I couldn't have told you a single thing about Marvel’s Big Hero 6 comics until about two minutes ago, but I can confidently tell you that fans of the comics won’t be seeing an animated version of those comics at all. Instead of six superpowered beings taking on evil alongside superhero staples like Spider-Man, there’s five normal people and one clumsy robot. Now that I know more about the history of the series, I'm a little less inclined to give this movie a positive rating, but as I've still never read the comics and I have no idea what they’re like in comparison to this, I’ll just write about my experiences seeing this movie as a totally ignorant theatre goer.
Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a thirteen year old genius living in San Fransokyo, who uses his incredible insight into science and engineering to build illegal fighting bots that he uses to win money in underground “Bot Fights”. Sensing that his little brother needs a push in the right direction, Hiro’s older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), shows him a fantastic school, where other young geniuses are developing the technology of tomorrow. Amazed at the opportunities the school can offer him, Hiro enrols in a science fair at the school, showcasing an invention he calls “Microbots”, which are millions of tiny machines that react to a user’s very thoughts. The show is a success and Hiro is personally invited to join his brother at the school by Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell). Just as things are looking up, a freak explosion destroys the school and kills both Tadashi and Professor Callaghan. Spiralling into a deep depression, Hiro secludes himself in his room, refusing to go to school or even leave the house. One day, by accident, Hiro activates one of his brothers old inventions, an autonomous healthcare robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit), that pledges to keep Hiro in good health. Together the two discover that some mysterious villain wearing a kabuki mask has somehow stolen Hiros Microbots, and is using them to terrorize the city. Baymax, convinced that the best way to ease his patients mental anguish is to track down and apprehend the masked man, agrees to become a fighting machine and protector for Hiro, as they search with the help of some of Tadashi’s old friends.
Like other Disney animated films, Pixar does a lot of the heavy lifting for this one. The animation is astonishingly detailed. Everything in this movie is irresistibly appealing to the eye. You might say that this is more or less par for a contemporary animated feature from any of the big companies (Dreamworks, Pixar, etc.), but still, something about this one really stood out to me. While the setting is an awkward mashup of San Francisco and Tokyo, with an awful name, and the side characters (especially Damon Wayans Jr.’s performance as Wasabi), were kind of annoying and shallow, everything looked so damn good that I was distracted enough to not be too bothered. Seeing the movie in 3D helped, as all the textures and colours really popped.
Similarly, the comedic moments of the film are a double edged sword. There are some really great laughs throughout the film, for kids and parents alike (like Baymax’s hilariously failed attempt to mimic Hiros special handshake). I found myself smiling or chuckling quite a bit during this movie, but often, the film takes the joke past the point of being funny and makes it annoying. It’s kind of like when you accidentally giggle at something a wannabe stand up comic says, and that emboldens them to tell their shitty jokes with more zeal. You’ll laugh, sure, but then you’ll probably soon be wishing that the joke would just die.
The story, while mostly engaging, does have some issues with predictability. There are some surprises here and there, but a majority of the proceedings are pretty standard comic book/kids movie fare. This might not bother the kids in the audience, but coupled with the flat supporting characters, it certainly won’t leave any lasting memory for the older viewers. In a sea of coming of age, CG animated kids flicks (see, How to Train Your Dragon), it kind of confuses me why Disney went with down such a well trodden path with this one. This movie is still enjoyable, but it could have been something more than another launching pad for new toys at the Disney store. The ending only solidified that thought, as it really leaves no lasting foundation for the characters to be built on further. If there is a sequel to this film down the road, I can’t imagine what it might be about. Regardless, this is a brief and fun, but ultimately flawed and forgettable distraction to keep you and the young’uns out of the cold this winter.