Like a lot of geeks, I'm a guy who thinks that superheroes and animation are a genre and a medium made for each other. Can't find the perfect actor? Just DRAW the perfect actor! Special effects to make them fly too expensive? Just DRAW them flying! It's just that simple. So, when Disney bought Marvel a few years ago, minds boggled at the prospect of turning Disney animation loose on the Marvel universe. Which is why a lot of people went "Huh?" when Disney announced the grabbed Big Hero 6 out of the Marvel archives for an animated film.
People thought Guardians of the Galaxy was obscure, well, that was nothing compared to Big Hero 6. A miniseries that briefly ran in the early 2000s. That's when anime and manga was starting to dominate pop culture, so Big Hero 6 was Marvel's interpretation of Japanese superhero tropes. Some people were upset that it didn't open with Marvel's logo alongside the Disney animation logo, but at the end of the day, Marvel had very little to do with the movie. It was so below Marvel's radar, that when Disney said they wanted to do an animated film, Marvel's attitude was, "Yeah, just take it and have fun with it, guys."
Because I think the marriage of animation and superheroes on the big screen is so perfect, I'll drop just about everything to go see a new animated superhero epic at the local theatre, so of course I went to see Big Hero 6.
Even though Marvel was hands off, they still managed to follow a few Marvel tropes in the film. We still get a post credit sequence. And a gratuitous Stan Lee cameo. And the fake-out death, where you think one of the characters is dead, but he's really not.
Speaking of tropes, can we put an end to "'obviously evil guy' is a red herring...'warm loving fatherly figure' is the real bad guy?" Seriously, when I first saw the film in the theatre, and the obviously evil guy made his appearance, I called it.
And while we're at it, let's put an end to having Alan Tudyk voicing 'obviously evil guy' in every Disney animated movie. He did it in Wreck-It Ralph, he did it in Frozen, and he's back to do it for Big Hero 6.
Our hero is Hiro (appropriate name), a child prodigy who graduated high school at 13 and has adopted the "too cool for school" attitude, and makes his way hustling in back alley robot fights. Understandably, his equally prodigious big brother Tadeki feels Hiro is wasting his gift. So, to turn Hiro around, Tadeki brings Hiro to his lab one night and shows off what he and his colleagues are working on. When Hiro gets a glimpse of what he could do with a fully funded university lab behind him, getting into university becomes his new goal.
For his entrance exam, Hiro invents microbots: tiny, thought-controlled robots that can do pretty much whatever you think of. After Hiro aces his entrance with flying colours, there's an accident at the school. The microbots are presumed destroyed, and Tadeki is killed. A few months later, a villain appears on the scene, wielding Hiro's microbots. Hiro deduces that someone swiped his microbots, and then staged the accident that killed Tadeki to cover their tracks. It doesn't take much for Hiro to convince Tadeki's friends to weaponize their projects and bring in this villain.
When it comes to our heroes, the heart and soul is Baymax. Tadeki's crowning achievement, Baymax is a robot healthcare worker. Baymax's only mission in life is to heal. And he knows that Hiro is hurting because of the death of Tadeki. Emotional trauma, though, wasn't one of the things Baymax was created to treat. But, seeing that this superheroing has a positive effect on Hiro, Baymax goes with it. Which makes the scene where Hiro reprograms Baymax to go all Terminator more frightening.
My lament about the film is that, since it is primarily Hiro and Baymax's story, we don't get to know our other four heroes that well. We've got Fred, the laid-back stoner type. He's not really one of the techs, he's their mascot. So they turn his mascot costume into an Iron Man-style armoured suit. There's Wasabi. He's a neat freak and he's all about order. He's working the lasers, so it doesn't take much for him to fashion his lasers into a set of Wolverine-style claws. Go Go's all about the speed. Her research is in electromagnetic repulsion, which she uses to create some deadly discs she can hurl around. She's the one with all the attitude.
My favourite is Honey Lemon, though. She's a chemical engineer. She miniaturizes her chem lab into her purse, allowing her to instantly whip up any chemical weapon she may need. I love her! She's so loving and enthusiastic and odd. Just...awesome.
It's a fun little adventure tale, with some good lessons about grief and acceptance. It doesn't quite reach the heights of the Disney greats, but it's still an above average film. Disney's been on a good streak so far this decade. Whether it was "Best Animated Film" worthy is a question for another day. *cough*LegoMovie*cough