One thing I didn’t expect while watching Big Hero 6 was the big smile of child-like wonderment and the snorty adult laughs that I had during the movie. And when I was not doing either of those, I was slouching in my chair trying my best to hold back tears. The animated feature proves itself as one of the best of the year by tackling very mature emotional subject matter with the high gloss of comic book charm — but initially, I wasn’t on board with the Mouse House Marvel collabo.
I wasn’t familiar with Big Hero 6 at all. I didn’t even know it was a Marvel comic book. So when I heard they were doing this movie, my reaction was, “Why are they doing another superhero team movie?” They already had The Avengers and I felt like this would eclipse The Incredibles sequel that everyone has been desperately waiting for. I just shrugged it off and said, “I guess I’ll watch it.”
Turns out, there’s always room for a new superhero team if the characters and story are well-written — and backed by Disney, obviously.
The main hero in the Don Hall and Chris Williams-directed Big Hero 6 is appropriately named Hiro (Ryan Potter) a young child prodigy who uses his genius to build robots to hustle in “Battle Bot” wars on the streets of San Fransokyo (a hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo that I wish existed IRL). When his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) encourages him to use his talent in a more sophisticated and intelligent capacity, Hiro gets accepted into San Fransokyo Tech, a school where his equally brilliant bro attends. With their parents gone and under the care of their eccentric Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph), it established very early on that Hiro and Tadashi have an unbreakable sibling bond that warms your heart.
I think you know where I’m going with this. That said, I’m about to head into spoiler territory, so please exercise extreame caution. If you don’t want details of the movie spoiled for you, please stop reading here and scroll down and continuing reading after *SPOILERS COMPLETED*.
I find it very difficult to explain how great of animated feature this is without giving away a major plot point that serves as the driving emotional force of this movie: death. Yes, like Up, this “kid’s movie” deals with the death of a major character.
During a special showcase of a robot that Hiro built to get admitted into San Fransokyo Tech, Tadashi and him are celebrating with his merry band of nerdy friends (who I will talk about more later). Right before they head out, Hiro and Tadashi have a special heart to heart moment. All of a sudden, the building holding Hiro’s robot and many other high tech projects catches fire. The head of the robotics program and Tadashi’s beloved mentor, Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell) is trapped inside. Being the upstanding and selfless guy he is, Tadashi rushes in to save him. As Hiro watches him run in, the building explodes and Tadashi and Robert are no more.
This side-swiped me out of nowhere. I did not expect a death like this to happen and it made me EXCRUTIATINGLY SAD. And this is why I was slouching in my chair holding back tears.
As we mourn Tadashi’s friends mourn his death, Hiro cuts himself off from the rest of the world. Refusing to go to class and holing himself up in his room. The only thing he has to remember his big brother by is the squishy and huggable healthcare providing robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit)…which is where Hiro’s healing process starts.
So it seems that the control-with-your-mind-to-make-it-anything-you-want robot that was created by Hiro was stolen by a mystery Kabuki masked villain who is up to no good. He decides to re-program the Tadashi-created robot Baymax not only into a healthcare provider but into a fighting machine! Along with Baymax, he solicits the help of his nerdy classmates to form a band of superheroes to bring this madman to justice!
Like Olaf for Frozen, Disney baited the public with Baymax for Big Hero 6 in teaser trailers early on this year. We saw him try to pick up a soccer ball with calculated and clumsy charm. He is certainly the break out character and the one that children will be giggling long after the movie is over. He’s naive to the point where it’s humorous and smart to the point where it is very helpful. He’s E.T., Dopey, and Olaf combined into one. Which makes him a lovable character and his friendship with Hiro brings a heartwarming Spielbergian essence that beats through the movies veins with a smile.
With the relationship between Baymax and Hiro as the foundation, the movie builds a fantastic story around that with characters that make up the other members of the comic book sextet: there’s bubble gum popping GoGo (Jamie Chung), a rough-around-the-edges gal who speed skates around on maglev discs and uses them as weapons; Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.) a neat freak obsessed with precision as he dons a nice set of plasma blades; the sweet and quirky Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) who throws orbs of chemical concoctions of her own creation will nilly; and there’s finally Frank (T.J. Miller). He’s not a scientist or a student, but he is certainly a fan of science (and probably the group stoner) who wants to be a fire breathing Godzilla-esque creature. So that’s what he becomes. Seriously.
What is most impressive of this cast is the ethnic diversity Disney has established. The lead characters of Hiro and Tadashi are both hapa and they are both voiced by hapa actors. Then there is a a black character, a white dude, another Asian and an ethnically ambiguous (maybe Latina) gal! All voiced by a corresponding actor of color! And the fact that it is set in a fictional town that is essentially a hybrid of cultures (mostly Asian, probably) makes this movie one helluva a melting pot. Let’s hear it for diversity! Yay!
All jokes aside, I got to hand it to Disney for not relying on big-time white marquee names to voice ethnic characters. It probably was a very bold move on their part that certainly pays off and satisfies all people of color. It’s probably the most diverse (and amazing) cast in a movie that will hit theaters this year…with hopes that they’ll all come back for a second.
Plain and simple: Big Hero 6 is 100 percent enjoyable. It may have similarities with other superhero stories, but it’s different enough to not make it formulaic. With Wreck-It Ralph and now Big Hero 6, it seems that Disney is starting a whole new fanboy genre-driven subset of animated features that caters to adults as much as it does children. With smart writing that doesn’t talk down to children and doesn’t irritate adults, the movie has all the elements of a solid animated feature. It has exciting, visually stimulating action and an enormous amount of heart that makes it a “message movie” without being a “message movie.” On one side of the coin, it teaches us how to move on from loss and the importance of support from your loved ones. The other side, it teaches kids how to use their talents in a more effective capacity. Most of all it teaches us that everyone should have a Baymax in their life. EVERYONE.
Big Hero 6 opens in theaters Friday, November 7.