Should I Watch..? 'Big Hero 6'
What's the big deal?
Big Hero 6 is a family action superhero film released in 2014 and is loosely based on the Marvel comic characters of the same name created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau. The 54th feature length animation from Disney, the film follows a team of makeshift superheroes led by a teenage prodigy as they battle a masked villain and his army of miniature robots. Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, the film stars the vocal talents of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney, TJ Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr and Genesis Rodriguez. The film was a hit with critics and audiences with global takings in excess of $657 million as well as earning the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Although rumours persist of a sequel, the film would be followed by a TV series on the Disney channel in 2017.
What's it about?
In the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, 14-year-old robotics genius Hiro Hamada is getting by competing in underground robot-fighting competitions much to the chagrin of his older brother Tadashi and their guardian Aunt Cass. Determined to help Hiro make the most of his gifts, Tadashi takes him to his lab at the San Fransokyo Institute Of Technology where Hiro becomes enthralled by the experiments being conducted by Tadashi and his colleagues Wasabi, Go Go, Honey Lemon and Fred. Eager to join up with them, Hiro invents a micro-robot which can combine with each other to create virtually any type of object their controller desires. Demonstrating his invention at the school's science fair, he turns down an offer from tech CEO Alistair Krei and accepts Professor Callaghan's offer to join the school. Within minutes, however, the school is engulfed in a huge fire that kills both Callaghan and Tadashi but also destroys Hiro's micro-bots.
Some time later, Hiro has all-but-given up while mourning his brother when he accidentally activates Baymax, Tadashi's prototype for an inflatable health care professional. After noticing that Hiro's last surviving microbot is apparently trying to rejoin others, Hiro and Baymax follow the trail to a warehouse where they make a worrying discovery - Hiro's microbots have been rebuilt by a masked man who apparently has far more sinister plans...
Go Go Tomago
Damon Wayans Jr
Don Hall & Chris Williams
Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird & Daniel Gerson*
Release Date (UK)
30th January, 2015
Action, Animation, Family, Superhero
Best Animated Feature
What's to like?
On the surface, Big Hero 6 ticks a lot of boxes. The first animated collaboration between Marvel and Disney, the film is overflowing with colour and energy thanks to the beautiful backdrops and collection of oddly eccentric characters. The best and most enjoyable is Baymax, his obese frame waddling around the scenery inadvertently getting stuck while his grasp of social norms is also endearing. Annoyingly, he becomes less interesting the more Hiro tinkers with him until by the end, he just becomes a gigantic fighting robot. I did like Hiro's character arc which isn't just a straight-forward pursuit of justice.
Like most Marvel products, the action is well choreographed and pretty relentless once the film has established itself. There are also plenty of Easter eggs and in-jokes to appeal to the sort of nerdish viewers that support the main character - I especially liked the brief Stan Lee cameo which proves, once and for all, that you have to stay till the end credits have finished! Vocal performances from the cast were nearly all spot on, enough to give characters a realistic feel without sounding like themselves. The only one I didn't like was Miller who felt like a stoned version of his Weasel role in Deadpool but to be honest, separating him from the allegations against him meant that I didn't care all that much about Fred as a role.
- It was John Lasseter's idea to create a new city that combined the looks and atmospheres of San Francisco and Tokyo. Marvel had yet to utilise San Francisco as a location and it was felt it would blend well with Tokyo's architecture. In the comics, the group were originally based in Japan.
- This is the first Disney film to show the film's title at the end of the film and not the beginning.
- Two important characters from the Big Hero 6 comics are missing: Silver Samurai and Sunfire. The reason for this is due to their links with the X-Men, a Marvel licence owned by 20th Century Fox.
- The film was released in cinemas with the Disney short film Feast which won the Best Animated Short Film award at the same Oscars that Big Hero 6 was recognised.
What's not to like?
Knowing nothing of the Marvel comics the film was based on, I quickly deduced that the characters were based in the Far East (and indeed, I was right). Realising this, I then started to wonder why Disney felt the need to create a more Americanised version of the story. It didn't need to be set in an alternative San Francisco apart from the usual contrived car chase so why was this decision taken? The same goes for the characters - besides Hiro and Tadashi, everyone else is basically American and it made the film feel disingenuous to me. It seemed as though someone somewhere decided that a film set in Japan with Japanese characters wouldn't have mass market appeal so it makes an effort to be more American purely to increase its commercial appeal. I should have expected more from the House Of Mouse but I can't honestly say I was shocked.
What's worse is that despite the lovely animation, Big Hero 6 is a disappointment narratively speaking. The plot has little element of mystery because it is patently apparent who the masked villain is and this isn't the only example of the film being very predictable. And for all the action and super-powers on display, the film never once engaged me. It isn't as original as it thinks it is and seems quite content to stick to the well-worn 'superhero cliché' handbook. I wanted to like it but I found my attention wandering a lot of the time and at no point did I feel engrossed in the story.
Should I watch it?
Big Hero 6 doesn't do much wrong but it doesn't do much to stay in the memory afterwards. It's a shame because the film looks amazing with glorious vistas stretching out for miles and more colour splashed onto screen than a explosion on Sesame Street. But it isn't brave enough to stick to the comic's origins and instead decides to play things safe by diluting the Asian roots and giving it a full-bodied Yankee redecoration. Pity because this could have been awesome.
Great For: younger viewers, families, lovers of anything Marvel-related
Not So Great For: fans of the original comics, Asian viewers, campaigners against Hollywood's practise of whitewashing film roles
What else should I watch?
Disney's recent output has fully embraced CG animation after they have spent the best part of twenty years picking Pixar's brains. Films like Tangled, Wreck-It-Ralph and especially Frozen has proved hugely successful with critics, audiences and merchandise sellers the world over while other examples of their resurgence include the under-rated Zootopia and the Polynesian-flavoured Moana. But nowadays, Disney aren't the only studios produced such output with films like Despicable Me, The Lego Movie and The Secret Life Of Pets not far behind in terms of quality.
The question I have is why did Disney feel the need to produce this movie when they have a ready-made team of superheroes that they already own and until recently, were absolutely dying for a sequel. The Incredibles remains one of Pixar's strongest films to date, being an absorbing and hugely entertaining tribute to superheroes of yore as well as being a family comedy the whole family can enjoy together. A sequel eventually arrived in 2018 which wasn't quite as good but given the first film's exulted status and the colossal amount the films have made so far, I wouldn't bet against a third film. Just don't take so long, Pixar!
© 2019 Benjamin Cox