Directed by: Don Hall & Chris Williams.
Voiced by: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T. J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Génesis Rodríguez, Daniel Henney & James Cromwell.
Disney and Marvel’s first proper joint foray into the world of animated superheroes comes in the form of Big Hero 6. Originally a team of Japanese heroes in Marvel’s comics of the same name, the Big Hero 6 animated film draws some basic inspiration from its source material, whilst presenting an entertaining, family friendly, and truly funny animated film.
The original characters and themes in the Big Hero 6 comics were a bit different to those found in this animated adaptation, but that’s not a problem. Die hard Marvel fans may have preferred a live action film more true to this team’s comic book origins, but in a world of blockbuster Avengers movies and shared cinematic universes, the family-friendly animated treatment really works on this relatively unknown B-list superhero team. In truth, only those with a heart of stone would fail to warm to Big Hero 6’s characters and style, and I’d be surprised to find anyone who isn’t won over by the charm of Baymax, the film’s squishy, caring, huggable, and heart-warming leading robot.
Young genius, and robot enthusiast, Hiro (Ryan Potter) is the main protagonist in Big Hero 6, although it is Baymax (Scott Adsit) that audiences young and old will fall in love with. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), Hiro finds himself enrolling at San Fransokyo’s University of Robotics, after impressing Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell) with his world-changing microbot invention. Unfortunately for Hiro his world gets turned upside down, and he finds himself in possession of his brother’s own robot invention, Baymax. Baymax is programmed to diagnose and treat physical injuries, but also understands the importance of emotional well-being, and it is through journeying with Baymax in relation to this that Hiro learns of an evil plot that involves the misuse of his stolen microbot technology. With a few neat upgrades Hiro and Baymax set out to stop the villain, a masked mystery man who now controls Hiro’s microbots as a weapon. Hiro enlists the help of his brother’s friends Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Génesis Rodríguez), GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung) and Fred (T. J. Miller) (all of whom are based on characters from the comics) and together they become the superhero team Big Hero 6.
Big Hero 6 is a lovely animated film that just works, thanks in large part to the clever use of comedy throughout. Whilst the kid-friendly jokes will appeal to younger audiences, there are plenty of moments that will also have adults grinning from ear to ear. Baymax’s inability to move and speak coherently when low on battery power, for example, will entertain youngsters, who will enjoy the silliness and slapstick comedy of this scene, whilst any adult who has tried to navigate a drunk friend home will find something all too familiar about Baymax’s antics.
Big Hero 6 isn’t overly inventive with its story, but then it doesn’t necessarily need to be; sometimes there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple. The writing in Big Hero 6 crafts a typical superhero origin story of revenge, redemption and heroics, very similar to most of the other major Marvel movies, but without the edginess that you find in most of other live action superhero films. Yet Big Hero 6 does have some important themes to explore, gently handling the emotional drama of being a young teen dealing with grief, loss and trying to fit in. These ideas are all explored delicately, with plenty of uplifting and entertaining moments along the way, and Big Hero 6 also chooses to move the focus away from the more typical big fights and violence found in the superhero genre in favour of characterisation and emotional depth. That’s not to say Big Hero 6 doesn’t have its big showdown moment, because it does, but it just feels like the journey is more interesting and important than the destination.
The animation in Big Hero 6 is nothing short of superb, and because the writing is so good, incorporating those aforementioned thematic subtexts around grief and emotion, the simplistic nature of the overall superhero narrative thread can be forgiven. One scene in particular, in which Hiro and Baymax fly through the skies of San Fransokyo, is so beautifully and carefully animated that it’s reminiscent of some of the best animated scenes ever made, such as the space dance in Pixar’s WALL-E. If you just look at Baymax’s thruster trails during this scene, then you can’t help but be in awe of the intricate and realistic computer animation on show in Big Hero 6.
The only other criticism beyond the simplistic and slightly generic superhero narrative is the fact that, for some reason, Disney and Marvel felt that they couldn’t stick to the Japanese roots of the original comic book. Plenty of Japanese themes get used in Big Hero 6, but the change in the overall setting to an American-based hybrid of San Fransisco and Tokyo is a little baffling. There’s no reason, that I can think of anyway, for why Big Hero 6 couldn’t have been set solely in Tokyo, as San Fransisco’s trams and hills add very little to the film that couldn’t have been achieved if it had been set in Japan. It just feels like this forced pseudo-American domicile for the team wasn’t needed.
With a running time of 102 minutes, Marvel’s signature Stan Lee appearance (wait for the after credits scene!), it’s excellent animation, and the blend of child-appropriate yet adult-friendly comedy, you’ll be nothing short of entertained when watching Big Hero 6. There’s enough colour, action, emotion, comedy and heart in this animated adventure to make it a great film, and Baymax is a truly brilliant character written in a way that makes him as memorable and lovable as any of the other animated greats.
Big Hero 6 is not the greatest superhero film ever made, nor is it the best animated movie of all time, but it is one of best animated superhero films made to date. If you loved The Incredibles, then you’ll almost certainly love Big Hero 6 as well. If Big Hero 6 is the first film in a new franchise for Marvel, or just the first of many animated ventures for Disney and Marvel, then it is a promising and tantalising glimpse of things to come. On its own, Big Hero 6 is an excellent animated movie that I would highly recommend thanks to its abundance of both style and substance.
It would also be remiss of me not to mention the charming Disney animated short that runs alongside both the cinema release and DVD and Blu-ray releases of Big Hero 6. At 6 minutes long, with a Boston Terrier named Winston as its central character, Feast is a charming romantic comedy that is a pleasure to watch and it’s more than worthy of its Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. It is, in a word, wonderful.
Images from https://www.facebook.com/DisneyBigHero6