‘Big Hero 6’ Review: The A+ Team
With dozens of superhero movies scheduled to come out between now and 2020, it would be completely understandable if all of us started to get a little fatigued by the genre. After all, how many times can we possibly watch people turn tragedy into victory by putting on snazzy costumes and punching bad guys in the face? Or rather, how many times can we possibly watch the same story play out over and over again with only superficial differences and still find ourselves inspired?
That’s a strain of thought permeating the public consciousness at the moment, but if movies as good as Big Hero 6 are still on the horizon, we have nothing to worry about. Isn’t that grand?
Big Hero 6 stars Ryan Potter (and a squadron of animators) as Hiro, a young super-genius who’d rather win black market robot brawls than go to school. When Hiro’s brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney, et al) introduces him to a super-college for robotics experts, Hiro finally becomes inspired to do something with his life. But no sooner than Hiro auditions with his latest invention – a swarm of telepathically-controlled microbots – does an explosion wreck the school, killing Tadashi in the process.
Devastated, Hiro finds himself in possession of Tadashi’s pet project: an inflatable robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit, et al), programmed for nursing. In an effort to make Hiro feel better, Baymax wanders off into the world and uncovers a conspiracy by a villain calling himself Yokai (Charles Adler, et al) to steal Hiro’s microbots for nefarious reasons. So it’s up to Hiro to upgrade Baymax and turn him into a crimefighter, a process that goes completely against all of Baymax’s programming.
Along the way, Hiro and Baymax are joined by fellow super-scientists Go Go (Jamie Chung), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.) and also Fred (T.J. Miller), who isn’t so much a scientist as he is Pauly Shore. But although they are a colorful cast of characters who make an impression and are bound to sell a lot of toys, this is Hiro and Baymax’s story. Their teammates form more of an emotional support system than anything – none of them has a subplot of their own – and exist to fill out the increasingly grand action sequences that are perhaps best described as “squealingly exciting.”
And that’s a good thing. Big Hero 6 doesn’t try to accomplish too much in a single film, focusing its tale of derring-do on a young boy who tries to escape his understandable anguish. What do you do when someone you love dies? You try to keep busy, you keep your mind on work, and if that work just happens to put you in a position to take out your impotent rage at some point… you probably do that too.
Baymax is the perfect comedic and dramatic foil for Hiro; soft-spoken and slow when Hiro is excitable, absolutely forgiving and understanding of all the protagonist’s emotional lashings. He’s here to help, even when helping might not be what Hiro needs. As funny as it is when Baymax takes minutes to cross a room, even when evil robots are chasing him, it’s equally sad that Hiro latches onto the ultimate enabler even though family and friends are trying to coax him out of his misery organically.
It’s rare to see a hero in a superhero movie dig themselves as deep a hole as Hiro’s, and rarer still to seem them wallow in it, even momentarily. For all the fanciful superhero hijinks Big Hero 6 has to offer, for all the many hilarious jokes and genuinely breathtaking action sequences, what Don Hall and Chris Williams’ film captures best is the heartbreaking-turned-heartwarming emotional journey of its Hiro.
Big Hero 6 is a film that has everything: laughs, gasps, tears, and cheers. And for all its weird specific details, like setting itself in the fictional city of “San Fransokyo,” it’s the film’s ability to be universal that (ironically) makes it truly exceptional in a cinematic landscape increasingly full of films that, superficially, look and sound a lot like it.