If you've followed me at all, you know that I've been covering Disney's newest go at the Superhero genre, [Big Hero 6](movie:425271), for almost half a year. I've seen this movie go from concept art to feature film, and when you follow a film for a lengthy amount of time, it's pretty easy to get jaded. Will it live up to the hype? Will this concept art that I fell in love with make it into the film? Will all of the promises fall flat?
Big Hero 6 is one of those films that delivers on every promise it made, and then some. The film focuses on Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a young genius with a talent for building combat robots. Hiro is a little bit brash and prone to frustration, with his pacifist (and also genius) older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) directly contrasting him. Where Hiro invents robots to beat up other robots, Tadashi's greatest creation is Baymax (Scott Adsit): a medical robot designed specifically to be cuddly and approachable. The two of them live with their aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph), who beams with pride at the very mention of new ideas.
Right off the bat, we're given an "unconventional" family - mixed-race, with a non-parental caretaker - and shown that no matter what your family looks like, love is always love. Aunt Cass is the cheerleader that Hiro needs, and while her physical role in the movie isn't at the super-powered level of the other characters, the moral support she provides in the face of the darkest adversity is so much more than the classic idea of a motherly figure waving a handkerchief at her superhero son. Cass encourages new ideas, rewards great efforts or accomplishments, and is shown working just as hard as her nephews to peacefully maintain their home lives. They're a tight family unit, through and through.
In fact, the only major problem I had with the movie was the handling of Hiro and Tadashi's parents, who seemed like afterthoughts wedged into the script. This topic will probably be explored more deeply with a sequel, but the bump in the road, for me, was so miniscule that it hardly affected how much I enjoyed the film.
Tadashi's classmates, who later become Hiro's support system and super-powered team mates, also reflect this sentiment: they're a group of college students who couldn't be any different from one another, but work extremely well as a team. Fred (TJ Miller), who prides himself in how little he changes his underwear every week, is a comic book fanboy and self-proclaimed "science enthusiast" who spins signs for a living; Gogo Tomago (Jamie Chung) is described as the "Clint Eastwood" of the group, saying little and letting her often high-octane actions speak for her; Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) is a spirited, bubbly chemistry nerd who is often the first to rush in for support; Neat-freak Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) has basically invented lightsaber-esque technology, and is the most 'zen'-like out of the group.
The cast that brings this team to life defines them beyond their role as supporting characters. Jamie Chung's stern Gogo nearly stole the show with her catchphrase ("Woman Up!") and the mostly subtle, but impactful moments that Gogo might normally consider 'soft'. She saves the day when other characters are panicking, including the wise but rule-abiding Wasabi, who uses his own OCD tendencies to his advantage in dire situations. Honey Lemon is to the team as Starfire was to the Teen Titans on Cartoon Network: caring, spirited, adventurous, and a tad out of touch with 'normal' people. We get more background on Fred than anyone else, and despite certain glaring differences in his lifestyle from that of an everyday geek, his passionate fandom is contagious. Honestly, I could see Fred right here on Moviepilot, typing up massive (albeit misspelled) speculation pieces as he gobbles down pizza. That's the life.
The group is diverse in more than race, and when tragedy strikes, they shine as amazing friends who set aside all of their problems to help Hiro. Writing this, it sounds pretty generic to characterize the supporting characters this way -- they're supporting characters, after all -- but the amount of care and genuine interest they have in making sure Hiro and Baymax save the day is something that really stands out, alongside their own highly spotlighted heroics.
While I'd like to keep this review away from spoilers as much as possible, something to remember about Big Hero 6 is that it's a story about a boy and his robot. It doesn't need to be Inception-level complex (though it's far from what one would call a simple story), it doesn't need to be three hours of us learning everything about each individual character. While there are certain spotlights on quirks and hints at backstories, the story is about Hiro, and how his budding friendship with Baymax changes him completely as a person.
With that in mind, Big Hero 6 is a wonderful story about dealing with devastating hardships and growing up. Hiro almost reminds me of a teenage Anakin Skywalker when we first meet him: a boy genius with anger issues that could very, very easily destroy him in the end. Hiro's immediate response to a horrific realization is to rally the troops for a vicious revenge. He lashes out, calling for violence, wanting to bring down the enemy who tore his world to shreds - until he is rescued from his own horrible thoughts by his friends, his family, and most importantly, Baymax.
Baymax is a stellar character in his own right, and grows with Hiro as the movie progresses. While Baymax knows almost everything about the facts of medical care, he learns about how to help or heal ailments that many still don't regard as actual problems, including (but not limited to) depression, anger, anxiety, sadness, and the feeling of loss. Baymax's A.I. is extremely human in that right. He learns how to care for people beyond their physical ailments, and pushes Hiro forward when the boy is down.
All of this is wrapped in one of the brightest, most diverse cities with a name that almost everyone has giggled at by now: San Fransokyo. Keep on giggling, but this mash-up of two iconic cities calls back to the bright, colorful and bustling landscape that Disney Animation championed with Wreck-It Ralph. There are small, but noticeable stories going on in the background: a bus passing by with an ad for what looks like a [Marvel](channel:932254) movie; background characters haggling over the price of food at a market; kids running to school. Along with being chock full of tiny scenes like these, the film is an absolute treat for fans of classic comics, and has easter eggs ranging from extremely obvious to "only twelve people have read this comic, so if you recognize it, congrats".
San Fransokyo is just stunning to look at, as well. Bright colors change and reflect the time of day: the city shines pink and green with cherry blossoms, then turns into a midnight metropolis at sundown. Flying over the city's rendition of the Golden Gate bridge with Hiro and Baymax gives you a breathtaking view of the horizon. In short:
As with most Disney Animation films, the overall message is about love. Through love - all sorts of love - the heroes find all of the courage that they didn't see within themselves. The movie's primary lesson is that support is important. Reminding a friend that they can do anything they put their mind to, listening to them when they're upset, and keeping the door open when they need you are all big, shining examples of the casts' actions, and we learn this lesson the most through Hiro, who is given endless support throughout the film.
Does it live up to Wreck-It Ralph or Frozen? That's not something I can answer in an opinion piece (because, frankly, my opinions on both films don't really align with a lot of folks). What I can say, though, is that Big Hero 6 reminded the cynical adult in me of why I love underdog superheroes. It hit close to home for me, as a mixed-race kid who grew up in a relatively unconventional household. It's a thrill ride that has as much heart as it has heroism. It reminds us that anyone can be a superhero, but it's on us, using our own empathy and care, to make sure everyone knows that.