“Big Hero 6” is the latest offering from Disney and Marvel. It doesn’t tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that gives the movie much more leeway than it might have gotten otherwise. It would be harder to blend the animated “Big Hero 6” with the live action fare, but I won’t be surprised if some references turn up somewhere down the line. This is both Marvel and Disney, after all, and both of them love hiding Easter eggs.
“Big Hero 6” takes place in San Fransokyo, a coastal US city with very distinctive architecture. The trailers have made a huge deal out of the “guy in the kabuki mask”, and to be fair, he’s important. He’s not really a catalyst, though. The appearance of a bad guy does not set everything into motion.
The main hero is Hiro Hamada. He stars the movie as a mostly aimless prodigy. His passion is ‘bot fighting, which naturally gets him into trouble. It’s not the fights that are illegal, it’s betting on the outcome of those fights that is. Hiro’s creation is both surprising and ingenious. It’s only a matter of time until his older brother Tadashi has to come to Hiro’s rescue.
Hiro thinks his older brother is a nerd. While the brothers are close, there’s no question that they don’t see eye to eye. Hiro believes that college is lame, prompting Tadashi to show him how wrong he is. A visit to the robotics lab at Tadashi’s college opens Hiro’s eyes to the realms of possibility the science he practices so casually can unlock. He also meets his brother’s friends, Go Go, Fred, Wasabi, and Honey Lemon. Hiro also gets his first glimpse of Baymax.
Baymax is an inflatable medical robot. He is intended to have a soothing presence and appear non-threatening. The robot does not move quickly, but Tadashi built the skeleton to be strong, in case a patient needs to be carried. Baymax also has a neutral expression face. Hiro is impressed with certain aspects of Baymax’s design, but his head is immediately filled with bigger dreams.
Hiro’s world changes abruptly during a competition at Tadashi’s school. He suddenly finds himself aimless again. When he stumbles upon the realization that San Fransokyo will soon be under siege, he is galvanized into action. He enlists the help of Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Fred, and Baymax to try to save the day.
The look of the movie has some elements of manga and anime to it, especially when it comes to the architecture and hair designs. However, the style has been pulled back enough to maintain a good amount of realism. The characters still look like people you could encounter in real life. Even Baymax has a simple design that feels like it could already exist now, even though he moves a bit more fluidly than current bipedal robots do. They talk like real people and dress like real people.
Hiro is a teenaged kid. He’s smart but not exceptionally ambitious. He likes the things he likes and doesn’t have much time for the rest of the world. Refreshingly, Hiro isn’t obnoxious or bratty, nor is he entitled. He doesn’t constantly mouth off at his aunt, who raised him, or behave with complete disrespect towards her. Hiro makes mistakes and gets himself into some trouble, but he’s not so self-absorbed that he can’t see that it upsets the people who love him and why they would be worried about him.
Go Go is a speed demon. She has a bicycle with electromagnetic suspension that she’s trying to perfect in the lab. It can’t go fast enough for her, but she’s doing her best to solve it. When it comes to having a “man of action” type in a movie, it’s very, very rare to see that kind of character be one who’s female. She’s clearly brilliant and she’s sarcastic, too, without being really mean towards anyone. She speaks brusquely through most of the movie, until a point where she serves as a grounding voice of reason to Hiro. She’s not just smart, she’s human, too.
Go Go isn’t the only lady in the lab. Honey Lemon is a chemistry whiz. She’s busy making expanding foam substances the first time the audience sees her. She’s more of a girly-girl than Go Go. Go Go dresses like a punk biker through a lot of the movie, while Honey Lemon favors skirts and sweater twin-sets. She keeps her hair pulled back with a headband. She’s much gentler when she speaks, but when she is called on to fight, she proves to be just as fierce as everyone else on the team. She acts as the spokeswoman for the crew more often than any of the other characters, and even though she’s soft-spoken, she’s still articulate and has a good share of wisdom beyond her years.
Wasabi is working on a laser cutter when he first meets Hiro. The laser is promptly demonstrated through an exercise in precision potato cutting. He’s a big guy, in fact, Wasabi is physically imposing compared to his lab cohorts. He’s also the most cautious one there, despite or maybe because of the fact that he has what is probably the most dangerous project in the lab. He’s fearful of much of the world. His friends are doing their best to get him out of the lab when they can and encourage him to see and do more.
Then there’s Fred. Fred isn’t actually working on anything in the lab. Fred’s only connection to the lab is that his friends work and spend most of their time there. He is the school mascot. He’s also cheerful, enthusiastic, and friendly. Fred has tons of ideas that are, for the most part, non-feasible. Still, he keeps offering them in the hopes that at least one of them will become reality. Fred has dreams and he’s not about to let science stand in the way.
When the group are united through the common goal of defeating the threat to San Fransokyo, the differences in their personalities become practically a non-issue. Each member of the team develops a look and a weapon of choice best suited to their particular talents. Like any newly assembled team, they have to learn how to work together, but once that happens, they start to realize how much they are capable of accomplishing.
Baymax is an important part of the team. He doesn’t move fast. He actually walks awkwardly, toddling his way through the world while trying not to knock things over in confined spaces. Despite his shortcomings, Baymax has surprising strengths, too. When the group starts trying to fight the bad guy, Baymax contributes just as much as everyone else to the effort.
“Big Hero 6” has humor in it. The comedy has both visual and verbal elements and there’s more than enough to make it entertaining for the adults in the audience. It needs to have some levity because of events earlier in the movie.
There’s more going on thematically than just good versus evil in “Big Hero 6.” It touches on loss, family, and friendship as well. It’s a Disney movie, so expect some definite “everything is going to be all right” vibes through it. “Big Hero 6” never feels sugar-coated, though. It has some sad, hard-hitting scenes, but they aren’t overwrought. The way the characters deal with what they’re facing has all the elements of great superhero origin stories without losing sight of the individual personalities at work. They all deal with things differently, but they all still manage to cope.
It’s very action-oriented, once things start happening, they happen quickly. I feel like I should mention that I found the way the villain moved in his scenes mesmerizing. It was sinuous and fluid, lending a sinister feel to every scene he was in. He was a bad guy who moved like a bad guy should.
There’s some violence, which is to be expected, given the nature of the story, but it doesn’t get over the top or gratuitous.
I found the movie most appealing on the visual level. It was enjoyable and had a good story which I think is probably easier to spoil than I want it to be. “Big Hero 6” has a cool look to it though that fits the story very well. It holds to the current spirit of Marvel with pacing and humor, even if it doesn’t tie into the MCU.
So, while enjoying the show be sure to keep a lookout for Stan Lee. He’s in there, and it was one of my favorite parts of the movie.