If there’s one element that Disney has been getting right in their latest CGI works, it’s the heart. Frozen, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and now Disney’s latest animated feature, Big Hero 6, all have some small truth at their core, around which the plot and characters are allowed to grow naturally and shine. In Big Hero 6, this truth is about loss – how we deal with it and how we move on. What’s different about Big Hero 6 is that this heart has a name, Baymax.
Based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, the film’s producer outright admits that is almost all Big Hero 6 shares with its comic book incarnation. Character names remain the same, certain relationships transition over, but fans of the original comic’s limited run will have to enter this film with an open mind.
In Big Hero 6, Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a 14-year old science and robotics prodigy, squandering his talents in ‘Bot Battles’ (a back-alley version of everyone’s favourite Robot Wars). His older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), coaxes Hiro into realising his potential by introducing him to his friends at university, as well as his own project, the ‘healthcare companion’ robot Baymax (Scott Adkins). When tragedy strikes the family, Hiro finds himself in the (unwanted) care of Baymax, and together with Tadashi’s science-geek classmates, starts to unravel a plot that requires all of them to step up to become heroes.
Baymax is undoubtedly the breakout star of the film. Designed to be iconic, strangely relatable and above-all ‘huggable’, he almost feels designed by committee to send toys flying off the shelves, which is probably not far from the truth. There’s a whole lot of wonderful physical comedy with the character, as well as some hilarious voicework by Scott Adkins to make a unique robot companion to add to the pantheon of android greats. Baymax is also given the most significant role in the film, as the film’s heart that is shaped by the will and actions of Hiro Hamada. Baymax is wonderfully utilised to reveal insight into our protagonist, while at the same time conveying emotion, compassion and humour through a design which is little more than two circles and a line.
Speaking of design, Big Hero 6 may be Disney’s best-looking film to date. Taking place in the alternate world/future of San Fransokyo, a mash-up of East and West, the city itself is vibrant, alive and feels authentic. A scene where Hiro upgrades Baymax with rocket boosters and flies him out over the city is especially captivating.
The remaining members of the Big Hero 6 are colourful characters in their own right. Standout members include Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), a goofy but intelligent chemistry student whose positivity is infectious, and Fred (T.J. Miller), a comic book fanboy whose dream is to transform into a giant monster, and who gets most of the big laughs of the film that don’t belong to Baymax.
When you get down to the actual super hero-ing in this film, however, this is all in service of a plot which is by-the-numbers. The villain is given just enough motivation to parallel our hero, but the mechanics of their plan and the film’s climax really feel bolted together like a crudely constructed automaton, and don’t hold much relevance outside of a vague theme. There are any number of paths the film could have gone down, but playing things safe in the second and final acts provides story beats that we’ve all seen before.
While characterised well, with delightfully odd quirks and goofy traits, the rest of the Big Hero 6 roster outside Baymax and Hiro unfortunately feel hardly necessary to the film. They’re loveable science geeks, but only get a couple of moments to shine within the film’s brisk pace. The film could have been called Baymax (which is indeed the film’s title in Japan), cut the ‘team’ element and remained by and large the same.
I would heartily recommend Big Hero 6 on the strength of its visual design alone, but the core relationship between Baymax and Hiro, and the comedy and emotion that comes from that, makes the film really enjoyable to sit through. At a short 108 minutes, the film doesn’t have time to develop a plot that breaks outside of normal superhero conventions, nor does the team as a whole feel cohesive or even necessary by the end. However, there’s a lot to enjoy about Big Hero 6, especially on a big-screen in 3D, where the artistry of the visuals are really on display.
Side note: Baymax and Hiro will also be available for Disney Infinity 2.0 early next month as Baymax comes with flight capabilities and Hiro is imbued with Microbot powers.