Film Review: Big Hero 6

Editor's Review
  • Big Hero 6

Summary

A beautiful, often funny, sometimes touching film that lets itself down by keeping half an eye on franchise potential.

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Superhero movies are quite popular right now (you may have noticed this). Disney’s already bought Marvel, but why rely on those pesky “other people” to bring in vast amounts of cash with their live-action shenanigans when you’ve got the world’s most famous animation team, fresh off their biggest success ever, poised to remind us all of the days when superheroes meant Saturday morning cartoons? Enter Big Hero 6.

Based on a super-obscure Marvel comic but not connected to the live-action Marvel films (although it does uphold two of their traditions, namely a post-credits scene and something else that we won’t spoil), Big Hero 6 focuses on Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a prodigy preparing to start university at age 13. His plans are literally blown apart when his beloved elder brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) is killed in an explosion on campus, leaving Hiro with his current project, a “personal healthcare companion” robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit). Hiro’s grief gradually gives way to suspicions that the explosion wasn’t an accident, and he uses his technological know-how to outfit Baymax, himself and Tadashi’s friends into the titular superhero team, and investigate.

The film breaks pretty cleanly into two halves, and the first half is comfortably the stronger. The scenes introducing Hiro and his hometown of San Fransokyo (guess which two cities it resembles a mash-up of) have a genuine sense of wonder and fun to them, and the film’s unabashed celebration of not-for-profit, ideals-driven technology is laudable. And once Baymax gets added to the mix, strong whiffs of Brad Bird’s unimpeachable classic The Iron Giant only improve things. Baymax is undoubtedly the film’s star and likely to be one of the most memorable images of cinema in 2015 – essentially a cuddly, walking marshmallow with a wonderfully calming demeanour thanks to Adsit’s excellent voice work and a capacity for slow-motion slapstick that the filmmakers take full advantage of, he’s never less than delightful.  Sadly, the film takes a slight dive in the second half once the Big Hero 6 team is assembled and seeking villainy, teetering towards the generic and having a distinct whiff of “hey, maybe we can get a series of out of this!” about it. It never stops being entertaining, and it steers well clear of full-on obnoxious Michael Bay-style nonsense, but it’s still a slight letdown. Additionally, some of the characters aren’t as fleshed-out as they could’ve been – a couple more scenes with Hiro’s aunt, wonderfully voiced by Maya Rudolph, would have been gratefully received, and Hiro’s teammates get short shrift too.

Even when the script’s not quite up to it, though, your eyes won’t be complaining. It’s a bit obvious to say about a Disney movie, but Big Hero 6 is an absurdly pretty film. The Japamerica melting-pot of San Fransokyo gives the production a distinct anime edge to its style, and there are countless fun little details to note in any given scene. The animation is beautiful (top marks to the “microbots” – small, scuttling, magnetic hive-mind robots invented by Hiro) and tech fans may be interested to note that Disney invented a whole new lighting engine specifically for this film. There’s a lengthy sequence of Baymax and Hiro flying round the city for no real reason other than “look at the pretty movie we made!” – and it’s so impressive that you won’t mind. There are a number of great one-off shots, too, with a near-choreographed raising of black umbrellas against a grey sky for Tadashi’s funeral sticking in the memory.

Overall, Big Hero 6 doesn’t quite live up to its initial potential, but it keeps the quality level high enough to paper over its weaknesses. A worthy addition to a rammed genre.

 

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