By Ross Lelieur
Big Hero 6 has all the elements of a winning Disney animation film. Likable, cute robot? Check. Super-genius kid protagonist? Check. Dead parents? Of course. These facets of the classic animated film from Disney function perfectly to create a blueprint superhero adventure film. But as the reuse of these tired story elements also shows, Big Hero 6 brings little to the table that the audience hasn’t seen many times before.
The film takes place in the city of San Fransokyo, a blend of western and eastern culture that incorporates elements of two iconic cities, San Francisco and Tokyo. This is the home of Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a fourteen year old child genius. Hiro’s brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), introduces Hiro to “nerd school,” a robotics university where he works to create the products of the future. Tadashi introduces Hiro to his friends and to his pet project: Baymax (Scott Adsit), an inflatable robot doctor. Hiro is inspired by the spirit of the school, and signs onto a competition which could gain him entry to the prestigious institution. However, a huge explosion causes tragedy at the competition, killing Tadashi. Hiro loses both his brother and his will to move ahead with his ambitions, falling into a deep depression. Trapped in his malaise, Hiro wallows about his home until Baymax awakes and seeks to repair his mental state. The destitute Hiro and his upbeat, buoyant robot come into conflict with a mysterious kabuki-mask wearing figure who attempts to silence them. Seeking answers, Hiro upgrades Baymax for the task ahead, and assembles Tadashi’s former nerd-school friends into a super hero team to track down the kabuki-masked man.
Central to any animation is, of course, the animation, a fact that Big Hero 6 makes full use of. All of the characters are rendered in perfect detail, and they look colorful, bright, and as lifelike as cartoons can be. The city of San Fransokyo is gorgeous, and the city streets are packed with detail and life. The mix of cultures, like the Golden Gate Bridge topped with a pagoda style roof, allows the artists to take liberty with their city.
Baymax, in particular, is a large part of the movie’s charm. The robotic doctor is hilarious, and singlehandedly keeps the audience laughing for much of the first half of the film. The jokes aren’t all aimed at kids, either; one scene has Baymax run out of battery and turn into a stumbling, hiccuping, drunken mess. Unfortunately, the robot’s humor tapers off at about halfway through the movie, and without Baymax’s amusements, the film becomes much more boring.
Regrettably, humor is the only facet of Big Hero 6, save art and animation, that make the film at all memorable. The plot is remarkably predictable, and most adult audience members should be able to foresee every major twist of the film within five minutes. Such weakly novel storytelling makes for an uninteresting film, and none of Baymax’s amusing gags can save Big Hero 6 from this pitfall.
The film’s emotional depth should have been one of its strongest assets; unfortunately, Big Hero 6 does not follow through on this potential. Hiro loses his brother violently and on camera, a big step for Disney. Subsequently, he is clearly depicted as depressed. These two steps are brave territory for an animated family film, and Big Hero 6 should be commended for taking them. Disappointingly, however, the film almost immediately casts aside these events when the action gets going. Hiro barely mentions his brother after Baymax appears, and though recovery is supposedly Hiro’s main motivation, after getting “cured” in a very short time, he never deals with the issue of depression again. Big Hero 6 deserves praise for even attempting to address mental issues and grief in the context of a children’s movie. However, the story’s retreat into safe territory reflects poorly on the film as a whole. Big Hero 6 could have been great, but its hesitation in embracing its serious side hold it back.
Charismatic, entertaining, and funny, Big Hero 6 is everything one can expect from a family-friendly animation. However, the film has difficulty detaching itself from the all-fun, no-emotion storyline that animation has started to drift from im recent years. The movie attempts to inject some seriousness, and goes farther than most, but quickly backs out and asks for forgiveness by dialing up the feel-good elements. There is no problem with making a film solely for easy entertainment. But since Big Hero 6 shied away from style of film, it should have committed to its endeavor, instead of jumping halfway into the water and then deciding that it was too cold.
Video source: YouTube channel of Walt Disney Animation Studios
Image source: screenrant.com