I’m usually the first to complain when Hollywood takes a name and slaps it on something that is totally unrelated to the property the name comes from. For example I’m sure the remake of Battlestar Galactica is good, but I call it Battlestar Namesake for a reason. And I could make a huge list of examples, some of which don’t qualify as “not-stalgia ” but I’m trying to avoid as many multi-article commentaries as possible after the whole Seduction Of The Innocent review. The point is I know the pain of anybody who sees something they like slapped into something that has no connection to it.
That said, I never really paid attention to Marvel’s Big Hero 6, a superhero team from Japan that seems more in line with the rest of the Marvel universe than some sentai or Kamen Rider style team. I’d have to double-check but I bet they don’t even have a Ultraman style hero in their ranks. I think this makes it easier for me to accept Man Of Action’s Big Hero 6 movie despite Disney grabbing a name from one property and improperly using it in another. But when I saw the trailers and ads it looked like something I really wanted to check out. Bing also brought up a good quote from The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis.
Big Hero 6 is good enough to transcend its blah ending and to make the case that every superhero story should be entirely animated
I kind of agree with that part I emphasized. Except for “should” because that word is a creativity killer more often than not. I do think many superhero types do better in animation than in live-action for the ability to suspend disbelief better since this is so different a world by nature of design. But how well did Big Hero 6 achieve this and was it worth the time I had to take to finally see it on Disney XD (which sat on my DVR for a while as well)?
RELEASE DATE: 2014
RELEASED BY: Walt Disney Pictures
RUNTIME: 1 hr. 42 minutes
SCREENWRITERS: Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird, & Daniel Gerson
DIRECTOR: Don Hall & Chris Williams
GROSS REVENUE: $657,827,828 ($222,527,828 domestic) from an estimated budget of $165,000,000
IMDB SCORE: 7.8 out of 10
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 89% (Audience Score: 91%)
The Plot: Set in the future city of San Fransokyo, the movie is focused on the aptly-named Hiro Hamada (Porter), who takes part in illegal robot battles for money. The 14-year-old is a genius but his brother Tadashi (Henney) thinks he can do so much more. He brings him to the robotics institute he goes to and introduces him to his friends–Go-Go(Chung), Wasabi (Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon (Rodriguez), and Fred (Miller)–all tech whizzes. (Except Fred, who is more of a fan and hangs out with them; Fred is responsible for the nicknames.) He also introduces him to the inflatable medical robot Baymax (Adsit), Tadashi’s big project. This inspires Hiro to create something besides battle robots, but a villain wants his creation, and the theft leads to Tadashi and his mentor’s death. When Hiro finds this out, he recruits Baymax and Tadashi’s friends to bring him to justice and reclaim his stolen project.
Why Did I Want To See It?: With all the live-action superheroes out there, superhero cartoons are on the decline. With advances in special effects technology it’s easier to pull off some characters than in days past, but as I said in the beginning of this review animation allows you to get away with more in the believably department. That’s beneficial to the more sci-fi superheroes. And with so many superheroes being so dark and gritty seeing a superhero team with bright colors and fun personalities is something I seriously want to promote, provided the final product is good.
What did I think?: This movie made me tear up. Not full-on bawl, but tears came down my cheek. Not too many stories can do that, and it shows that stories for kids CAN be good. I’ve always considered that a bonus, though. Give me some good action and likable characters, and then you have a better chance of giving me some kind of “emotion” (apparently in Hollywood a movie is only “good” if it makes you cry because it’s the only real emotion or some junk) that’s a bonus. In fact you need good characters, even in an event-based story, to make me cry in the first place. Big Hero 6 did that. Even The Incredibles didn’t do that.
And it does this because the characters are so good. Hiro’s enthusiasm, Tadashi’s love for his brother, their aunt Cass (Rudolph), the four friends, and even Baymax have unique personalities and good actors voicing them. And voice acting IS acting. In fact it may be harder (despite what some “normal” actors will tell you) because you have to showcase your character solely through your voice and hope the animators don’t mess it up. Go-Go is about speed, Wasabi (“spill wasabi sauce on yourself ONCE…”) is super-ADHD but isn’t bogged down by it in the way so many character like this are, Fred is a slacker (which is surprising when you learn more about him…no spoilers here), and Honey Lemon is sweet and caring. Cass really loves her nephews (Hiro and Tadashi’s parents died when Hiro was three), and even the villain has a sympathetic backstory, which ties into Hiro’s character growth in a very good way. And yet the villain is still a villain and gets what he deserves in the end even if the movie does try to make as many happy endings as possible. I’ll give one spoiler: Tadashi stays dead, but he’s the only one.
The visuals are also amazing. As you can tell from the name, San Fransokyo is a fusion of San Fransisco and Tokyo, perhaps a nod to the actual Big Hero Six of the Marvel universe the name is swiped from. However, the city really is a fusion of its namesakes. The best example is the Japanese architecture that part of the Golden Gate Bridge stand-in. In fact the look of the city nicely blends elements of his parents while tossing in a mildly futuristic flair. No flying cars or servant robots or anything like that. It’s just futuristic enough that you can believe the technology presented could exist in this world. The backgrounds are beautiful and the character models are just human enough to match up with it yet just cartoony enough that you can accept them. It’s not photorealistic (think Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), which really would have hurt the movie overall.
But then I come back to the name. They don’t even call themselves Big Hero Six in the movie so why use the name? High-Tech Heroes would have worked just as well. And these aren’t analogs of the Marvel version but original characters by the creating collective known as Man Of Action, so I don’t understand why they used that name. We even get the obligatory Stan Lee cameo (stay around during the credits)…but that’s off-topic, and a spoiler I hope the upcoming TV series builds on. Poor Sunfire can’t catch a break.
Was it worth the wait?: Darn right it was! I remember a lot of positive hype surrounding this movie and it lives up to it. Everything just works. I can’t really complain about anything, so either the movie was so good I didn’t catch the flaws (I watch these movies as a fan, not as a critic, and then review them critically from memory) or it didn’t have any. Most likely the former. At any rate I would love to add this movie to my DVD library and now I’m looking forward to the series debuting hopefully in June (pushed back from last November, so it might happen again). This is definitely a movie you need to see if you like superheroes, and one to show your superhero-loving kids. If they don’t like superheroes, Baymax will make them laugh just the same and they’ll be rooting for him and the rest of our heroes.