Big Hero 6 is Disney’s first serious Marvel-related foray outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Adapting a rather obscure Marvel Comics series of the same name, Big Hero 6 barely has anything in common with its inspiration, which is perhaps why the Disney branding has been hyped up for this latest offering, with barely any mention of the Marvel inspiration, despite the record-shattering success of Marvel Studios.
Bottom line, if you’re a fan of the Big Hero 6 comics, don’t go into the movie expecting a faithful adaptation. Do however expect the source material to be used for something charming and fun.
While it doesn’t quite achieve the same outstanding quality of Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph or Frozen, Big Hero 6 is still a highly enjoyable crowd-pleasing romp that also marks a great way for young kids to get their feet wet with the superhero blockbuster genre. Even for adults however, the movie is colourful, fast-paced fun on the big screen, regardless of your taste in Marvel media.
What really sells Big Hero 6 however is its incredible sense of heart. Whether it’s the loveable antics of cuddly robot companion, Baymax, or the themes of embracing intelligence and dealing with grief, Big Hero 6 presents a sterling mix of comedy, action and drama. It may not be Disney’s best work, but it still does their heritage of animated hits proud!
Big Hero 6 stars Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old robotics prodigy living in fictional city, San Fransokyo. After Hiro falls into robot fighting, Hiro’s older brother, Tadashi, also a robotics genius, steers Hiro’s attention to developing his talents at the local university’s robot lab, where Tadashi has been working on a special health care companion robot called Baymax.
After presenting the revolutionary invention of mind-controlled Microbots to get into the school, a fire breaks out at the exhibition centre, and Tadashi runs inside to save his professor, the esteemed robotics authority, Professor Callaghan. Unfortunately, both men are killed in the fire, leaving Hiro grieving and directionless. Hiro also inherits Baymax, who designates Hiro as his new personal health care patient.
While Hiro is consistent with his basic representation in the comics, as a young robotics genius and inventor, Baymax is drastically different. In the movie, Baymax is now an extra-huggable balloon-like robot with a completely non-threatening appearance. He’s intentionally designed to be, “Huggable”, and is based on real-life ‘soft-robotics’ research.
Baymax also happens to be about 90% of the movie’s heart and laughs. As much as Hiro is meant to be the lead character, it’s Baymax that anchors the entire production. 30 Rock’s Scott Adsit voices Baymax, barely recognizable behind a heavy voice filter, but nonetheless giving the character an aggressively adorable persona that makes him impossible not to love for any viewer. A unique combination of resourceful, oblivious and devout, Baymax truly is the perfect robot companion. Even if you love the more ferocious Baymax of the comics, this Baymax will grow on you very quickly.
Baymax’s shadow is so great in fact that it seems to overshadow the rest of the titular team. The same team members from the Marvel comics are present in the movie, comprising, with the exclusion of Hiro and Baymax: Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), and Fred (T.J. Miller). Certain changes have been made to the characters from the comics, with Fred no longer projecting a monster form and simply wearing a fire-breathing suit, Honey Lemon now using a flexible coloured substance rather than an inter-dimensional purse (because comics), GoGo Tomago losing her ability to turn into explosive energy and simply speeding around on gravity-defying discs, and Wasabi having similar energy blade-generating abilities thanks to his own power suit, but now being redesigned as an African-American character.
The other Big Hero 6 team members are fun and have some decent banter, particularly in the action scenes. Again though, compared to Baymax, their personalities are overshadowed, and compared to Hiro, they don’t have real character arcs of their own. The only minor exception is Fred, who is hinted to have some sort of issue with his upbringing and lost parents, but the movie doesn’t explore this in any real detail. It does lead to a funny and awesome post-credits scene though, so be sure to stay a bit longer for that!
Hiro at least is given a clear journey throughout the movie, even if it’s Baymax adding all the charm. Being brilliant but young, Hiro effectively moves from being shiftless and grief-stricken to being inspired and renewed, and eventually, to being a real hero, alongside his teammates. This is thanks to learning how to take up his brother’s former charge as someone trying to change the world for the better with the gift of science, particularly when Hiro’s inventions end up getting stolen and turned against the city by an evil masked villain.
