When I first heard about Big Hero 6, my first thought was that the title sounded disappointingly generic and that an animated Marvel movie was bound to feel like a straight-to-DVD cash grab. But fear not: Disney’s first animated crack at Marvel source material is a colorful, visually stimulating immersion into a world of cultural diffusion rich with detail and imagination. The fictional mashup of San Fransokyo is a beautifully-rendered mix of East and West, complete with a Japanese-influenced take on the Golden Gate Bridge. In the way only Disney can, Big Hero 6 brings the dizzying action we’ve come to expect and love from Marvel movies and transformed it into charming and memorable fare for the littlest superhero fans.
Despite being bogged down at times by an overly simple and derivative plot, Big Hero 6 utilizes comedy to full effect and crafts some truly interesting characters and relationships. Combined with the stunning visuals and a very effective score, Disney’s only animated output this year is bound to be a hit with viewers of all ages.
Big Hero 6 plays out as a lengthy origin story, but one which contains nearly all the elements of a great hero’s journey. Hiro (not too subtle, eh?) is a 14-year-old genius who would rather use his intellect to become an underground robot fighting champion than a student of engineering. With the encouragement of his older brother Tadashi, Hiro develops an amazing invention to get into the most prestigious technical college: microbots, which behave according to the mind of the user, and have limitless possibilities for use. The night of the competition, a devastating fire takes Tadashi’s life, and presumably Hiro’s invention with it. Struggling to cope with the death of his brother, Hiro stumbles upon Baymax, an oversized rubbery healthcare robot programmed to help the needs of any patient. As the two strike up a relationship, Hiro learns that a masked villain has salvaged Hiro’s microbots and is mass-producing them to increase his own power. With Baymax and the help of Tadashi’s four closest friends, Hiro uses his technical knowhow to turn their collective talents into superpowers, and form a team strong enough to take on the mysterious villain.
The relationship between Hiro and Baymax is what really makes Big Hero 6 a success. Hiro is the exact embodiment of a young teenager: moody, stubborn, and prone to hasty thinking. Baymax is a selfless, lovable, and humorously awkward (in the vein of Sheldon Cooper) guardian and mentor. Together, the two form a deep bond which permeates the entirety of the film. The dialogue exchanged between the two is the winning combination of heartfelt and hysterical, as Baymax (still in his beta phase) learns to adapt to the behaviors and speech patterns of human interaction. The physical comedy that results from his oversized nature is top-notch as well.
The film is at its best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The laughs that punctuate nearly every scene are well-earned, and are not limited to child or adult enjoyment only. The other four members of the eponymous team are also fun-loving characters with heart, who help Hiro in his film-long journey to maturation. There are definitely plenty of scenes with a lot of heart and feeling, but other Disney (and/or Pixar) films have handled these moments with more ingenuity and fewer clichés. However, few Disney films are this funny, and the movie breezes by with joviality as long as its foot is on the action-packed comedy gas.
More points in Big Hero 6‘s favor are chalked up to the animation department, who have outdone themselves once again. What really stood out to me throughout the movie was the incredible sense of texture displayed by the animators. From the incredibly realistic look of the water, to the minute but fascinating detailing of the microbots, the meticulous world-building allowed me to fully immerse myself in all of its delights. Henry Jackman’s score also provides a lot to the viewing experience, blending the typical high-energy action music with hints of Eastern flare. While most films of this nature seem to recycle the same old musical tropes, Jackman’s product seems perfectly tailored to Big Hero 6, equal parts frenetic and fun. And if you’re a Fall Out Boy fan, rejoice! You’ll get to hear their contribution to the soundtrack twice. I personally wasn’t a fan of the song, but it undeniably fits into the style of the film without much difficulty.
Any Disney movie that comes out nowadays is held to almost unfairly high standards, but for good reason. We’ve come to demand (and almost always receive) top-notch heartfelt entertainment every time we see that magical castle in the opening credits. Big Hero 6 might not wind up being remembered on the same elite tier as Frozen or The Lion King, but that should not detract from its esteem. Despite its smattering of flaws (slightly too obvious plot elements and a somewhat paint-by-numbers villain), the positive energy permeating this film carries it through each minor hiccup. Each character has plenty of moments to shine in a lustrous world immaculately brought to life on the big screen. From start to finish, Big Hero 6 is a constant blast, mixing comedy, action, and story to create a fun-for-the-whole-family experience just in time for the holidays.
This article was originally published on Ryan’s blog.