Folks, before I begin, I want to clarify that I saw Frozen last year. It was an innocent musical about a magical princess and her dopey sister with lots of lovey-dovey moments and cheesy side-characters. Because of that, the story was easy to ignore but the film was not easy to watch. But, for some strange otherworldly reason, it accumulated $1.3 billion in the box office and was ranked one of the best Disney films since their renaissance era back in the ‘80s (think Aladdin and The Little Mermaid). All I have to ask is, why? Has Disney stumbled into the same juvenile demographic as Adventure Time? Will Disney ever return to making real movies?
Today, all of these questions will be answered ‘YES’. Big Hero 6 was sooo much better than Frozen.
Big Hero 6’s concept is so…new. I mean, when Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment back in 2009, I thought it was the end of their originality. Think of all the crappy Justice League sequels they could have spawned. Imagine if they centered an entire two-and-a-half hour flick on Howard the…never mind. It was refreshing to see that rather than keeping things strictly American like past 3D-animated films, the Disney team took heavy inspiration from modern Japan (ironically, the forefront of animation prowess). The characters are lovable, the design is fantastic, and the story is so exciting and full of twists and turns I could barely sit still in my seat. Already, Disney has taken a massive step in the right direction with this film. Let’s take a closer look at the savior of Disney’s family audience, Big Hero 6.
Meet Hiro Hamada: a young, spontaneous robotics prodigy who spends his time participating in back alley robot fights like some sort of Pokémon trainer. His equally gifted older brother, Tadashi, is the classic ‘perfect-older-sibling’ who constantly tries to lead Hiro on the right track by getting him into a prestigious robotics university. Due to an accident at a science expo, Tadashi is killed and all Hiro has left of him is his inflatable healthcare companion Baymax. Determined to find whoever is responsible for Tadashi’s death, Hiro equips Baymax – and later, his five friends – with high-tech armor and sets off on an action-packed adventure that reveals more than Hiro could have known.
The best part about how the film was written is that it isn’t scared to step over the line that Disney clearly draws in several films. There are jokes about body hair and spooning in this film. Somebody actually dies on-screen. That’s much better than the ‘fake-deaths’ and ‘almost-mature’ jokes Disney used to do, in my opinion. Also, it’s a superhero movie, something Disney knew how to write already as proven by The Incredibles. The root of the main character’s internal struggle is crystal clear and the journey he takes is equally satisfying. The side-characters don’t feel like cardboard cutouts of real personalities, they are real personalities.
The only problem I have with the story is the villain and his motive.
After the death of Tadashi, Hiro inadvertently finds a warehouse full of his unique microbots which he used to be accepted into the university. Then, the microbots come to life and are revealed to be controlled by a cloaked man with a kabuki mask. Throughout the film, this masked man acts as the villain, using Hiro’s microbots for evil.
It’s revealed that the masked desperado is Professor Robert Callaghan, Tadashi’s teacher at the university and the sole survivor of the accident at the expo. Throughout the film, it is hinted that Callaghan’s business rival Alistair Krei might be the man behind the mask, since he wanted to purchase Hiro’s microbots at the expo but was turned down; in essence, this is much more logical. However, Krei was apparently performing teleportation experiments using Callaghan’s daughter as a tester and the experiment went horribly wrong, stranding her in hyperspace. Remembering that Hiro’s microbots saved him during the accident, Callaghan used them to create an alter ego and exact revenge.
This seems a tad rushed for a backstory, if it even counts as a backstory. How did Callaghan leave after the accident happened without being seen? Why would any super-genius with a kind heart dress up in dark clothing and use one of their projected student’s untested experiments to take revenge on a self-centered business rival that obviously can’t do anything about the problem? It sounds like Disney was just trying to shove the surprise twist into the plot too hard, and while the rest of the plot redeems this setback, it still struck a bad chord in my mind.
The design is phenomenal as usual. As stated before, Disney surprisingly took inspiration from modern-day Japan to create San Fransokyo, a portmanteau and futuristic hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo. When Hiro and Baymax fly around the city, you really get to experience the level of detail and color San Fransokyo was made with. All of the buildings look real, the typography on the billboards looks real, the cars and people look real…everything looks like a real city. The characters also have a level of accurate detail to them as well, swapping alien-like beings for people that almost look like human actors. The names of the characters are also Japanese-based if you haven’t noticed; Baymax might be the exception, but only because he’s the character everyone comes to watch. Overall, Big Hero 6 did a good job of keeping me enveloped in its world.
Disney has gotten more and more formulaic the more they direct. They have now made around twenty princess movies and three sequels to Planes. However, Big Hero 6 proved to me that there are still innovative people at Disney who strive to provide quality entertainment for all ages and genders. Big Hero 6 is definitely a must-watch.
8.8 out of 10 –––––––– Unbelievable