Disney movies haven’t been this popular since the 90s.
They’ve been on a roll with Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and the colossal mega-hit that was Frozen (it’s been over a year and no, we still refuse to Let It Go). Their latest 3D animation promises everything you could possibly want from a family film; action, drama, comedy and superhero antics, not to mention the cuddliest robot you’ve ever seen. Big Hero 6 faces some seriously big expectations.
The movie is loosely based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name, thanks to Disney’s acquisition of the company back in 2009. It’s not the most famous series in the Marvelverse but then again, neither was Guardians of the Galaxy.
The original Big Hero 6 characters are reimagined as a bright young team of heroes-in-training. By day, they’re college students learning the ways of chemistry, physics and engineering; after class, they start using their knowledge to build gadgets and super suits. It’s refreshing to see that most of the obvious ‘nerd’ stereotypes have been avoided – instead we have a fun gang of guys and gals making science and study look cool. In this respect they’re positive role models for kids and with their costumes, catchphrases and unique powers, I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last of them.
But the superhero team isn’t even the real focus – the heart of the film is the relationship between 14-year-old Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) and his robotic pal Baymax (Scott Adsit). Baymax exists purely to help those in pain, whether physical or emotional, and he won’t give up until he’s healed the troubled teen. Considering the voice actor is best known for his work on Adult Swim programmes such as Moral Orel and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Adsit’s performance is lovable from start to finish and is bound to win over even the most hard-hearted viewer. In fact, the odd ‘mature’ joke works all the better for the character’s innocence and charm, whether he’s enthusiastically explaining the symptoms of puberty or drunkenly slurring his words when his battery runs low. Been there buddy, now where can I get one of those charging units?
It all holds together fairly well, even if it doesn’t offer a huge deal beyond the sum of its parts. The city of San Fransokyo is one stunning location and lends itself to some nice touches in 3D, even if the name sounds like it started as a joke and somewhere during development it just stuck. The first act certainly could’ve benefitted from a rewrite – plot points often feel forced and at times the exposition drops like an anvil. However, the pace picks up as the story continues, with the audience warming to the characters and getting caught up in the action. By the time the credits roll, you might not consider it a life-altering experience but you’ll probably be feeling good.
One of the main themes of Big Hero 6 is bereavement. Considering Disney’s infamous knack for traumatising children (we’ll NEVER forget what they did to Bambi’s mum!) the tragic event that sets things in motion somehow fails to create that same sense of loss. For a while, I thought my compassion chip might have been malfunctioning. It’s only as time goes on that we see the deeper impact on Hiro through Baymax’s attempts to cure his grief. Gradually Hiro learns to let go of his anger, cherish his memories and reach out to friends. It’s a sensitive subject handled in just the right way, creating touching moments but never ruining the fun or getting too heavy for young children.
Overall, this may not be the masterpiece it was hyped to be, but it’s still a solid family film. As a bonus, Feast, the animated short before the main feature – a grand tradition, long may it continue – is so adorable, it’s almost worth the price of admission alone.
Big Hero 6 might not be the most incredible superhero movie out there or the greatest children’s buddy film ever written, but both elements are done well and there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy. As the big guy himself might ask – yes, I was satisfied with the care that went into making this film.