Big Hero 6 (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Big Hero 6 (2014)

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Hiro Hamada has been wasting his genius making battlebots to fight for money while his brother toils away at a "nerd factory".  But after his brother introduces Hiro to the appeal of higher education the lad decides to compete for a spot in the university.  Little does Hiro suspect that a shadowy figure wants to use Hiro's inventions for nefarious ends, and soon Hiro must band together with his new friends to stop the evil that plagues the city.  Don Hall and Chris Williams direct Big Hero 6 from a screenplay by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, and Robert L. Baird.

Friends fo' evahOur cinematic landscape, suddenly overpopulated with superhero movies as they breed like rabbits who birth fat stacks of cash instead of sweet life, isn't in a dire need of many more spin-offs or sequels.  Yet, when I got out of Big Hero 6, I immediately wanted a sequel or a spin-off that sheds four of the six titular big heroes.  All together, the six form yet another superhero team that will save humanity from whatever threat of the moment rears its head.

Haven't we seen that movie?  In fact, so much of Big Hero 6 cobbles together from current superhero films and histories most influential science fiction films that I sometimes drifted off to play "spot the influence" than watch the action unfold onscreen.  The shadow of Terminator 2 looms long and hard over the central plot of Big Hero 6 as Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) ends up dealing with the voice of having not one but two father figures wretched from his life.

The supporting cast is a charming but light distraction from the heart of Big Hero 6.

The supporting cast is a charming but light distraction from the heart of Big Hero 6.

There are certainly worse films to base a central relationship on than Terminator 2, but the problem with Big Hero 6 is that the remaining action spectacle is nothing we haven't seen before.  Before this review spirals off into a tone of total pessimism I want to make clear that I enjoyed watching Big Hero 6.  But seeing the different aspects of the relationship between Hiro and Baymax (Scott Adsit) get pushed off to the side so that we could have another climactic battle between good and evil was disheartening - and heart is where Big Hero 6 really shines.

Even before getting into the nuts and bolts of why Baymax and Hiro become a team I was impressed with the optimistic vision of director Don Hall and Chris Williams' world.  San Fransokyo is a bright and colorful look at a future where people are working toward a post-scarcity society instead of fighting viciously to get every last dollar.  The floating blimps, the seemingly endless train system weaving between buildings, signs written in English and Kanji, and lush vegetation all suggest a society that's learning to live in harmony with the disparate elements of existence.  Compared to the precarious social structure of The Boxtrolls, it's downright heavenly in Fransokyo.

That optimism is what drive the best part of Big Hero 6, the relationship between Hiro and Baymax.  The comic possibilities of Baymax's unusual form, as he's basically a gigantic balloon stuffed with a computer, make for a number of amusing scenarios as he tries to pick up small objects or has to slowly deflate to fit into small spaces.  His design recalls the old psychological experiment where a monkey has a choice between a wire "mother" who has food, and a gently blanketed "mother" who does not.  Baymax is a source of emotional nourishment, and every second he's the focus of the narrative Big Hero 6 slips into a realm of warmth.

Less successful, and the most tiring aspect of these superhero films, is the assemblage of quirky cohorts that help Hiro and Baymax on their quest of justice.  Despite the best efforts of the vocal cast, Damon Wayans, Jr.'s perpetually nervous Wasabi is a high mark, they reek of a team designed to hit every demographic possible.  Say what you will about the eventual turn to mediocrity that Guardians of the Galaxy too, but the film was filled with strong personalities that had their own goals which conflicted with the hero's.  In Big Hero 6 each input from the side characters is just another bit of motivation to keep Hiro's hopes up and fight the good fight.  That's nice and inspirational, but dramatically flat.

The images of Baymax awkwardly trying his best to help are always good for a laugh.

The images of Baymax awkwardly trying his best to help are always good for a laugh.

Yet, even when I tire of the generic "go get 'em" attitude behind the supporting characters, I can't help but get drawn back into the central relationship between Hiro and Baymax.  One of the hardest things in our lives will be to get to the point where, after a tragedy, we can turn to someone else and say, "I'm ok."  Each scene that builds toward that admission with the adorable, adaptable, and intrinsically curious Baymax is constructed in the sparest dialogue.  All the whizz bang special effects of the two flying around are nothing compared to a lonely kid getting the hug he needed.

I wanted to love Big Hero 6, and came out disappointed but appreciative that the filmmakers took the time to fill the space between generic action with great warmth.  There are no shortage of comic films where the good guy leads his forces to defeat the bad guy.  But stories where lonely souls find comfort in unusual places?  That's Ghost World territory, and where Big Hero 6 really shines.

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Tail - Big Hero 6Big Hero 6 (2014)

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams.
Screenplay written by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, and Robert L. Baird.
Starring Ryan Potter and Scott Adsit.

Posted by Andrew

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