Another year, another animated film by Disney has come to grace us with its presence. For its 54th film to date, the prestigious company has certainly experienced its share of ups and downs (like anyone wants to remember Home on the Range) but it certainly seems that Disney is going through its second Renaissance. One could attribute this period of quality titles to beginning with Tangled, continuing with Frozen, and now solidified with Big Hero 6. Based on an obscure Marvel property, Big Hero 6 strays away from the princess formula for a turn and now looks to a more male-centered audience, but it still remains fun for all kids of all ages, and even grown ups will find things to love here. It’s not the most original of stories, granted (but what is these days?), but that doesn’t mean that the film is not allowed to have fun along the way and even make you open up the waterworks when the time is right.
Before the film even starts, we are treated to a stylized animated short: Feast. It’s a cute set of drabbles about a dog who loves food of all sorts but a touching story is cleverly woven into the plot. On the surface it seems like you’re just watching a dog eat food, while something else is occurring in the background entirely, one that is very heart-wrenching and powerful. The movie hadn’t even started yet and already my goddamn eyes were misting up. Two minutes in and I’m tearing!
When the real film actually begins (after you wipe your eyes), we are treated to a very visual representation of what is the main setting of the story: San Fransokyo. Apparently, BH6 takes place some years into the future when the cities of Tokyo and San Francisco have combined, culminating in a very stylistic world. The clever merging of the two cultures is not meant to be window dressing but is hidden in layers throughout the film. The attention to detail is very impressive and the animation looks photorealistic in several scenes, I’m not even joking about that part. Between this, The Lego Movie, and How to Train Your Dragon 2, this film has some heavy competition on its hands for 2014.
Our main hero, named Hiro (Get it? Hiro…Hero? Anyone? Guys?) is a boy genius who’s been pretty much spending his time after graduating high school at an extremely young age by participating in illegal bot fighting. Kind of Real Steel-ish. Hiro is like Jimmy Neutron except less obnoxious and more mischievous. He’s basically a very realistic and relatable protagonist and not some Messiah-like tech wizard who creates new technologies out of space magic or whatever.
Getting back on topic, Hiro’s brother, Tadashi, is distressed at him embracing this slacker lifestyle by bot-fighting and starts subtly indoctrinating Hiro to apply to college by introducing him to his friends at his laboratory, impressing Hiro with the amount of potential all of the students have and how college can unlock wonders in all participants. One of Tadashi’s creations is a healthcare robot named Baymax, who is pretty much the next WALL-E: irresistibly cute and filled with memorable quotes.
When a personal tragedy strikes Hiro, he becomes determined to track down the person who did this to him, enlisting the help of Tadashi’ friends by equipping them with specialized armor as well as Baymax, who earns his own set of armor. Baymax’s inflatable design allows him to be easily customized by Hiro, giving him a sweet set of wings that leads into a very cool flying scene, showcasing the power of animation at work. The team of six then work together to stop the villainous mastermind at work and save the city of San Fransokyo from doom.
One has to admit that the cast assembled for this superhero flick is top notch, even if I’ve never heard of some of these people. The guy who played Hiro (Ryan Potter…wait, who?) does a fantastic job with portraying an awkward kid capable of an immense emotional range. And Baymax’s voice actor (Scott Adsit….WHO???) is pitch-perfect as a robot with a gentle voice and who only wants to care for his patients. The exchanges between Hiro and Baymax are excellent, showing us how Hiro deals with a robot with a limited knowledge of human behavior. This creates some funny moments between the two and their relationship is what makes this entire movie just click.
Hiro’s friends in this movie are a ton of fun to watch together. The cast that includes Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller, Genesis Rodriguez, and Damon Wayans, Jr. are great as their nerdy stereotypes, giving the movie a source of comic relief, but not the annoying kind, thankfully. None of them ever overstay their welcome. The rest of the cast is rounded out by wonderful performances from Alan Tudyk, the ever-reliable James Cromwell, and Maya Rudolph as Hiro’s aunt (who had some of the best moments in the whole film).
Henry Jackman composed the score for Big Hero 6 and it is probably his best achievement to date. I’ve never been a complete fan of Jackman’s work, especially since he’s made a hash out of several of his last scoring duties: G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Captain Phillips, to name a few. Animation, on the other hand, provides composers a wealth of opportunities to delve into their more creative sides and that’s precisely what Jackman did here. Soaring brass, frantic electronics, and above all, a sense of pure fun all help give Big Hero 6 the music it deserves.
The movie can be a bit predictable at times, I’ll admit, but there were a few things that caught me off guard. For one, the relationships that Hiro has between Baymax and Tadashi are very well developed and you definitely feel emotional when bad things happen to them (unless you’re a sadist). Big Hero 6 is not afraid to take a few dark turns that make you silently mouth curse words while being glued to your seat (if you watch it, you’ll know which scene I’m referring to). It’s poignant, it’s emotional, it’s a dazzling ride, and it just works. It might not have the lasting appeal that Frozen did, but it sure will not grate on everyone’s nerves quite so much in the end. Besides, for this film, there’s room for a sequel and I don’t think anyone else will say no to another dose of Baymax. (Seriously though, Baymax is awesome.) Whatever Disney is up to, it looks like they are back at the top of their game.
And keep your eyes peeled for a Stan Lee cameo! I’ll give you a clue: Picture.
Final Score: 87/100