Written by Matt Kelly
Plot: After a disaster turns his life upside down, genius inventor Hiro Hamada has to work with his healthcare robot and some new friends to take down a masked man who is terrorizing the city of San Fransokyo.
It pains me to say this. I thought this movie was just fine. I did not like it as much as I thought I would. Here are are some key points that detail what this movie did well and why it didn’t exceed my expectations:
The Plot in General
So don’t expect much here, which is a bummer. Disney is usually pretty good at coming up with truly interesting stories. Look at Wreck-it Ralph. The concept of a video game bad guy having an existential crisis is a groundbreaking concept. Frozen is the same way. A princess with ice powers has to learn to love her sister. That’s a good story and it is pretty far from anything we’ve seen before. Big Hero 6 is not that original. It is just another superhero movie. It pretends to be more Japanese-ish but that is really just a texture. The bad guy wears a kabuki mask, but it could be any mask. Fred loves Kaiju movies, but you can swap out any other kind of monster movies and the plot would be the same. These elements that make it seem original and cool are really just arbitrary choices to give the movie the illusion of thematic cohesion.
Big Hero 6 is like a spoiled child. It doesn’t earn anything. There are deaths, but they lack the emotional punch of Mufasa in Lion King or Ellie in Up because Big Hero 6 doesn’t do a good enough job of getting us attached to the characters. There are “shocking reveals” that everyone can see coming from a mile away which is a also real shame because Disney has done such a good job in the recent past with genuine surprises.
The film is essentially about Hiro and the gang turning into superheroes but even that doesn’t seem earned. The “Big Hero” 6 do it so effortlessly that you have to wonder why they are doing it at all. They don’t want to become heroes (except for Fred). They just kinda do even though it is clear that all they really want to do is more science. Every hero’s passion is their most important quality and passion is one of the biggest things missing from Big Hero 6.
Baymax is going to be huge. Maybe not Frozen huge but I could see him being Minion huge. This character is everything that is right with the movie. He is a loveable, huggable healthcare robot voiced by Pete Hornberger (Scott Adsit) from 30 Rock. He has no sense of sarcasm and he loves to pet cats. Almost every big laugh in the movie came from Baymax’s goofy lines or his even goofier movements. He is even great at doling out inspirational advice when necessary. He is the total package.
I read a great interview with some of the Big Hero 6 animators about Baymax. The animators talked about their intentions for making Baymax look so distinctly different from the original comic book character. Essentially they wanted to to create a fun character with tons of heart but zero emotions. You, the audience, get to love what he is saying and project whatever else you want onto his blank canvas. You can probably already pick some of that up from the trailers, but it really works well in the film. Baymax is easily the best part of the movie.
I could tolerate every character except Hiro. Boy, was he boring. Unfortunately, he is who we spend 100% of our time with. No disrespect to Ryan Potter. The character just had very little to do besides be sad. Disney is great at making you feel bad for a character, especially by killing someone close to that character. This can be a problem because sympathy is an easy way to make you feel emotionally invested in a character without actually doing anything. Sure, you can feel really connected to this character because you feel bad for him. Once you take that sympathy away, there might not be anything else left. Hiro’s main characteristic is grief but beyond the grief, Hiro is just incredibly bland.
The other problem with Hiro is that this kid is just too good at everything. He is able to make the best robot ever and then make an even better one after that with a very small amount of effort. It really comes back to the question of, “Why are any of them heroes?” Hiro should be making more robots instead of putting on a suit and flying around. This kid invented micro bots that can pretty much do ANYTHING and his solution to his problem is put armor on the marshmallow bot and fly around. Just MAKE MORE MICROBOTS! Not only can you stop the Kabuki guy, but you can be a billionaire!
So you’re probably thinking, “Hey isn’t this movie called Big Hero 6? So far we only have Big Hero 2. Are there four other supporting characters in this movie?” The answer is yes and no. Yes, there are four other members of the team. No, they are not as much characters as they are walking talking quirks. One is a goofball. One is a fangirl. One is uptight. One is a badass. That’s about it. They all have special powers that seem fun to watch like super speed and laser arms, but all the powers amount to in the fight scenes is them splitting up and doing their thing until they each get knocked out.
This is one of the bigger missed opportunities. Look at Guardians of the Galaxy. It is a similarly sized team with a lot of similar members. Both teams have a pop culture obsessed dork. Both have a diminutive rebel. Both even have a heavy who doesn’t understand metaphors. Guardians of the Galaxy was able to succeed by focusing on the characters and giving them interesting motivation that really made you root for them individually. As a result, the least interesting member of the Guardians (Gamora) is still waaaaaay more interesting than any of these guys.
No surprise here. The visuals are amazing. The setting of San Fransokyo is beautiful. The individual powers are also excellent. Baymax’s armor looks great. The scenes involving flight were very crisp. 3D didn’t seem to be a huge improvement except for a handful of POV shots that looked stunning.
Hiro’s micro bots were probably my favorite visual. The idea of a swarm of robots that can manifest in any shape is really cool. I could probably have watched an entire movie that just consisted of Hiro making different micro bot configurations. There is one mirco bot shot in particular that takes place in a science fair. That probably stood out to me as the coolest visual of the movie. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it.
The movie did nothing to earn the title of Big Hero 6. Nothing. They just say it at the end of the movie. No one comes up with the name during the film. It doesn’t flow like Guardians of the Galaxy. Big Hero 6 is clunky and grammatically weird. They definitely could have used at least a bit of justification.
I have heard a lot of people respond to my criticism with “It’s a kid’s movie. What do you expect?” but I don’t think I’m asking for too much here. After Frozen and Wreck it Ralph and hell even Bolt, Disney has shown that they know how to tell a story that is bright, fun, and entertaining but also smart and thought provoking. It is tough to not compare everything to some of the Pixar classics. On the surface, Big Hero 6 has a lot in common with The Incredibles but once you go a bit deeper you see a lot of differences. The Incredibles was a movie that used the superhero genre to tell a story about a family on the rocks who was forced to learn about each other what it takes to be a family. Big Hero 6 uses the superhero genre to tell a story about a superhero.
Matthew Nando Kelly is a staff writer for Pop-Break. Aside from movie reviews, he also writes about television, music, and video games. Matthew also has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he discusses pop culture related brackets with fellow Pop-Break writer DJ Chapman. He loves U2, cats, and the New Orleans Saints. He can also occasionally be found writing lists on Topless Robot and his twitter handle is @NationofNando