Big Hero 6 (2015)
Big Hero 6 has been on my radar for a long time. Disney have been on a bit of a streak since 2010’s Tangled and since then both Wreck-It Ralph and the inescapable Frozen have raked in the critical acclaim and sweet, sweet money. Here’s the long and short of it. Big Hero 6 is loosely based on a rather obscure Marvel comic book only really known for featuring superheroes Sunfire and The Silver Samurai, both of whom don’t feature in the film due to different creative directions and complicated rights issues. It’s a Marvel property, but it’s a very Disney take on a Marvel property if that makes sense, and it fucking better do as I’ve tried and deleted about 8 different ways to say this and I officially give up.
Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) is a 13 year old tech genius who lives in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo. Tragedy strikes and Hiro is left with an inflatable robot medic companion by the name of Baymax (Scott Adsit). Hiro soon discovers that there is a masked madman with access to an army of microbots on the loose and decides to go after him, but not before recruiting his science-whiz friends and gearing up for a massive fight to save the city. If I may get slightly reflexive on you for a moment, I wasn’t sure whether the very lines you just read spoiled too much and had to check official blurbs to see what they reveal. The summary is fine in terms of spoilers, but I think it’s the fact that the film takes a while to get there that makes it feel like I’m blowing the whole film for people. The film taking its time is completely a good thing too. It spends time fleshing out its characters and stokes the fires of emotional investment expertly. If I had to criticise, I would say the villain story is a bit weak, but as with Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s more about the team coming together than the big bad they have to defeat. This is a Disney production, so the voice acting is top notch. Scott Adsit’s Baymax gets a lot of the big laughs in the film thanks to his gentle, but matter-of-fact way of talking.
Like How to Train Your Dragon or E.T., the film works on the bond of boy and companion. Hiro’s relationship with Baymax is as funny as it is touching. In the original comics, Baymax is a dragon creature, but the decision to make him a cuddly, friendly robot is a sound one. It’s fun just watching Baymax totter around and interact with things. I’m a grown-ass man and I wanted to reach through the screen and hug him. There’s an inspired bit briefly seen in the trailers where Baymax is low on battery and basically acts drunk. His pratfalling and slurring are incredibly funny and charming. He’s not just a joke character though, as Baymax is key in some of the film’s more emotional moments and some of his interactions with the depressed Hiro are genuinely moving. Big Hero 6 has got a lot of heart and it shows. It reminded me of The Iron Giant in a lot of ways (there are more than a few plot similarities) but Big Hero 6 nails what Iron Giant did and makes you care about the characters. This is clever and mature storytelling and it’s great to see they didn’t just slap some superhero shit together haphazardly and took the time and effort to make it something special. Storywise, the film slightly falters when the team get together. Some of the team get proper arcs, some not so much. I was really enjoying the team dynamic and wanted to have each of them walk away with something learned. It’s a minor flaw in the grand scheme of things.
I know this may sound like a weak statement, but I was caught up in how colourful and fun everything was. The city of San Fransokyo is a brilliantly designed place, with evidence of American and Japanese culture colliding. I could have done with seeing more of the city, but was happy enough with what Hiro and crew were doing for it to become a problem. I’m looking forward to the Blu-ray so I can pause and appreciate all the tiny details put into it. The action is fun and frantic and seeing all the tech in action is a delight.
I loved Big Hero 6 hard. It’s now my favourite of the newer Disney animations. It’s got wit, action, emotional gut punches, the lot. It has a big ol’ beating heart at the centre too, which can’t be faked. Highly recommended.