Well, as Marvel closes in on a decade of a spectacularly successful cinematic universe, it’s tempting to look back on all eighteen movies…
(Eighteen?! Seriously?! That many? And how many movies have they done for the DCEU?…BWA HA HA HA HA…hoo…where was I? Oh, right. The good superhero movies.)
Eighteen movies, with Infinity War right around the corner. Their astounding successes are nothing short of impressive.
Of course, there haven’t not been hiccups. They worked their way though a partnership with Sony to co-produce Spider-Man movies. The 21st Century Fox purchase is pending approval from anti-trust laws. Even though Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland will never see the Avengers, they can still pop up in California, France, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.
But for a while, things seemed discouraging because they didn’t have the rights to their biggest-name characters. But just because they didn’t have the rights to Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man, Dr. Doom, Hulk, Daredevil, and others, they had to compensate. Fortunately, not only have they been able to work things out with the other studios, but they had such a massive catalogue of characters that they could make just about any of their heroes into stars of the big screen. Strange as it may seem, but there was a time when Guardians of the Galaxy was considered too bizarre and obscure to be a relevant title. But a gun-toting raccoon and a monosyllabic tree was A-List material compared to Big Hero 6.
Premiering in 1998, Big Hero 6 was a bizarre comic that really took to Japanese culture and embraced its weird nature. Unlike the other Marvel films, this one was picked by Walt Disney Animation Studios, specifically by director Don Hall for pure obscurity, allowing for creative freedom. It had the distinct honor of following after the mega-ton hit that was Frozen in 2013, and while a tough act to follow, held its own as a unique film that didn’t have to be either Marvel or Disney. And it succeeded, with an 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and banking over $650 million at the box office. Does it hold up?
Arm your awesome automaton and all honorary alliances! Let’s blow it up! Ba-la-la-la-la!
The plot: In the city of San Fransokyo, Hiro Hamada is a Tony Stark-grade genius at the age of fourteen, engaging in illegal underground bot fights. His big brother, Tadashi, who’s also a genius, wants him to apply his intellect constructively and coaxes Hiro to enter a science fair to win a scholarship to the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. With the creation of micro bots, Hiro wins, but his success is short-lived when Tadashi loses his life in a fire.
Heartsick, Hiro becomes a shut-in and accidentally activates his brother’s crowning achievement: a nurse-bot named Baymax, who latches onto Hiro and soon discovers that the fire was not an accident. A kabuki-mask-wearing entity has stolen and mass-produced Hiro’s micro bots, so the revenge-driven Hiro teaches Baymax martial arts.
It goes poorly, but Hiro gets the attention of Tadashi’s friends, Gogo, Honey Lemon, Wasabi, and Fred, and with all their talents combined, become a superhero team to find out what really happened in that fire, and who this mysterious Yokai is.
How’s the writing? For the most part, it’s pretty solid. It has legitimate mystery to it and lends itself to some very dramatic and somber moments. There are times when it feels like a superhero movie, and it should. The characters feel real, especially Hiro and Tadashi, both of whom feel like brothers. Hiro sounds like a way-too-smart-for-his-own-good teenager, complete with impulses and inability to articulate.
If the film drops the ball anywhere, it has to do with Gogo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred. They’re fun characters with some interesting traits, but they tend to most get stuck as one-dimensional archetypes. Not badly, or even annoyingly, it just feels like the movie isn’t about them, and pushes them off to the side before getting involved in Hiro’s plan halfway through the movie.
Who made it worth it? There’s a lot of great characters to choose from. Tadashi is sweet and caring, but written just well enough to be human, not some angelic interpretation. Hiro is excessively relatable. Honey Lemon is adorable in her ecstasy about chemistry. I love the cheesy but otherwise badass cry of Gogo’s “Woman up!” I was worried Fred was going to be too much the stoner weirdo, but then when he claims he wanted to superpower to hug Hiro through video hit me right in the feels.
But you know what character made it worth it. Baymax was a stroke of genius. With a Shinto Suzu bell-inspired face to a walk akin to a toddler with a full diaper, and of course, his innately calming, monotone voice provided expertly by Scott Adsit (30 Rock’s Pete Hornberger). Baymax is programmed to be caring and caring only, and it shows. He doesn’t even break his programming of wanting to be human, he just is the picture of selflessness.
Does it give the feels? Oh good lord yes. Tadashi is given a great amount of screen time before the fire and his absence is felt strongly. Even Hiro’s reaction afterward feels natural and real.
But that’s small potatoes compared to the relationship between Hiro and Baymax. Baymax knows nothing except to care for Hiro, and he’s Tadashi’s last great project. It doesn’t take much for the movie to keep those emotions going, and it’s beautiful.
Best quality provided: Someone call Ma-Ti of the Planeteers, because this movie has the power of HEART!
The crux of this movie lies in Hiro and his relationship with Baymax. Hiro’s emotions run deep, and they are front and center in the movie. We latch onto Baymax’s endearing design, soft-spoken voice, tempered with innocence and selflessness. At first, Hiro tried to ignore Baymax, but as time passes, he comes to accept help from him and Tadashi’s friends, and eventually he becomes a much more whole person.
What could have been improved: I watched Doug Walker’s “Disneycember” review of the movie, and his biggest issue is that the movie’s just “okay”. He was generally unmoved by the plot and characters, but agreed the dynamic between Baymax and Hiro was the best part. In a way, I kind of agree. At least, when it comes to the rest of the team.
Now, hopefully, in the new TV show, we’ll get to know Gogo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred. And as much as I like them, even I have to admit they feel a bit flat. Fred is funny and has some heart, but he’s like the Shaggy of the group. Wasabi’s wimpy cries can get grating. Gogo is badass, but isn’t given much beyond that. And poor Honey Lemon, my personal favorite because she’s clearly passionate about chemistry, barely gets much screen time. I look forward to see what else they are about in the series.
Verdict: This movie is sweet. For an action superhero movie, it’s pretty good and unique, but it’s less about the costumes, secret identities, or villains than it is about heart and emotional health. You watch The Avengers because you want to see the heroes hit stuff. You watch Jessica Jones because you want to see her try to fix her tormented life. You watch Guardians of the Galaxy because you want to see awesome sci-fi snarkiness. But Big Hero 6? We watch it because it has sweet, heartfelt characters. And that’s good enough for me. Nine micro bots out of ten. Here’s hoping the TV is just as awesome.
Say “ow.” Baymax is here to heal you.