Hollywood is now in an era that will more than likely remembered as “the golden age of comic book films”. They dominate many people’s obsessions, sell huge numbers at the box office, and especially in more recent years, have gained the respect and admiration of many professional film critics. So far though, with this seen this effect only the live action world. In animation, there have been a shortage of superhero adventures. One of the first ones was Warner Bro’s excellent “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”, and also (if you can count this as a superhero film) 1998’s ” The Iron Giant” (both of which I am still waiting for a Blu-Ray release of ), both bombed harshly at the box office. The animated release of “TMNT” is largely forgotten, and recently DreamWorks Animation Studios “Megamind” came with positive praise, yet I haven’t heard many people reference and continue to talk about it after the film’s initial release. Of course then we have the exception, the crowning jewel of not just the animated world of superhero films but also one of the best superhero films period, Pixar’s “The Incredibles”.
So here we have two emerging narratives; the one being the surprising lack of superhero films in the animated (theatrical world) and the other is the return of Disney Animation Studios as a force. For a while Disney was hiding behind the Pixar name while their own animated films were lackluster. Now we seem to be going through “The Second Disney Renaissance”. “Tangled”, “Wreck It-Ralph”, and last year’s mega blockbuster “Frozen”, Disney has been putting out, hit after hit, after hit. Now the culmination of those two narratives is “Big Hero 6”; A new Disney Animated film based off of a Marvel superhero comic book. “Big Hero 6” is yet another success for Disney. This animated film not only sports consistent laugh out loud humor but also a deep emotional core. It does suffer however from some pacing problems and lack of a decent villain but regardless this is a film that kids, families, and even adults can all enjoy.
After a recent tragedy in his life, a young boy named Hiro sparks a friendship with an artificial intelligence named Baymax. Together they discover someone might have stolen Hiro’s newest invention to use for evil, and Hiro and Baymax assemble a team to take him down and save San Fransokyo.
The first thing to tip my hat to is the production design. The main setting of San Fransokyo , is a vibrant place, with a brilliant mix of multi-culture designs and customs (as the name implies this mixes San Francisco and Tokyo) This CGI animated film also has some anime sensibilities mixed with our American animation. I have seen many attempts at something like this (mostly in the direct to DVD realm) and many times it misses it’s mark completely; here though “Big Hero 6” shines.
One thing “Big Hero 6” does well is the development of its main character, Hiro. He is full of life but also naive and finds a father figure in his older brother. The two’s relationship is so appealing to watch, with great little back and forth but the script does an excellent job of showing how much Hiro loved his older brother, making certain events in the film feel more impactful. Yet it also shows Hiro’s relationship a terrific show of colorful side characters. Some are more memorable than others with the rest of his later superhero fighting team, but no doubt the script utilizes them and Hiro’s personality to great effect.
The star of this is undoubtedly is the A.I robot, Baymax. This is a character that will be long remembered in animation. His lack of personality actually gives the character lots of personality. His dry deliver and monotone voice leads to same excellent one liners and situations that will have you laughing harder than you might expect . This character brings together more laughs then most live action comedy films to be released this year. The beating heart that the filmmakers were able to bring to such a heartless character is extraordinary. I think everyone will want a Baymax by the time the credits roll through (I know I did).
This being said, “Big Hero 6” does run into some issues of pacing. Some parts in the story are glossed over too quickly while others drag out to much. I understand many animated films don’t want to run much more than 100 minutes but a little bit longer running time I think would have solved some of the film’s pacing woes. For instance the villain of the film (albeit cool looking) however completely rushed in its development. By comparison, “The Incredibles” was able to craft and develop a memorable baddie in Syndrome. Here, the character feels there for plot sake and the motivation comes out of left field. Any attempts to humanize the antagonist falls flat.
What “Big Hero 6” does for kids though is paramount. This is an animated film that is kid friendly (not necessarily kid specific); but what it does show children is the area of science as being something cool and fun to get involved with. An area of study that America has been lacking in the education field recently has been really championed by this movie, along with its celebration of diversity. I may not have liked “Big Hero 6” as much as “Frozen” or “Wreck It-Ralph” but it’s certainly above average, and important for kids to see to show how wondrous science can really be.