I find it rather interesting that, in a year FULL of recognizable superhero faces in film, the two superhero films that will be remembered the fondest are the ones spawned from comic books that no one has ever heard of before. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and Disney’s latest gem, ‘Big Hero 6’, have the reviews to back up their critical appeal and audience support. They have staked a claim in the box office race and have established themselves as two of the most memorable films of the year. Who would have guessed that the world would forget that a ‘Spider Man’ movie was even released this year or that the two worlds of the ‘X-Men’ cohabited for a few hours? Instead, we’re all talking about the rise of Chris Pratt and the world of San Fransokyo!
Disney has been on a serious roll as of late. Last decade they felt sort of irrelevant, with Pixar completely annihilating them in storyboards and visual presentation, but then 2010 brought them their biggest critical and commercial success in years, ‘Tangled’, and things started to change for them. They followed that up with ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, which was such an incredibly inspired departure for Disney and, for me, established their newfound creativity.
Then they conquered the world with ‘Frozen’.
This year they delivered their first superhero animated adaptation since purchasing the rights to the Marvel universe, and it comes with a lot of hype, anticipation and, after their recent successes, expectation. The world is waiting with baited breath to discover if Disney is able to follow up their biggest success EVER with a film just as worthy. ‘Big Hero 6’ was a serious risk, but not the risk one may initially assume. In fact, it was a smart risk. Sure, your average superhero fan will have no idea who these characters are, and yet that doesn’t really matter much, like it did with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (which really didn’t matter much in the end since WOM was so strong and the film lived up, so it KILLED at the box office), because Disney already has a built in fan base and legions of children who will drag their parents to the movies regardless of whether or not they’ve ever heard of Baymax. It’s a smart risk because tackling an unknown entity offers Disney the opportunity to basically recreate this world, Disney it all up for families and not really offend anybody.
Just Google the original comic series and you’ll see just how Disney’d up this whole movie really was!
The question is, does ‘Big Hero 6’ live up to the promise? Is this a worthy follow up to the massive success of ‘Frozen’? Did Disney succeed in officially reclaiming their place as the go-to studio for animated adventures?
Pretty much, yes.
Sitting in the theater with my son on my lap, indulging in his first superhero movie and watching his face aglow during the explosions of color illuminating the screen, it was evident that Disney had achieved something very special here. This is a beautifully constructed film that appeals to everyone, young and old, does justice to a genre while bringing things to a level that feels appropriate for a certain age range (let’s face it, most superhero movies are just not appropriate for the average Disney fan), never stripping the film of qualities that make it so exciting and accessible. Yes, there are flaws, but those flaws never take away from the end result, from the reason to keep watching and to anticipate the inevitable sequel.
The film starts tells the story of young Hiro and his brother Tadashi. Both are incredible smart and gifted, and yet only Tadashi has put his intelligence to good use. His younger brother, Hiro, obviously still effected from the loss of their parents, uses his intelligence to engage in illegal bot fighting in some unsavory places. Then inspiration hits and Hiro attempts to clean up his act only to face incredible tragedy with his brother is killed in a freak fire.
Then things get complicated.
A sinister force is lurking in San Fransokyo, and that force has a connection to Hiro and his inventions. So, with the help of a robotic nurse known as Baymax (Tadashi’s great invention) and a group of nerds, Hiro forms a team of superheroes from the ground up, utilizing their minds too ‘upgrade’ their bodies and fight this creepy man in a kabuki mask and his micro-bot army.
Visually, ‘Big Hero 6’ is rather remarkable. The colors, the lighting, the use of CGI enhancements; there are moments when the cinematography is comparable to that found in live action films, creating an expanse and exterior skyline that is so rich with texture and life. It breathes. The character development is a tad clichéd, and I do find this a shame to a degree, considering the source material was so vastly different they could have used that inspiration to flesh out this group of characters past the obvious personalities. Hiro and Baymax feel full-bodied, but the rest of the team is basically a series of odd names and personality stereotypes. Tough girl, hyper girl, rich idiot, scaredy-cat. There isn’t any real depth other than the fact that they are all united by the bond of death (of a friend). Still, the development of the relationship between Hiro and Baymax and the connection to Tadashi is rather beautifully conveyed, and it is that relationship that glows throughout the film’s running time.
In fact, my only real qualm here comes in the disappointment with the film’s score, which is so bland and never really ignites where it should, and this is a real shame since Henry Jackman’s score for Disney’s ‘Wreck-it Ralph’ was so inspired and one of my favorites of the year.
‘Big Hero 6’ is big, bold and exciting, and it makes the best use of its time by developing a story (and at least one beautiful relationship) AND delivering on the action. The set up for the sequel is clear, and I’m all in for it. Sure, this wasn’t ‘The Incredibles’ and the final act of self-sacrifice was not as emotionally stirring as the one depicted in ‘Wreck-it Ralph’ (like, I bawled), but ‘Big Hero 6’ certainly continues Disney’s meteoric rise back to the top of their industry and confirms our already cemented love of all things Disney.
I give this an A-. I'm wholly anticipating the next chapter and have the utmost confidence that it'll make good and exceed expectations, for they have laid some serious groundwork for something special here. After seeing this, I'm pretty much certain this is winning the Oscar for Animated Film. It is LOCKED for the nom, and really the crowd pleasing aspect coupled with the beautiful animation and the emotional connection is going to make this hard to vote against. I don't see it getting any other nominations though, maybe a Sound nom, but the Globes will probably embrace the song 'Immortals' from Fall Out Boy.