“Big Hero 6 combines an astonishingly shiny and bright visual scheme with a tightly paced story, well-formed characters, and often quite funny dialogue.”
by Ken B.
The city of San Fransokyo is the futuristic setting of Big Hero 6, and as its name implies, it is an idealistic blend of Western and Eastern life, including its culture, infrastructure, and even the ethnicity of its residents. It’s vibrant in color, life, and character – directors Don Hall and Chris Williams succeed in even making the location of the film a key part of the movie’s feel. Based on a minor Marvel property of the same name, the story follows a fourteen year old robot prodigy, an orphan named Hiro Hamada (voice of Ryan Potter) who lives with his aunt Cass (voice of Maya Rudolph) and older brother Tadashi (voice of Daniel Henney). When tech innovator Robert Callaghan (voice of James Cromwell) is impressed by a revolutionary technology that Hiro demonstrates at a science fair (nanobots with seemingly infinite applications), he offers him a spot at his prestigious university, the institution hosting the event. However, everything is derailed for Hiro, both professionally and personally when the building catches fire that same night and Tadashi is among those who perish in the blaze.
The loss of his brother sends Hiro into a spell of depression, but one remaining aspect of Tadashi’s legacy changes things around – an invention of his called Baymax (voice of Scott Adsit), a giant, inflatable healthcare providing robot. Baymax has a rich database of medical knowledge, but has to be taught emotional responses and slang (such as how someone saying “That’s sick!” as a statement of appreciation for something should not prompt an automatic disease screening). When Hiro’s nanobots, long presumed destroyed in the fire, turn up unexpectedly in malicious hands, he bands together with a quartet of friends and a gradually trained Baymax (forming the titular Big Hero 6) to reclaim what is rightfully his and stop them from being used with evil intent.
Big Hero 6 combines an astonishingly shiny and bright visual scheme with a tightly paced story, well-formed characters, and often quite funny dialogue. While the movie does indeed deal with death and loss in direct ways, it never becomes oppressive nor does it go so deep that the film’s comedic veins feel misplaced. The emotion doesn’t run as fully as many of Disney’s other classic productions, but there is still a very human core that subconsciously drives the plot forward. And despite the fact that it’s technically another superhero origin story, there are enough unique factors at hand that the plot easily sets itself apart from others of its kind. This is 102 minutes of well conceived entertainment that serves as a decidedly positive addition to both Disney and Marvel’s filmographies (although the degree to which it exists in the latter’s camp is debatable).
In addition, Big Hero 6 serves as a great representation of a multi-ethnic and multicultural landscape. Biracial characters with ethnic names are commonplace, and the merger of Western and Eastern ways of life in the city of San Fransokyo doesn’t feel forced or artificial in concept. In an era where many big-studio productions have trouble balancing different cultures or locations without being unintentionally disrespectful or feeling like one was included purely to sell more tickets in that market (*cough, cough* Transformers), this is a refreshing take on such an idea.
With a strong voice cast to round things off (with special mention to Scott Adsit’s frequently hilarious depiction of Baymax in the robot’s naive interactive habits), Big Hero 6 is more than just the dismissible kids’ movie that the early previews made it out to be. I was surprised by just how easy it was to get sucked into the story and the well-oiled turns it takes the viewer through. The cultural footprint it leaves may not be as ubiquitous or flowing as that of other recent Disney movies or superhero titles, but that doesn’t change how terrifically fun and enjoyable it is. I don’t believe any piece of art should be universally compared to any other piece of art, however I still must agree with the suggestion that many have put forward of this being a safe alternative for kids too young for other superhero ensembles like The Avengers. Still, this shouldn’t defer the movie as being perceived as one strictly for small children, either. It appeals to demographics down the board, and achieves this without doing so out of begrudging necessity or afterthought.
P.S.: This is still a Marvel movie. That means, yes, there’s a post-credits scene you should keep watching for.