Said villain is Yokai, a man in a Kabuki mask, who now wields Hiro’s Microbots as his own. Some of the mystery of identifying Yokai is especially engaging in the first half, though once he’s unmasked, the movie’s motive for his villainy is a bit weak, particularly when you see who is behind the mask. The climactic action scene is quite good, but the final motivations of the villain feel kind of shallow and disappointing.
Also disappointing is the fact that Maya Rudolph’s enjoyable legal guardian character, Aunt Cass isn’t given much to do either. She spends most of the movie firmly on the sidelines beyond some good bits in the opening moments, and it somewhat feels like a waste of Rudolph’s talent. It’s good that the movie avoids the obvious urge to make her a damsel-in-distress, but it’s a shame that Big Hero 6 didn’t have anything better to do with her.
A pessimist could accuse the Big Hero 6 movie adaptation of being, “Dumbed down” compared to its source material, but more accurately, it’s been streamlined and simplified for a younger audience, and that’s fine. Some characters are a little too simple, and the movie could have done with taking some of that Baymax magic and adding it to the other characters, but even if some personalities are undercooked, at least everyone is entertaining to watch, particularly Hiro and Baymax.
Big Hero 6 feels a bit like, “Baby’s first superhero blockbuster”, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of merit. The movie hits some of the familiar beats that one would expect from a family-friendly superhero flick, but it still succeeds thanks to how fun and effectively emotional the movie manages to be.
Sure, it could have done with just a bit more depth, but at least Big Hero 6 doesn’t actively strive to pull punches. There are some challenging moments in the movie for kids, in true Disney fashion, even if adults who grew up on Disney won’t really be too fazed by them. Everything is still kept friendly and upbeat for the most part, but those happy highs come to fruition thanks to how well the movie portrays some real dramatic lows for Hiro’s character.
It’s just a shame then that the movie couldn’t have achieved a better connection to the movie’s villain, Yokai, whose presence feels rather forced. It seems like Yokai is only causing trouble because every superhero movie needs a villain. The movie sort of attempts a personal connection to Hiro and the team, but it feels like a lot of the implications of said connection were left on the cutting room floor.
So, what we’re left with is an entertaining and inoffensive family superhero blockbuster with training wheels for the young’uns, though one that adult superhero enthusiasts can still enjoy thanks to how fun and loveable it is.
The movie goes into more challenging territory when Hiro compromises Baymax’s personality chip to make him more destructive and aggressive so that he’ll kill Callaghan, which ends up hurting the rest of the team and allowing Callaghan to get away when he’s unmasked. That plot angle is fantastic, particularly when Baymax is aware of what happened after being reset, and prevents Hiro from tampering with his personality again.
Unfortunately, from there, it’s revealed that the only reason Callaghan is on a rampage is because his daughter was inadvertently trapped in another dimension by a teleportation experiment funded by Alistair Krei. Thus, he’s just menacing wherever for a while, and eventually targets Krei for the climax, with no explanation as to what he was doing making a mess in San Fransokyo before.
Basically, the second half of the movie is when the visuals and action take over for a bit. The action scenes with Yokai/Callaghan are very well done, but the actual story element of the movie kind of drags a bit right before the somewhat heartbreaking conclusion, and that’s before you consider the plot holes that Callaghan’s motivations make for the first half. It’s where Big Hero 6 borders on feeling a bit shallow, and like I said, it feels like most of Callaghan’s villain story was axed to maintain a brisk sub-two-hour runtime.
It’s a shame that a movie with so much heart to offer couldn’t have achieved a better villain story, but at least most of the plot is serviceable as a family romp.
Don Hall and Chris Williams co-direct Big Hero 6, with the former previously helming the 2011 Winnie the Pooh revival, and the latter helming another vague superhero-themed Disney movie, Bolt in 2008. As you can imagine, Big Hero 6 achieves a nice blend of those two movies’ tones, being an upbeat family flick with a superhero twist.
