Finally deciding to take full advantage of owning Marvel Comics, Disney’s latest is an adaptation of an obscure lesser known superhero property, “Big Hero 6”. Rather than fully adapt what was meant to be a Japanese superhero team, Disney tweaked it and altered it just enough so that it would have a far more mainstream and broad appeal. By that I mean some guy in a suit said, “Make it less Asian!”
Disney did just that, turning Tokyo into San Fransokyo, a colorful splicing of Japanese looking tech, California weather, and generic white people. This also means our hero, aptly named Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), can have more non-Japanese friends to appeal to a wider market. The story follows Hiro, the boy genius, and his brother, Tadashi, who also has a mind for creating advanced technology. He attends a school where others with the same interests can just stand around building science stuff. The plot unfolds when Tadashi is killed in an explosion, prompting Hiro to find out more about his brother’s demise with the help of his brother’s legacy, a healthcare robot called Baymax (Scott Adsit).
The story is not really much about super heroics, despite being based loosely on a Marvel comic. Instead, most of it is an odd sort of mystery where Hiro and his pals try to figure out who the masked Kabuki villain is. It’s not very difficult to figure out, either. The plot points are obvious and there’s nothing really surprising that occurs. Baymax is easily the most likeable character in the movie, as I’m sure was the intent, and because he’s a friendly robot for a somewhat troubled boy, you just know something bad needs to happen to him by the end so all the kids will cry. If you expect such things, you won’t be disappointed. Or maybe you will, I don’t know you.
The rest of the characters are fairly basic, the supporting cast mainly serving as wacky gags for whatever scene they need to. There’s not a whole lot to say about any of them. Hiro has the only arc, needing to overcome his feelings after the loss of his brother, but there’s nothing really new there, either. It’s not bad, but it’s familiar. The way all the characters look and move about in quick, highly exaggerated animations gives the impression that they were trying really hard to make them likable. Zaniness doesn’t always mean good, though. Some of the humor in this, which is ever more typical of all computer animated family films, is a bit insufferable. They do that style of comedy where all the action and characters freeze to allow a joke to play out, sometimes just a second too long for the big laugh. I get so sick of seeing jokes like this in kids’ movies I can’t even describe how eager I am for some new trend to replace it.
What really works in the movie is the animation, which is a technical improvement for Disney, just as the last few had been at the time. Each new Disney movie looks a bit better than before, with more sophisticated lighting, shadows, crowd scenes, and particle effects. The style is otherwise unchanged. There’s not a whole lot going on in terms of innovation from Disney, which is troubling since that was once a significant aspect of their entire studio.
Visually speaking, the color palette is the big sell here. San Fransokyo, stupid name aside, is a vivid and bright metropolis, where the setting sun and the nighttime cityscape alter the look of it tremendously. The scene where Hiro and Baymax fly through the city and skyscrapers is a highlight for certain. Another very memorable scene is when they see the strange cloudlike dimension on the other side of the teleporter machine. It’s like an image from deep space, only with intensely vibrate colors.
“Big Hero 6” is a decent action adventure for kids. It tries to have a good mix of humor and an emotional connection to the characters and goes about it with very pretty colors. It mostly does these things, though in the end it lacks any significant resonance. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing to get too excited over.