26th Jan2015

‘Big Hero 6′ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph, Abraham Benrubi | Written by Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird | Directed by Don Hall, Chris Williams

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Cursory Wikipedia research suggests that Disney’s latest animated feature bears little resemblance to the Marvel property on which it is based. Which is fine; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s exactly a horde of Big Hero 6 fans to outrage. Disney’s film is certainly a lot more cutesy than the source material. At no point does Baymax, the movie’s inflatable, medical robot, transform into a ‘battle dragon’. Rather, he is the creation of Tadashi Hamada, a university student who tragically dies in a fire shortly before successfully inspiring his younger brother, Hiro, to make more of his outrageous intellect than playing Robot Wars in dodgy backstreet bars.

The film follows Hiro’s grieving process as he comes to terms with his brother’s death. He is aided by the aforementioned Baymax, who, when it becomes apparent that exploring the mysterious circumstances surrounding Tadashi’s death would help Hiro’s emotional well-being, helps our teenage protagonist’s search for the truth. Along the way, the duo are supported by Tadashi’s chums, GoGo Tomago, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred. This translates into the gang opting to use their talents and inventions to become a superhero team.

I enjoyed the film’s aesthetic. The characters live in ‘San Fransokyo’ and the cultural mish-mash of American and Japanese influences is a highlight. The city has a tram-based transport system, but is also powered by floating wind turbines. The characters create some wild and visually interesting inventions – most prominently (after Baymax), Hiro’s swarm of ‘micro-bots’, tiny robots that cluster together to form tools, transport or weapons. They also serve as the film’s maguffin as the team try to identify who has appropriated Hiro’s invention for nefarious uses. I do feel that the inventiveness of the production design could have been pushed further, however. Wackiness has been reigned in, especially when compared to its most obvious animated companions, the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films. When judged alongside those surrealist tales of science run amok, Big Hero 6 seems a little muted.

The film skips along merrily enough however and there are enough well-executed sequences to entertain for the duration of its runtime and despite having missed Big Heroes 1-5, I had no trouble following the plot. The problem is it just doesn’t do enough to really stand out on its own merits. The same studio has brought us Frozen most recently, and however you feel about that (for the record, I’m a fan), you can’t deny that it had a sense of its own identity. Big Hero 6 feels more of an ‘oh, superhero films are popular right now, let’s do one of them’ box-ticking exercise. It doesn’t help that Disney released The Incredibles (another clear companion piece) ten years ago and that was a much more interesting proposition than yet another origins story. A by-the-numbers script and a plot twist so unsurprising, it might not actually count as a twist at all also don’t help.

To give it its due, the film is quite unflinching in its depiction of grief and wins points for the way it portrays Hiro’s emotional fallout and the consequences thereof. There’s also a nice sequence involving an alternate dimension towards the end that hints at the kind of imaginative scope that should have been pushed harder.

Whilst this is very much Hiro’s film, his relationship with Baymax is what pushes the narrative onwards. Unfortunately, Baymax is kind of symbolic of the film’s problems. He’s very nice and occasionally quite amusing, but isn’t really interesting enough. He has less personality than C-3PO and in the pantheon of great movie robots, doesn’t rate highly. It’s hard to be too down on it, as generally speaking, Big Hero 6 is a positive film, that’s well made, but it just lacks that little bit of flair.

Big Hero 6 is released in cinemas across the UK from Friday January 30th.

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