While Hall and Williams’ direction isn’t 100% consistent, the two at least deftly display an ability to handle action, with Big Hero 6’s fast-paced action moments being zippy and highly entertaining, yet making sure to avoid actual violence so as not to upset children or parents of especially young children. The character moments are a bit more uneven in quality, but the emotional scenes with Hiro are well-realized, as are the physical gags with Baymax. Naturally, a highly-advertised highlight moment here comes in the co-directors’ rendering of a low-battery Baymax emulating symptoms of drunken-ness as Hiro has to try and sneak him around Aunt Cass after their first encounter with Yokai.
It’s probable that kids won’t notice the passing story issues with Big Hero 6, since they’ll be too distracted by Hall and Williams’ well-directed visual elements and action moments. That’s fair enough. You certainly can’t argue with the sheer amount of polish that Big Hero 6 has been presented with!
Big Hero 6 delivers a surprisingly underwhelming soundtrack, considering the pedigree of Tangled and Frozen in particular, opting for a more typically pop-ish and forgettable style of family movie tracks. Fallout Boy of all groups even contributes a theme single for the movie, “Immortals”, which is ok, but nothing all that memorable.
The sound design in the action is the one thing about it that feels weak as well. Granted, the action can only hit with so much punch, since this is a movie meant to accommodate children, but even then, Big Hero 6 feels like it hits no harder than the balloon arm of Baymax. A few inspired audio gags are featured, namely when Baymax demonstrates an ability to let air in and out at the most inappropriate of times (and points to Disney for not forcing a fart joke during any of these instances), but they’re few and far between.
All in all, it’s nothing that derails the movie, but it’s a bit disappointing that the soundtrack contains some real underwhelming elements, particularly after Disney’s standout use of audio in many of their other recent animated movies.
Big Hero 6 predictably shines as a visual piece. The setting of San Fransokyo is very cool and well-rendered, delivering a great blend of American and Japanese architecture, in reference to the original Marvel comics version of Big Hero 6 being based in Japan. Likewise, the movie’s various characters are very vibrant and eye-catching, also being effectively colour-coded to help differentiate them.
The environmental effects in Big Hero 6 are very impressive as well. This is most evident in the climax, which incorporates a heavier amount of environmental disturbances and destruction. Honey Lemon’s matter-changing colour substance is particularly impressive, especially when it takes advantage of the movie’s 3D presentation.
Naturally, I saw Big Hero 6 in 3D as well. The 3D presentation is generally quite good, even if not Disney’s best, and the action scenes in particular really benefit from it. The movie does disappointingly little with the 3D when it’s not an action scene, but the action moments really leap off of the screen when viewing the 3D cut, which is especially immersive and fun during these sequences. The movie is still perfectly viewable in 2D, but if you enjoy these kinds of 3D flourishes, Big Hero 6 is well worth the price of a 3D ticket.
Whether in 3D or 2D though, Disney’s animation is excellent here, as expected. The animation style is more grouded than you may expect, with minimal stylistic touches based around Japanese anime, but the movie is still a visual treat, particularly for children, who will revel in the eye-catching appeal of the movie’s more exciting moments.
Big Hero 6 is still better than most animated movies, even if it’s a step down from Frozen in particular. The movie goes a little more by-the-book than Disney’s more bold, envelope-pushing animated projects of recent years, but it at least proves that Disney can deliver great movies out of their Marvel ownership, without having to place them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In that sense, Big Hero 6 still feels like an inspired creative risk, though one that is allowed to tread more closely to a playbook that’s been established in the live-action Marvel Studios movies, even if Big Hero 6 doesn’t inhabit the Marvel Cinematic Universe along with them. Fortunately, the high points of this playbook are still realized very well in a superhero movie that’s much more geared towards younger audiences, especially when they don’t compromise the entertainment value and fun for adults.
For any faults you may find, the fun spirit and endless appeal of Baymax’s personality keep Big Hero 6 well enough afloat as a very strong family crowd-pleaser. It’s yet more proof that a comic book-inspired movie can take sizeable liberties with the source material, and yet still turn out well in the right hands.
- Fun action sequences
- Baymax is an excellent new Disney character
- Vibrant, lively animation
- The villain's motivations are weak
- Offers less surprises than Disney's other recent works