Big Hero 6
Don Hall, Chris Williams
Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird (Comics: Duncan Rouleau, Steven T. Seagle)
Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Cheung, Damon Wayans Jr, Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph
PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
There’s something ingenuous and a little bit frightening about the depths into which Disney will dig to find obscure properties and turn them into major motion pictures. Big Hero 6 scoops up a little known Marvel comic property and turns it into an entertaining, sweet animated affair.
Set in the futuristic amalgam of San Francisco and Tokyo (New Sanfransokyo), a young robotics wizard is tricked into an interest in higher education by his engineer brother, leading the pair into school together. There young Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) develops a stellar new product that would enable millions of little robots to fuse together through a special mental control rig. When a fire forces the evacuation of the science fair, Hiro’s brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) dashes in to save their vaunted professor and mentor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell), but neither emerge from the fiery destruction.
Depressed over the death of his brother, Hiro mopes about the house for weeks, giving up all ambition and attempts at attending university. When he activates Tadashi’s final project, Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit), he soon discovers that a deep and intricate plot was hatched to steal his microbots and use them for a nefarious act that will require him to team up with his fellow students Fred (T.J. Miller), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and Go Go (Jamie Cheung) to thwart the evil that plagues the city and tarnishes the memory of Prof. Callaghan and Tadashi.
Blending the precepts of the Marvel Cinematic into the standard Disney emotional construction has created a film that feels like a part of both worlds with all the successes and problems with both. Disney’s animated films are filled with gorgeous, eye-popping visuals, their stories are rooted in humor with a generous helping of melancholy and action. They excel at building likeable characters who explore the world in unique ways while remaining distinctly human. They also have a tendency to over-simplify complex emotional ideas and pander to children.
Pixar has done a much better job at handling this than Disney has and their influence is keenly felt, but there’s a little too much cloying sweetness as there was in something like Brave rather than the more palpable, kinetic connection seen in Wreck-It Ralph. They are working hard to develop a more fluid method of dealing with these subjects and they are approaching Pixar’s trademark balance, but they aren’t quite there yet.
On the Marvel side, the use of distinct characters that carefully dig into their superpowers in unique and fascinating ways is one of the best parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise. Like Disney, they create near-human simulacrum that deliver empathetic characters that sometimes feel a little too unrelatable. They have a fine understanding of how to frame action, create bountiful thrills through elaborate set pieces while adhering to a limitedly-destructive approach and confined danger. With a Marvel film, you never truly feel like your world is in danger. They also have trouble linking their protagonist’s plight to real world struggles. This is at odds with films like those in the X-Men and James Bond franchises, where political concepts are explored with deft rationality. Marvel has been doing much better at this lately, exemplified in the recent Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but like the Disney issues, it’s a long road.
Big Hero 6 appeals where it needs to: children. It’s sometimes superficial appeal to adults and comic book fans will make it a delight for anyone who’s enjoyed Marvel’s films while being able to appreciate animated adventures. The two demographics collide often, but not enough to make Big Hero 6 a bigger property. Perhaps a better marketing effort to tie it into the MCU might have made it more popular or at least broadly appealing. They had the foundation with the film itself, but getting it across to reticent audiences is a challenge Disney itself hasn’t quite mastered.
Guarantees: Animated Features
Potentials: Original Score, Original Song (“Immortals”), Sound Editing
February 16, 2015