Monday, November 10, 2014

[Review] Big Hero 6

Here comes Disney's animated follow-up to the lingering Frozen hype. And it looks like they have a new franchise on their hands. Big Hero 6 works as an entertaining kid-friendly adventure, as well as a surperhero team origin story. I mean, it is inspired by a Marvel property of the same name.

Deep in the city of "San Fransokyo", Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) is a 13-year-old genius living with his big brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) under the care of their spunky aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph). Hiro spends his time hustling in the underground world of battle bot wars, but his brother pushes him toward putting his brain to better use at a local hi-tech university (or "The Nerd School" as they call it), where he's been developing a squishy and huggable A.I. project called Baymax.

Hiro is accepted to the university after presenting his nifty and groundbreaking invention of "microbots" (a shape-shifting unit of smart parts that correspond with brain waves). Everything is going great until a fire tragically disrupts the campus, and Hiro discovers that a masked villain has stolen his idea and is using it for destructive means. This is where Baymax emerges, as Hiro upgrades him with Iron Man-like armor and karate skills (but he's still a softy at-heart), and they team with a group of Hiro's classmates in order to take down the mysterious villain.

Amidst its fairly conventional story, one commendable aspect is that the villain is more of a complicated figure, rather than the purely one-dimensionally evil entity in the equation. The team of heroes are on a mission that is less "WE NEED TO DESTROY HIM!" and more "Let's reconcile with him." I'm also leaving a significant spoiler out, even though the event happens near the beginning, but I'll just say that Baymax possesses meaning for Hiro that is bigger than any piece of technology. A lot of the heart in the film comes from this thread and it's sure to make some people well up a bit.

But there's plenty of humor and goofy characters to balance things out. It's funny just to see Baymax waddle around as his material squeaks, and there's a running joke of how seriously the bot takes the gesture of a "fist bump". The interaction between Hiro and Baymax is fun, especially a scene where Baymax's battery runs low and his speech mimics a drunk person (that one might go over some kids' heads). It's all extremely reminiscent of The Iron Giant and 2011's under-the-radar Robert & Frank. It even shares very similar story beats. (Seriously though, go check out Robot & Frank, as it explores some of these same ideas in a way that is just as moving.)

Big Hero 6 isn't as fresh and inventive as it wants to be, but despite its derivative elements, it's still a wonderfully smooth animated feature. And with inevitable sequels on the way, these characters are going to upload a lot of joy for years to come.


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