Movie Review | Big Hero 6
Movie summary: The special bond develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada. They team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes. (IMDb)
Big Hero 6 is one of the most gorgeous animated movies I've ever seen, with some of the best lighting in any superhero movie - live-action or animated - really making it a visual treat to enjoy. The mixed Japanese-American setting of San Fransokyo certainly helps, along with some cool character designs, but this movie would've looked good even if it had been a basic drama or comedy.
Not that how the movie looks is the only thing to praise this movie for, but those character designs are certainly worth more appreciation than a simple mention, with each one of the main group having a distinctive look and colour scheme that makes them easy to pick out and just as easy to recognise at a glance or even in silhouette - pretty good hallmarks of excellent design.
While San Fransokyo does look cool, Big Hero 6 never really plays up its setting, which feels like a missed opportunity. The torii-styled Golden Gate Bridge features pretty prominently, but - while I'm sure there's plenty of detail packed into the backgrounds by the animators - it does feel very much like a generic city and is probably the only visual let-down of the entire experience.
Now, looking good is one thing, but marrying it with substance is another and Big Hero 6 more or less pulls it off. Having just watched it a day before writing this, there isn't a single character who I would consider annoying or out of place. Considering the number of characters we meet who initially feel like they could turn out irritating, that's quite the achievement.
Admittedly, we don't really get to know most of these characters to any great extent, with the major character arc being Hiro's (Ryan Potter) relationship with his brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), and then Tadashi's creation, Baymax (Scott Adsit). The others are established in very broad strokes, but are at least still distinct enough from each other to not just blend together in the background.
If anything, those characters may have been saved from some of the weaker writing that does undermine the emotional core of Big Hero 6. Just to be clear, it's not bad, but it could've been so much better. There are certain moments which work really well and these are usually subtle little things like a character reacting to seeing a certain object.
In other words, less is more and this movie suffers from not following that advice for Hiro. More than once, it feels like he's just flat-out saying how he feels and what was clearly intended as the big emotional moment of the story goes on just a little too long and feels a little too forced. It does make his personal arc a little unsatisfying, but that's about as harsh a criticism as I can make about this movie.
The central story is pretty good, with a visually-great villain who has a tragic backstory to explain why he takes the actions he does. This isn't to excuse him though, as he goes way too far in his efforts to be entirely sympathetic and even realises that himself. Still, it does make for an intriguing scenario for the finale, with the heroes attempting to help the villain in a way he hadn't though of helping himself.
There's plenty of humour too, whether due to Baymax's difficulty in understanding Hiro's intentions or the rest of the group - Fred (T.J. Miller) in particular - that were never laugh out loud moments for me, but were at least fun enough to keep me smiling pretty much throughout. It's gentle, inoffensive stuff which might put some off, but it's in keeping with the general tone of the movie.
In fact, this gentle tone is what makes the darkest moment, when Baymax is ordered to 'destroy' the main villain, work so well. It's jarring to see such a gentle character effectively transform into a Terminator and actually surpasses Justice League with what feels very much like a Superman vs the team type of battle as they try and stop their friend from going too far.
All in all, Big Hero 6 is pretty damn good and has plenty of moments - visual, character and story - that surpass a lot of live-action superhero movies. I don't think enough is done with the setting, but considering how many characters are introduced and have to be at least roughly defined, it's an achievement in itself that this movie turned out as well as it has.
Big Hero 6 is a really good superhero movie that falls just short of being one of the best by making the emotional moments feel a little too forced to really hit home. Despite that, it's an absolutely gorgeous movie filled with great characters and an enjoyable story making it a surprise challenger for best animated superhero movie to come from Disney.