project which eventually made its way to the big screen in the form of Big Hero Six.
I recently got the chance to see this latest vehicle from Disney Animation, and I thought I’d share a few impressions. Are these new heroes “big enough” to go toe to toe with their more well-known counterparts? Read on and find out.
Big Hero Six takes place in the futuristic imaginary city of San Fransokyo. Disney’s rendering of the cityscape, as well as the film as a whole, is positively gorgeous and the film certainly should impress all but the most jaded of computer generated viewers. No surprise there. But the film’s aesthetics let you know right up front that this is no ordinary super hero film. Almost every other film in this genre features live actors mixed in with CG effects. But Big Hero Six is 100% animated. It’s an obvious difference, but one worth noting, because it brings the film into slightly different territory. Instead of focusing on realism, a high body count, and bone-crunching fights, Big Hero is a bit of a softer, gentler movie. The bad guys aren’t quite as bad and the heroes are quite a bit more noble, in general, than many of the “warts and all” films we’ve become accustomed to seeing in these types of films. I think that makes it a little more accessible to those who might not be enamored with the typical whiz bang smash up of most standard super hero fare.
The film which is Big Hero Six’s closest cinematic cousin would have to be The Incredibles. Like Big Hero, The Incredibles revolved around a group of people working together to foil the plans of an evil genius. Also like The Incredibles, there is quite a bit of high tech gadgetry thrown in, though Big Hero takes it up several robotic notches. Where they differ is the fact that the animation in Big Hero is more realistic and the characters less cartoony. The people here are certainly not meant to be photorealistic (that usually comes across as sorta creepy in CG animated films anyway), but they are more human than the Parr family and most of the characters from Pixar movies.
There is also a decidedly Asian feel to this film (if you couldn’t guess it from the setting name of “San Fransokyo”). It’s not exactly little China or little Japan, but the story certainly emphasizes the Asian influences in the cultural backdrop of the film. The main character, the aptly named Hiro, is a stereotypically Asian-American kid who is a genius when it comes to inventing robots and new technology. With his parents deceased, he leans on his older brother Tadashi for support and guidance. They do have an Aunt whom they live with, but it is really Tadashi who is the father figure in the family.
The relationship between Hiro and Tadashi is instrumental in understanding what makes this film work. Tadashi really is Hiro’s “hero”. Ultimately Hiro’s growing up has a lot to do with becoming more like his older brother who sees technology as a means to help other people as opposed to a way to get what you want, which is how Hiro thinks of it at the beginning of the film.
Unfortunately, Tadashi moves out of the picture fairly early in the film and it is up to his invention, the robot Baymax, to carry on where he left off. Tadashi created Baymax to help deal with people’s medical problems and he initially functions as a friendly care-giver to Hiro. But as Hiro’s problems and challenges grow more intense, Hiro uses his amazing mind to transform Baymax into a flying, fighting machine who becomes more of a body guard and big bad bruiser than a nurse.
Are you satisfied with your care?
The personality of Baymax is one of the more unique and delightful accomplishments of this movie. He is quirky and awkward at times in his roll as a giant “battle bot” but his innocence and genuine care for Hiro make him terribly endearing. He reminds me of E.T. in the sense that Hiro becomes sort of his teacher and guide, but he ends up learning a lot more from Baymax than he would have expected.
The other heroes in the Big Hero lineup, who are drawn from Tadashi’s brainy classmates are certainly fun and memorable and very easy to relate to. It’s interesting to note that, in the vein of Iron Man, everyone in this movie, including the villain, draws their powers from technological marvels, not from any innate ability. No mutants, no gamma rays, just smart kids willing to suit up with their inventions and take on the bad guys. The rest of the team’s motivation (at least initially) comes from wanting to help out Hiro than from any bravado on their parts.
I’ll let you discover more about the other four heroes on your own, but suffice it to say that with names like Honey Lemon, Wasabi, Go Go Tomago, and Fred, there are some colorful and quirky personalities on the team (ok, so maybe Fred is a little bit of an underwhelming name for a hero, but he’s mostly there for comic relief). They also get along a lot better than The Avengers and help keep Hiro’s moral compass pointing in the right direction.
This is a wonderful film. I’d recommend this for anyone except small children (who might be a bit frightened by the battle scenes). Even if the storyline isn’t full of twists and turns, the strong undercurrent of family, friendship, and doing the right thing even when it’s tough runs through this film as strong as the flying, whooshing robot who graces most of the scenes. It’s a fresh take on the super hero genre where we get Heroes with a capital “H” and not just another romp with mega men who can smash through walls. The lovable Baymax and the nobility of Tadashi are the movie’s high points.
If you like gadgets and films with a heart, this one might be a Big Winner Six for you. Check it out.