I got a chance to go see Disney’s newest flick ‘Big Hero 6’ this past weekend. I really didn’t know what to expect going in to the theater. I was roughly familiar with the source material: a 90’s-tastic Japanese super hero team created by the ever loathsome Scott Lobdell and starring every Japanese movie stereotype known to man – ninjas, samurai, giant monsters, robots, etc. I was also aware that the team working on this film were also the ones behind Wreck-It Ralph, a film that now ranks among one of my all time favorites. So what does this strange collaboration of Disney magic and horrible 90’s comic schlock produce? Actually something pretty fun.
While the film was based on an American comic book, it doesn’t really draw its overall influence from there. In fact, I’d say the film has stronger ties with Eastern media like Astro Boy (in many ways this film reminded me of the underrated 2009 Astro Boy film that Imagi Animation made). The film centers around a young genius named Hiro who loses his mentor/best friend/pseudo-criminal-accomplice big brother in an accident leaving him horribly depressed. Hiro also comes into possession of Baymax, his brothers final invention. Baymax is a big inflatable robot designed to help take care of people who are injured or in need of medical or psychological help. With Baymax at his side, Hiro discovers the accident that took his brother may not have been an accident after all but the works of a super villain. So Hiro, Baymax and Hiro’s friends must suit up as super heroes to stop the villain.
If that sounds a bit run of the mill, it kinda is. One of the films… I hesitate to say “flaw” because it really isn’t but one of its traits is that it is a very formulaic film. If you’ve seen super hero movies, you’ll recognize all the major story beats here. From the fact that the group isn’t coordinated at all in their first fight with the villain and end up taking each other out, to the newly energized and ready to work as a team battle that gives them more direct challenges to overcome from the villain which they use a lesson from earlier in the film to help overcome. If that sounds familiar to you, then the rest of the story will probably as well. It gets to the point where superhero comic book fanboy character Fred even starts pointing out tropes. However, as they say, god is in the details.
What makes the film wonderful is all the little details that break the mold. From the vividly diverse cast of characters, voiced by an equal diverse cast, to the fortitude to risk releasing a Disney super hero movie without a love story stuck in there in anyway. Think about that. Disney AND Superheroes. Two groups who are known for the token romantic interests with guy gets the girl endings. Not here. Not even a hint of it. Which is quite the breath of fresh air actually. In the original comics, Hiro and Honey Lemon WERE an item and I was wondering how they would pull that off, especially since the main character is around 14 years old and the rest of the cast is 18+ and in college. There’s been some complaints against Honey Lemon, that she has the quickly becoming cliche “Disney Face”. You know, that Rapunzel, Anna, and Elsa all use the same rough face. Luckily, they did change it up a bit with Honey. She is somewhat implied to be a Latina character (voiced by a Latina actress who brings that out with various vocal inflections) and she is also a friggin twig. Like not “princess skinny” where they are thin but still have hips and a bust and toned legs, etc. No. Honey in profile would like more like a straight line. Not like anorexic sickly skinny either. Just a twig. Reminds me of my real life sister who is also a twig. So at least there’s SOME deviation there.
At its heart, the film is about a young man coming to grips with loss and dealing with the grief that resulted from losing someone close. From isolation and depression, to lashing out in anger and accidentally hurting your friends in the process. It handles it magnificently as well. With the care and understanding that such a story deserves. You never feel Hiro’s actions are because he’s being annoying or going over the top. The film is very clear about his actions coming from a place of deep hurting, and it conveys that to audience perfectly. At the heart of this is Baymax, who serves as the emotional foil for Hiro. Baymax is designed to be calm, gentle, and understanding. He’s a robot whose sole purpose is to help those in pain, be it physical or emotional and as such is there to help Hiro through this journey.
While this film isn’t the amazing, jaw dropping experience that was Box Trolls or Book of Life, it does bring a lot of heart, fun and originality to a fairly predictable formula. So yea, you may have seen this story before. But at least you can sit through it knowing that at least its a well done iteration of that time worn tale of capes & cowls. If I actually used stars, it would be a solid 4 out of 5 from me with a definite recommendation to see it at least once. It’s more debatable whether it will be just as enjoyable on subsequent viewings (definitely will be just as quotable), so it may not be a “BUY IT DAY ONE BLU RAY NAO!” kind of flick, but definitely a go see it once. Preferably in the theaters for that big screen experience.