Big Hero 6 (8 out of 10) Directed by Don Hall, Chris Williams; Written by Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, Jordan Roberts; starring Ryan Potter, Damon Wayans, Jr., James Cromwell, Maya Rudolph, Alan Tudyk; Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements; Wide Release November 7, 2014; running time: 108 minutes.
Based loosely on a Marvel comic book of the same name, “Big Hero 6” tells the story of a young robot prodigy named Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter.) He makes extra cash as a grifter in robot fights, but his brother convinces him to enter a science competition in order to gain admittance to an advanced scientific college.
He wins the competition with barrels full of nanobots, but an explosion destroys the whole batch, along with a number of people, including his brother.
The film is the first Disney movie I can think of that really tackles grief in a head on manner. Hiro is in a state of depression over the death of his older brother when that same brother’s invention, Baymax (the star of the show) awakens to diagnose and fix the boy. There, the boy is able to see his lost brother through a different light, seeing what he invested his time in and what his passions were.
But, as with any superhero origin story, Hiro, along with Baymax and all of his brother’s old friends, is forced into action to avenge his brother and take back the nanobots he’d thought were destroyed.
Taken as a whole, the story is very much a spiritual successor to the animated films of Brad Bird, in particular The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. Characters are presented options between doing good and evil with the extraordinary gifts they’re given and sacrifices might well ensue. It’s emotional and well done, though it never quite seems to reach the heights Bird is able to make the material fly to. Though it wouldn’t be out of the question for directors Hall and Williams might be interested in cutting him a royalty check for inspiration provided.
The film itself is set in a futuristic mash-up between San Francisco and Tokyo. It’s unabashedly called San Fransokyo. It’s a wonderful background for the story, beautifully rendered and adds a cultural flourish to the fictional setting. It helps allow the story to avoid the cliched cultural stereotypes of the usual sorts of cartoons and adds a great diversity to the Disney oeuvre.
The side characters are funny, but shallow otherwise. The villains origin is standard superhero fare, but they intertwine his story to the rest of the film in a way that makes it feel fresh even though it’s well-traveled material.
In fact, that might be the single biggest complaint anyone could have about the film. If you’re a fan of comic books and films, you’re going to be able to fill in all the twists and turns of the movie before they happen. Sure, it could be paint-by-numbers for a film, but when the pattern they’re filling in feels so much like Brad Bird original, you’re going to have a good time no matter what. And that’s where the film’s biggest strength lies. It’s fun and funny and has a wonderful story and a surprising emotional core that might very well elicit tears from audience members.
You’ll pass through the film’s 108 and minutes in a blink, enjoying yourself the whole time, but be sure to stay through the entirety of the film’s credits. Since it’s Disney and, in some small way, a Marvel film, there’s a treat there for you that will put a smile on your face from ear to ever-lovin’ ear.
Overall, it’s light popcorn fare, but it fills that void very well. The animation is slick, the story well-put together, and the music and voice-acting top notch. It’s not going to take over the world the way “Frozen” has, but it’s definitely going to make a lot of money.
For its overwhelming entertainment and the great time I had during the film I’m giving “Big Hero 6” and 8 out of 10, though I don’t see myself revisiting it very often.