A colorful and inventive loose adaptation of one of Marvel’s lesser-known properties, Big Hero 6 is an animated film completely unrelated to the rest of the live-action Marvel movies currently out there, save for the fact that it has a Stan Lee cameo (stay through the credits). It’s a superhero film, sure, and it brings with it a bunch of established tropes and expectations, but it’s also a Disney animated film, which means we’re getting a more family-friendly tone and a very marketable character — this one is Baymax, a squishy inflatable robot who looks like the Michelin Man.
The story follows Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a 14-year-old genius who uses his gifts to battle robots illegally, instead of contributing to the scientific community. Our film is set in the future, in the fictional San Fransokyo, where robots are commonplace. His brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), convinces him to apply to the university, but after a fair — during which applicants must display something they invented — a fire takes place that kills Tadashi and Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell).
The only thing that remains of Tadashi is a robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit), who is programmed to nurse and heal anyone’s physical or psychological state. That’s its goal in life. It’s big, inflatable, and absolutely adorable. This is a character who will end up on a ton of Christmas lists this year. After a convoluted series of events, Hiro learns that the tech he invented for the fair was stolen — he thought it was all destroyed — and suspects that the fire was deliberately started. Now it’s up to him and Baymax — along with some fellow students who were Tadashi’s friends — to apprehend the suspect, who wears a Kabuki mask, because why not?
Eventually, these individuals all team up to become the titular Big Hero 6, at which point they use their scientific knowledge to design costumes and become superheroes, and head off to stop the bad guy. The cast is varied and diverse, and features great voice work from the likes of Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., Génesis Rodríguez, and T.J. Miller. They all seem to be having fun with the voice work, and their characters are fleshed-out about as well as you could expect. You can tell them all apart, at least.
The action in Big Hero 6 is inventive, colorful, and frequently exciting. You expect a Disney animated movie to be well-animated, but Big Hero 6 is done incredibly well. Not just in the action scenes, but in each moment from start to finish. The city is alive with so much detail that it feels real. And while Baymax initially looks like he would break the animation mold — he acts, moves, and interacts with the environment like nobody else — he winds up standing out from the crowd — in a good way.
Big Hero 6 is quite funny, too, with enough jokes for both the younger children and the adults who bring them to the cinema. A couple of lines or situations made me wonder how Disney even approved them. A low-battery Baymax acts much like an adult who has had a few too many, for example. But the film knows when to tone down the jokes and take in the more somber, affecting moments. While Big Hero 6 isn’t likely to make you cry, it does make you feel for its characters in a way you likely won’t expect going in.
As a matter of fact, Big Hero 6 is more effective at navigating the entire emotional spectrum than the vast majority of the live-action superhero movies that have been released. You’re going to feel more during it than, say, the latest Thor. That’s pretty impressive, especially given how it’s ostensibly a kids’ movie, and based on a property that hardly anyone knows about — and is a very, very loose adaptation at that. It speaks to the talent of the people involved in making it.
Big Hero 6 is a success on most levels. It works as an emotional roller coaster, a visceral thrill ride, a wonderful comedy, and contains some stunning animation. You want more from it after it ends. It takes a bit too long to get going — I would have liked some of that time allocated to longer superhero sections — and it’s occasionally cheesy, but these don’t really hinder it. You’ll want to give it, and its most marketable character, Baymax, a hug after all’s said and done.