Big Hero 6 (2014)
Editor’s Notes: Big Hero 6 is currently out in wide theatrical release.
In the wake of two stellar and powerful animated films so far this year, The Lego Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2 comes Big Hero 6, an unexpectedly fun and poignant film that easily straddles the line between character piece and action film, much like The Incredibles did 10 years ago. In fact, that’s not the only Pixar influence to this and the Disney films for the last six years, ever since John Lasseter and his Pixar braintrust were installed as the heads of Disney animation. There is more of a commitment to story and character than there ever was before, except in the renaissance of the early 90s.
Of the many bright spots in this film, one of the brightest is the character of Baymax. His childlike innocence is immediately endearing and his sole function to make his patient feel better is heartwarming at the very least.
The story is that of Hiro (Ryan Potter) and Tadashi (Daniel Henney), two orphaned brothers raised by their aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) after their parents died when Hiro was only three. Now 14 and having graduated high school the year before, Hiro spends his nights illegally ‘bot fighting’ for money and fun. He is a genius but an unapplied one. Tadashi on the other hand is a student at a robotics college where he and his friends are applying science for technical innovations that could help and change the world, under the guidance of Prof. Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell).
One night, after being arrested for ‘bot fighting’ Tadashi decides he can’t stop his brother from doing it so he’ll take him to a fight. He just needs to stop off at his ‘nerd school’ (as Hiro calls it) to get something. There, Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends Wasabi (Damon Waynes Jr.), who is working on laser applications, Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) who is a chemistry whiz, Go Go (Jamie Chung) who is developing mag-lev applications, and Fred (T.J. Miller) who is not a student but is a self-proclaimed science aficionado (and school mascot for somewhere, but not that school). It is here where Tadashi introduces Hiro to his project: Baymax (Scott Adsit) a healthcare robot who can diagnose and treat illnesses. Hiro is so impressed with the school that he decides he has to go there and Tadashi and his friends help him to enter the science contest that determines invitees to the school.
On the night of the competition and after months of work with his brother and his new friends, Hiro debuts his micro-bots, little robots about two inches long who work together controlled telepathically to do just about anything the wearer of the neural transmitter can think of. He is invited to the school, but then tragedy strikes, because after all, it is a Disney movie and there cannot be even the semblance of a happy family unit. A fire in the building causes Tadashi to run back in to try and save Callaghan and both are killed in the fire. Grief stricken, Hiro ignores his friends and does not begin school. One day, he accidentally activates Baymax, who is programmed to activate when someone says ‘ouch’. At the same time, he notices he still has one of his micro-bots and it’s active. He thought they were destroyed in the fire, so for it to be active was odd. He, with Baymax, discovers someone has learned how to copy and mass produce them. They are attacked and this starts Hiro, and his friends down a path to modifying their school experiments into hero armor and they set off to discover who is using the micro-bots and why.
It’s refreshing to see children’s films that don’t talk down to kids, that treat them like they have minds and gives them something to think about but wrapped up in an entertaining package so they aren’t bludgeoned with the message and may only register it subconsciously.
Of the many bright spots in this film, one of the brightest is the character of Baymax. His childlike innocence is immediately endearing and his sole function to make his patient feel better is heartwarming at the very least. He’s also the source of much of the humor in the film from his awkward figure to his simplistic understanding of any given situation, most of the laughs in the film come straight from Baymax. He’s a joy to behold and is one of the best animated characters since Wall*E.
Another asset to the film is the stunning look of it. The artists took great care in rendering actually believable-looking humans and the invention of San Fransokyo, a hybrid between Tokyo and San Francisco with its modification of the Golden Gate Bridge into something that looks as iconic as the real bridge with an Asian architecture to it.
There is still praise to be heaped upon directors Don Hall and Chris Williams along with screenwriters Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson and Jordon Roberts (who broke the story with Hall). They managed to adapt (apparently loosely) the Marvel comic of the same name into a heartwarming action film that has as many thrills as it does tender moments. They were not afraid of some of the dark places their story could go and they took it there, especially when Hiro confronts the villain who has stolen his micro-bots and are using them for his own gain. When he discovers the identity of the villain, he tries to make Baymax kill, which is outside of his healthcare programming. The dark turn is Hiro succumbing to his want for revenge and his friends trying to bring him back from that brink. I applaud the filmmakers for confronting the pain and anguish of death in a kids film, using it as a lesson for children that it’s okay to be angry but your anger cannot be allowed to overtake you and that its okay to be sad but you still have a life to live.
These messages used to only exist in Pixar films, but now have begun to spill out in this and both How to Train Your Dragon films. It’s refreshing to see children’s films that don’t talk down to kids, that treat them like they have minds and gives them something to think about but wrapped up in an entertaining package so they aren’t bludgeoned with the message and may only register it subconsciously. Big Hero 6 (which alludes to the team of heroes that are born from this adventure and could mean additional films with this cast of characters) casts a wide net and hits all of its points in a stunningly entertaining way that is appropriate for kids and adults. The little kids will like Baymax and the action, the older kids will go for the teenager trying to carve a path for himself and the adults will like the whole package. There is something for everyone in this film and its addition to the roster this year has made the awards season all the more interesting in the animation category.
Big Hero 6 casts a wide net and hits all of its points in a stunningly entertaining way that is appropriate for kids and adults. The little kids will like Baymax and the action, the older kids will go for the teenager trying to carve a path for himself and the adults will like the whole package.