Movie Review: Big Hero 6
Disney wins again with Marvel-inspired Big Hero 6, an animated adventure treated with gritty reality that will get even the adults tearing.
Disney’s current formula when it comes to animated feature films is to bring on the waterworks with very complex themes in child-friendly PG-rated movies. No longer is the animation powerhouse churning out straight forward good v.s evil scenarios that are only surface-deep and the latest film to showcase this shift in storytelling narrative is Big Hero 6. This is no cookie cutter, feel good film. Expect a movie that is filled with heart-wrenching moments and shocking twists, with sugar-coating kept to a minimum. What plays is a spectacular beautifully animated movie in a richly imaginative world, but driven by a grimmer, more realistic take on human relationships and emotions.
Set in the fictional world San Fransokyo, an intriguing blend of Tokyo and San Francisco, the film opens focusing on lead character, Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) who is a teenage robotics prodigy at 14. This little genius is introduced as first cocky and arrogant before a softer side is revealed as the relationship between him and his elder brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney) is explored.
Tadashi (right) looks proudly on as his brother wows the crowd with his invention
Hiro with some nagging and prodding by Tadashi, is exposed to the rest of Tadashi’s “nerdy” and quirky best friends from San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. This is where Hiro’s interest is piqued and he is inspired to complete college.
The gang of 6 misfits-turned-superheroes
The first half also introduces Baymax, a lovable rotund inflatable personal healthcare assistant intentionally designed to look non-threatening and just really funny, that Tadashi has tirelessly worked on. Just the look of Baymax alone (Scott Adsit) is enough to elicit laughs, not to mention the deadpan responses given in perfect comedic timing to Hiro’s instructions. Expertly voiced by Scott Adsit, Baymax is the star of the show without a doubt. Even with emotionless delivery, there is no escaping the humour present in the dialogue between Hiro and Baymax. It’s hilarious. Trust me.
The story is a hoot in the first half and then takes a drastic emotional turn in the second with the premature death of Tadashi in a sudden and unexpected fire at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.
Who needs a hug – Baymax provides Hiro with personal loss treatment
The scene where the deadly explosion takes place is a powerful one with Hiro trying desperately to discourage his righteous brother to no avail. He watches helplessly as his brother selflessly runs to save his professor – the only person left behind. With his brother disappearing into the fire, barely seconds later a blast signifying the end of Tadashi’s life throws Hiro back. The scene is in complete slow-motion and the look of shock gives way to pain as he realises his brother, the only person left in his family, save for his aunt, is no longer alive. This scene will resonate with anyone who has dealt with any kind of loss in their lives. It reduced me to tears.
Because of Tadashi’s death, Hiro inherits Baymax and the two form a strong bond that evolves from just weird robot-helper-and-patient to one that is almost brotherly, or dare I say, a father-son relationship. It is also the compassionate Baymax who reminds Hiro of what his brother stood for and the possibilities for him to do the same. That timely reminder in the film is yet another emotional moment that will get the tears flowing. You’ll realise that it’s no coincidence that Hiro and Tadashi are named such. Tadashi means “right” in Japanese while Hiro is literally “glorious hero” and throughout the good 102 minutes, you’ll be reminded of how apt their names are.
The strange Kabuki-masked villain with not enough backstory
The next half is a formulaic superhero showdown with Hiro enlisting the help of Tadashi’s best friends, the neurotic Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), girl-power adrenaline junkie Gogo Tamago (Jamie Chung), cutesy and a little crazy chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and slacker-dude fanboy Fred (T.J Miller), to hunt down a masked villain who appears to have caused the Tadashi’s unfortunate passing. For much of the remaining film, Hiro grapples with intense hatred and it is through a lasting memory and spirit of Tadashi, resting within Baymax’s programming and in his best friends, that this young tortured genius leaves behind his anger, lets go of his anguish and moves on from his personal loss and intense feelings of betrayal to emerge a true hero.
I have to admit though, while the storyline for Hiro’s personal journey is a strong one, the motivations and development of the Kabuki-masked villain the band of bumbling superheroes were hunting down, was just majorly lacking. There are twists in store when it comes to the identity of the mysterious bad guy, but I was left unconvinced and more shocked than horrified when the reveal came.
Hiro trying to suit Baymax with armour that just won’t fit his roly-poly robot body
Also to be honest, Big Hero 6 does reek a little of How to Train Your Dragon 2, some scenes in the former striking an uncanny resemblance to scenes in the latter, but what makes Big Hero 6 so powerful is how relatable the animated film is (it’s so modern and seems like a possibility in a not-so-distant future) and it’s winning character, Baymax. Seriously, Baymax talks and packs a comedic punch. The killer dragon Toothless is just cute! Plus, Disney really created characters I gave a damn about in Big Hero 6. In How to Train Your Dragon 2, I only cared about Hiccup and Toothless, to be brutally honest.
Big Hero 6 is a touching Disney animated film you shouldn’t miss. As an adult, you’ll appreciate the emotional rollercoaster this adventure will take you on and the kids will be dazzled by the cuteness and dry humour of Baymax, the marshmallow-esque Robot, and the slapstick antics of the adorable band of misfits turned superheroes as they make struggle between doing what’s “right” in the face of tragedy and make the tough choice between forgiveness and enacting vengeance.
Since this is afterall a Marvel-inspired action adventure, take my advice and stay past the credits to catch a little Easter Egg – don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Watch the trailer here.