Sunday, November 23, 2014
BIG HERO 6 Delivers Big Action, Big Heart, Big Fun
BIG HERO 6 Review:
- Disney's animation studio is on a creative roll of late, and the streak continues with BIG HERO 6. It might just be the studio's best CG-animated film yet - a visually-stunning, action packed superhero story that also packs an emotional punch. The movie is just flat-out fun. It one-ups The Incredibles in terms of paying homage to classic superhero and sci-fi tropes, and it delivers a story rich with positive messages that also never lacks for kick-ass action. The film is bound to be a favorite for kids and adults alike.
The key to BIG HERO 6's endearing nature has got to be lovable robot Baymax. Voiced by Scott Adsit of 30 Rock fame, Baymax is a balloon-like medical 'bot that is the lasting legacy of the late older brother of the movie's protagonist, Hiro. Hiro's college-student brother Tadashi created Baymax to help people in need. But after Tadashi is tragically killed, budding robo-expert Hiro attempts to re-purpose Baymax into an anime-esque android superhero. Hiro's motivation is to find the mysterious masked villain who he believes stole his special nanobot tech and may have used it to kill his brother. Joining Hiro on his crusade are Tadashi's science-lab pals: badass bruiser Go Go, geeky genius Honey Lemon, steadfast and strong Wasabi, and goofy fanboy Fred. The friends join hero to form a makeshift superhero team, and they use their science-smarts to create all sorts of cool gadgets, armor, and weapons to aid them in their quest.
All of the characters in the movie are a blast. But the real star of the film is the relationship between Hiro and Baymax. In some ways, it's typical boy-and-his-dog (er, robot) stuff - familiar ground if you've seen the likes of E.T., The Iron Giant, How To Train Your Dragon, etc. But it's all done so well here, and Baymax is such a cool character design - that it feels fresh. In fact, the movie uses Baymax to examine some pretty interesting issues about superheroes, violence, and vengeance. There's a legitimately unnerving sequence in the film in which Hiro reprograms Baymax to ignore his medical-aide protocol and simply be an unfeeling warrior with a single-minded mandate to wreak havoc. Seeing the lovable Baymax suddenly go God of War on some baddies is genuinely disturbing, and it serves as a smartly-handled commentary on superhero fiction. In an age in which so many big-screen heroes think fists-firsts, collateral-damage second, it's fascinating and admirable to see a movie like this that makes it seem tragic when a robot designed to heal gets reprogrammed to destroy. We tend to glamorize weapons and violence, so to see that trope turned on its head is pretty interesting.
For an animated superhero action film, BIG HERO 6 has a lot on its mind. The movie deals with death and loss in a poignant, affecting manner. Tadashi's death kickstarts the film's plot, sure, but it's also really sad and somewhat shocking in its bluntness. The movie, in general, just has a raw, emotional honesty that is rare to see in a kid-oriented film. But the way it deals with a very tough, very difficult topic of coping with a family member's death is skillfully handled and ultimately quite cathartic. The film is also relentlessly pro-science. Hiro is a science-whiz, and so are all of his friends and teammates. While yes, this is a superhero fantasy, the movie isn't afraid to let its characters talk in geek-speak and use real scientific and computing principles in its script. The movie is damn smart, and it takes pride in the fact that its characters are too. The scientists in this movie are smart and geeky, but they're also funny, cool, and badass. This is the kind of film that will legitimately get kids interested in science and robotics.
This is also a film that's downright overflowing with geeky awesomeness. Fred, voiced by T.J. Miller, acts as the fanboy surrogate here, and his enthusiasm for all the cool stuff that happens in the movie was echoed by me. Whether it's Baymax's robotic rocket-fist, Hiro's deceptively-meek robot fighting-'bot, or what might just be Stan Lee's greatest Marvel/Disney cameo yet ... BIG HERO 6 knows all the right nerd-buttons to push. And I'll say again: the movie's visuals really are gorgeous. The level of detail in the animation is obscenely high, and there are some beautifully-framed sequences in the film - both in terms of some epically huge action set-pieces and quieter moments that can be funny, sad, reflective, and picturesque. The voice work in the film is also universally excellent - though again, I have to give the biggest props to Adsit as Baymax - as he somehow makes a monotone robot one of the year's most lovable and memorable cinematic creations.
My only real complaint with the film is that the late-game reveals feel a bit rushed, with some of the twists - in particular the revelation of the masked villain's true identity - feeling slightly contrived. Ultimately though, the heart and soul of the movie is the Hiro-Baymax relationship, so the third-act story beats are, in some ways, secondary considerations. Still, would have been nice if the plot twists felt a bit more organically set-up and less forced.
That said, BIG HERO 6 is serious fun and surprisingly resonant on an emotional level. Baymax is the best animated robot since Wall-E, and the rest of the movie's main characters are some of the most refreshingly diverse and likable heroes we've yet seen in a modern Disney animated film. This is a movie that just plain delivers on its potential - so jam-packed with science-is-awesome coolness, giant-sized superhero adventure, humor, and heart that it feels like the complete and total package. BIG HERO 6 is a heroic effort indeed from Disney.
My Grade: A-