Within fandom there have always been rivalries, whether real or fictional, for fans to argue about. Though they are owned by the same parent company, the films of Disney Animation and Pixar Studios have always been compared and contrasted. Throughout the beginning of the last decade, it was clear, Pixar had arrived on the scene with a band (1999’s Toy Story) and they were here to star. Year after year Pixar would release an instant classic. I do not say that lightly, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up and (of course) Toy Story 3. Meanwhile, the house the Mouse built was not turning out as stellar of product.
While the films weren’t necessarily bad, blandness was present throughout their efforts. Films like Brother Bear, Meet the Robinsons and Home on the Range were a fun time at the movies, but nowhere near as endearing as Disney’s past or Pixar’s present. Though the 2000’s saw Pixar dominate the animated market, I believe we’ve seen a shift in the marketplace over the past 5 years. Disney has released 5 wonderful films in a row (The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen) and Pixar has seen a definite decrees in quality in the form of Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University.
Again, this “competition” is mainly in the eyes of the fans, the bottom line is that every year Disney was making quality product from both it’s animation arms and it was making a ton of cash. Still, as a fan, it was great seeing Disney Animation come back from a slump. After last year’s Frozen, everybody was looking to Disney to see what is next and to see if they could continue their hot streak. While Big Hero 6 doesn’t reach the heights of Frozen or Wreck-It Ralph (a film that could easily become one of my all-time favorites), it is a visually stunning experience that showcases the awesome power of science while also being extremely fun.
Though the marketing of the film has mentioned nothing, Big Hero 6 is in fact an adaptation of a Marvel comic book. No one would consider this a Marvel movie per say though, the comic book is extremely obscure and more just provides a super-hero template for Disney to work their magic on. The film follows the journey of Hiro Hamada, a 14-year old genius who starts out gambling in illegal robot fights but is convinced (by his older brother Tedashi) to use his genius for something more productive.
It is in this plot-development that we meet Tedashi’s friends (who will make up the super-hero team) and the “nerd school” they all attend. The film should be commended for making science/learning very attractive for younger audiences. All the “super-heroes” gain their abilities via their diligence to studying and developing different forms of technology. I think its great that the team is diverse (both racially and with both genders represented) and that higher education is shown in a very positive light.
After tragedy strikes, Hiro starts his hero’s journey along side his robot-companion, Baymax. Here is where the movie both shines and shows its mediocre parts. First, the good. Baymax is pretty much perfect. He is lovable, informative, hilarious and can be a force to be reckoned with. If Frozen was “a girl movie,” then Big Hero 6 is for the boys and every boy (heck, even me) is going to want their very own Baymax at their side. Baymax is created to be a healthcare robot, but with training/rewiring is used to be a fighting machine. Though he is designed to help humans, because of his goofy nature his attempts to help make for some great moments of physical comedy.
Baymax shines throughout the film and elevates the material where other characters are lacking. The other members of the team are boiled down to pretty much one characteristic and are given one super power. This is why Hiro and Baymax’s relationship is so important. They need to bring the emotional connection to the audience, or else all the beautiful imagery and creative action scenes are for nothing. Their relationship is pretty successful at bringing some emotion, but not enough for my taste.
Here is where I start having some problems with the film. Because Baymax and Hiro together is so great, a flaw of the film is revealed when the movie spends more time with other characters while we as the audience are hungry for more Baymax/Hiro development. This is a flaw seen throughout the film, I think it moves too fast and as a result I wasn’t able to connect with the emotional element it was going for. The plot requires the bad guy to use a technology created by Hiro, a super hero team to form and train and grow, Hiro has to deal with a major-life tragedy and there is the core relationship of Hiro and Baymax to explore. I think the film is a little too stuffed, though the pace is very fast that may not be to the benefit of the film.
There are some slow moments in the film. You can see glimpses of them in the trailer. The scenes where Baymax clumsily walks around and has a goofy conversation with Hiro are wonderful and full of heart. Sadly the movie doesn’t feature enough of these, and usually a nice tender moment is immediately followed by plot progression where the super hero team is inexplicably thrust into the action of plot. In this case, plot is used in a negative way; the story could use more character building in lieu of all the scientific exposition and bland good-vs. -evil conflict.
Yes the visuals were amazing, a lot of the humor works and I still think the relationship between Hiro and Baymax is wonderful, but I can’t help but feel disappointed after seeing Big Hero 6. Maybe I set my expectations too high, that is definitely a possibility. But as I discussed earlier, Disney Animation is back and it is ok to be expecting greatness from them. For some the following statement is a compliment, Big Hero 6 is a feature film version of your favorite Saturday morning cartoon. There is a spunky protagonist, a goofy sidekick, various supporting characters, a bad guy, and there is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, animated movies of recent memory (i.e. Wreck-It Ralph, How to Train Your Dragon, The Lego Movie) have shown us that we can have fun and an emotional experience as well when watching these types of movies. Sadly, Big Hero 6 brings the fun but is lacking the emotional depth, and maybe that’s ok. Big Hero 6 is another good entry in Disney’s return to form, but it may be better suited for a Saturday morning viewing with the kids instead of a Thursday afternoon viewing with the critics.
You HAVE to see the short film before Big Hero 6. It is entitled Feast, it features a dog…eating all assortment of food…and through his eating the entire emotional depths of humanity are explored. Feast easily would get an A+ and I will riot if the Oscars do not give it Best Animated Short.
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