With around twenty superhero movies planned over the next four years it’s not surprising that many are beginning to see an over-saturation in the market. So how does a movie studio stay in vogue while bringing something fresh to the mix? Well it seems Disney has the answer.
Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Staring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney, T. J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., Génesis Rodríguez, Maya Rudolph, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell
Run Time: 102 minutes
Release Date: Out Now
In December 2009 Disney became supreme rulers of the galaxy with their modest purchase of a little known comic and movie company by the name of Marvel. Having had a couple of successful movies under their belt, Disney stepped in to help them on their path to Hollywood greatness.
Fast forward to today and not only have the safe bets secured financial and critical success but also the odd-balls, the lesser known characters from Marvel’s extensive back catalogue.
But all of these success stories have been solely under the Marvel name and even with animation giant Disney in a supporting role this has very much been a one studio affair.
So taking a page out of Marvel’s book, Disney have delved into the nether regions of Marvel history, to a place that only few would know and pulled something quite amazing out of the bag, Big Hero 6. But this isn’t a movie for Marvel fans, no this is a Disney superhero movie in the same vein as Pixar’s The Incredibles. But does this trek into new territory stand up against Disney’s best?
Big Hero 6 tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a 14 year old robotics genius and his life in the fictional city of San Fransokyo with his brother Tadashi. Struck by a family tragedy the young prodigy reluctantly turns to his brother’s robot Baymax for support.
Unfortunately the story is movie’s one weakness, it’s the cliche origin story. Firstly, Hiro is an orphan (see every superhero ever for more on that, oh and Harry Potter), the pattern then follows; boy has family tradegy, boy seeks revenge, boy becomes superhero, boy learns true meaning of being a hero, it’s predictable at best and as a result it does fall somewhat short of what we’ve come to expect from Disney or their underlings at Pixar.
But then nobody goes into a Disney movie with the expectations of a Christopher Nolan thriller, this is the House of Mouse so it’s very easy to forgive the occasional oversight.
This is of course made exceptionally easier by the stunning visuals on show, the San Fransokyo skyline is a work of art to say the least. The combination of American and Japanese architecture create a realistic sense of place and purpose mixed with the fantasy world of anime, it remains true to the source material without ever losing the average human element, something that’s far easier to do in live-action then in animation.
The characters themselves are rendered with the same attention to detail as the setting, you’re unlikely to find anything in Disney’s movie collection that compares in terms of quality. But it’s not just their looks, their indiviual personalities are far more evolved then one would expect from an animated feature.
With the story predominantly focused around Hiro and his group of friends who go on to become the titular Big Hero 6, it’s an unexpected joy to find a movie of this type have such a gender-diverse group sporting positive messages about science, education and more importantly compassion, there are no stereotypes and that’s where this movie surpasses what we all consider the superhero genre.
The vocal performances are superb, this is Disney, we should expect the best. Ryan Potter plays Hiro as a vulnerable, pre-pubescent teen who by the end of the film comes to realise just who he is exceptionally well. James Cromwell, Maya Rudolph and Damon Wayans Jr, also lend their recognisable voices to the heroes of the piece.
Returning to the theme of compassion, this is no more relevant then with Baymax, the inflatable android is the true heart and soul of the story. While watching this lovable automaton early in the movie I found myself thrust back to the first time I watched WALL-E. At the time I was amazed at how Pixar could bring a character with such a limited vocabulary and no facial expressions to life and give him so much emotion and with Baymax Disney have done the same.
The look of the character says, “hug me”, which is no surprise as that is the point of the robot in the movie but it isn’t until you hear the voice through the static face that he really comes to life. Voiced by actor Scott Adsit, Baymax becomes not only the pivotal emotional center for the movie but somehow the main source of comedy as well. It’s the simple innocence of the spoken lines mixed with the fact that he is essentially a walking balloon that make the character something that kids and adults alike will emotional invest in.
Sadly though, as the story progresses and we see Baymax transition from balloon to superhero awesomeness, his characterization suffers and the funny, caring nature which made him such a great engaging character is replaced by generic superhero. This isn’t helped by a dramatic change in tone as we head into the final act, becoming something a lot darker. The comedic elements seem lost amongst a plot which isn’t sure which way it wants to go and there are a few scenes that may scare the younger viewers.
The third act does slump a little as we move right into superhero template mode for the final battle but by this point you love the characters so much that you just want to see them take down the bad guy, save the day and get back home in time for dinner.
Thankfully the positives far out-way any negatives and as a result we are left with a conclusion that has more emotion then any animated movie has any right to have.
Big Hero 6 is sweet, smart, exciting and genuinely funny, it’s the origin story for people that are sick of origin stories, launching the superhero story into a new pleasurable heights. Disney have done a fantastic job of taking on some unfamiliar territory and really hitting home the emotional struggle between dealing with grief and seeking revenge, all with a seven foot inflatable robot.
Well done Disney and superb job on the Stan Lee cameo.