Big Hero 6 (2014) Review

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Big Hero 6 is a story about a boy and his robotic companion named Baymax. It’s the latest feature length animated movie from Disney, directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, that centers around the theme of self-healing and what a boy has to go through to come to terms with the loss of someone very dear to him. Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a 14 years old child prodigy who’s orphaned at a young age and lives with his Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph). Like his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), he is a natural born inventor, but spends his time early on in the film in illegal bots fighting in the back alleys of San Fransokyo, a hybrid city of a more advanced San Francisco with many influences of Japanese architectures, which suggests that the city is built via the melding of the two cultures, very much like our protagonist Hiro who appears to be an interracial kid of both American and Japanese ancestries.

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Tadashi fears that his younger brother may be wasting away his time and talent and so gives him a tour of the “Nerd Lab” at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology (SFIT) where a team of young inventors gets together to design and create advanced techs and gadgets. There he meets Tadashi’s friends GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), Fred (T.J. Miller) and Tadashi’s very own invention, Baymax, a self healthcare robot that springs to life from a small suitcase (that also serves as a lithium battery charger) when someone close by yells out in distress. Once activated, Baymax becomes an oversized, 6 ft tall, very huggable Pillsbury Doughboy look-alike that speaks in a robotic mono-tone voiced by Scott Adsit. Baymax will do everything he can like scanning your entire body and making medical diagnosis as well as suggesting remedies until you are completely healed. The only way to deactivate Baymax is to tell him that you are satisfied with the cure, and only then will he deflate back into his suitcase.

So impressed with SFIT and its projects, Hiro immediately wants to enroll but the only way in is to impress the robotics department head, Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell) at an annual exhibition. So Hiro invents a series of nanobots called microbots that can be controlled by a neuro-cranial transmitter worn on his head that allows him to control the microbots telepathically and have it do anything and become anything his mind wishes.

Needless to say, Hiro’s invention impresses not only Professor Callaghan but also Alistair Krey, a billionaire who owns Krei Tech and wants to buy Hiro’s microbots to add to his collection. Hiro refuses but someone isn’t going to walk away that day without the microbots so soon enough, a fire breaks out, leaving our Hiro without his invention and a wound so deep that healing seems impossible. It takes a lot more than just Baymax to heal this wound, but a grand adventure with five friends and a robot on a quest to hunt down the Kabuki-masked villain responsible for it all is a good start to recovery.

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Big Hero 6 has plenty of charms and humor to hold your attention. If that isn’t enough to grab you, the visuals will. The illustrations and character designs remind me of Square-Enix’s Kingdom Hearts where the protagonist sports that similar spiky hairstyle and hip urban wear. The vibrant colors and cutesy art styles bring to mind films like Spirited Away and The Secret World of Arrietty so there’s also quite a bit of Hayao Miyazaki’s influence in this film. In the tradition of Disney animated features, Big Hero 6 has plenty of heart and a scene or two may make you want to reach for that Kleenex. Once again, this movie deals with the theme of loss and healing, and places emphasis on the value of friendship and the gradual healing that can start when friends come together to lend you support. There are also plenty of cool action sequences that seem inspired by a few Superhero live action films like the X-Men, The Amazing Spiderman and Transformers. There’s also a pinch of Disney/Pixar’s very own The Incredibles here and there as well.

Fighting in a team of six, each with his and her own super gadgets that can do serious harm, the loveable personal caregiver Baymax easily steals the show. Not only is he there to mend your wounds, he can also fight karate, make fist-pumps, and fly around the city like Iron Man if programmed correctly. Every kid is going to walk away from this movie with a big smile because Baymax is just that awesome. If there’s any criticism to be made about Big Hero 6, it’s that the other four members in this team are easily forgettable. The lack of a back story on each of them will make it hard for kids to identify with any of them even though they all have really cool powers.  Another criticism about Big Hero 6 is that the plot just assumes that everything gets handed to Hiro. If Hiro needs an invention to impress the head professor at a very prestigious school, he’ll have it just like that, leaving you scratching your head wondering how a 14-yr old kid who lives with his single aunt, who owns a small doughnut shop below her tiny apartment gets the money to do that. Or when he needs high tech gears for Baymax, his computer will just automatically turn his drawings into real physical gears, ready to be worn and so highly advanced that it can screen the entire city to find his target. But regardless, this is a kid’s movie after all so in that sense, Big Hero 6 is sure to entertain a lot of kids and their parents.

With a refreshingly diverse cast and uplifting message, Big Hero 6 is a captivating adventure story for the entire family. The story is adapted from a Marvel comic of the same name but shares very little with the source material.  The names of the members of Big Hero 6 remain the same as the comic, albeit there’s no Ebon Samurai, Silver Samurai, Sunfire nor Sunpyre  in this adaptation.  Big Hero 6 brings big action to the silver screen on a smaller scale than your typical Marvel superheroes live-action films.  However, the result is just as astounding, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney continues to make more animated feature films based on Marvel’s properties. This is one of the best feature length animated films ever made.

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Good

  • Has plenty of charms and humor
  • Colorful and well designed visuals
  • Great action sequences
  • Heartwarming story and wholesome characters

Bad

  • Depressing theme on loss and dying
  • Deals with grief
  • Forgettable secondary characters
9.5

Amazing

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