'Big Hero 6'
When Disney bought Marvel, it was inevitable that we would one day get a Disney animated superhero adventure. Well, it’s finally here in ‘Big Hero 6’. While the movie is just as sanitized, sentimental and obvious as you’d expect, it’s also big, bright and colorful Disney fun featuring spandex-clad fisticuffs. Someone owes Brad Bird a check, though..
Based on an obscure anime-inspired Marvel Comics property, ‘Big Hero 6’ serves up a superhero tale for viewers too young to appreciate ‘The Avengers’. (Believe it or not, they exist.) For audiences spoiled by Marvel Studios’ glorious cinematic output and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, there’s no denying that the film can feel a little beige and stale. After all, superhero movies have become so ubiquitous now that even whining about there being too many superhero movies feels clichéd. So, if you watch the movie with the inflated expectations that come from living in the middle of the golden age of superhero flicks, it will come with a sense of ho-hum, seen-it-all-before disappointment. But, try to remember that the movie isn’t for you. Cast your mind back to a time when you weren’t aware of superheroics or had an encyclopedic knowledge of the contents of the Batcave and you just might catch yourself having fun. You should, too. ‘Big Hero 6’ is a good time.
The film follows pint-sized robotics prodigy Hiro (Ryan Potter), whose underground robot fighting success causes his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) to encourage him to enroll in the world’s greatest robotics school, of which the brother is already a member. Sure, it makes no sense that Hiro could possibly live in the same room with a brother who has mastered robotics without even being aware that’s what he does all day, but this movie requires a variety of suspensions of disbelief.
To prove why he deserves to attend the school, Hiro designs an ingenious collection of mini-robots that can be controlled by the mind and combined to do anything. It’s one of the greatest inventions in the history of robotics, which earns Hiro a spot at the school (kind of a small victory for such a monumental accomplishment, but whatever). On that same evening, an accident at the school kills Tadashi, giving Hiro the tragic backstory necessary to become a superhero. Completely depressed and desperate for companionship, Hiro makes friends with his brother’s work-in-progress medical robot Baymax (Scott Adsit). Together, they discover that someone has stolen Hiro’s tiny robot technology to become a supervillain. There’s only one possible response to that sort of action: gather up all of Tadashi’s robotics buddies (including Genesis Rodriguez, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung and Damon Wayans, Jr.) to make a robo-superhero team. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, they’re called the “Big Hero 6.”
Essentially, the movie is pretty boilerplate superhero origin story stuff. To mix things up, the filmmakers also toss in a robot/boy bonding story and a fractured family dynamic in the superhero team. In other words, it’s ‘The Iron Giant’ meets ‘The Incredibles’. If you’re going to knock something off, you might as well knock off the best, and Brad Bird’s two seminal animated superhero yarns are as good as the genre gets. It’s very bizarre to think that Bird had absolutely nothing to do with the project given that it’s essentially just a collection of his ideas combined with an obscure Marvel property, but that’s what happened.
Again, it’s all too easy to dismiss the movie entirely for this reason, but you shouldn’t. The audience this movie was made for probably won’t have seen either of those films and they’ll quickly get swept away in this Disney epic. Sure, it’s a calculated and manipulative project designed to separate kids from their pocket money, but it’s also beautifully animated, touching, silly and a whole bunch of fun. Disney has always pillaged from the past to please the kids of the present. (Let’s not forget that the feature animation wing at Disney started by adapting public domain fairy tales.) Complaining about it now is too little too late, and the viewers that would notice aren’t the target audience anyway.
‘Big Hero 6’ is no classic in the genre, but at least it steals from all the right movies to be a big fun romp that’ll send it’s pint-sized fans in the direction of the real classics. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the fact that the movie won’t bore the parents to death either is a nice slathering of icing on the commercial cake.