Big Hero 6 is the latest animated feature from Disney and the first to take advantage of their Marvel acquisition. Not having any familiarity with the comic book series on which it’s based but intrigued by an amusing trailer it was an easy selection to make when faced with the offerings of the local cinema having bundled the family into the car and headed down there on a Sunday morning.
Big Hero 6 – He’s the big balloon robot thing, right?
No, but I can see why you’d think that from the trailer and marketing material. The big balloon robot thing is Baymax, but I’ll come back to him momentarily. The story focuses on Hiro, a teenage robotics genius who is persuaded by older brother Tadashi to give up illegal ‘bot fights and join him at university. To qualify Hiro must in effect win the annual science fair which he does courtesy of his Microbots invention, in the process attracting the attention of Alistair Krei, CEO of Krei Tech Industries. Encouraged by Professor Callaghan, the university’s head of robotics to resist the temptation of Krei’s money Hiro accepts a place at the university and they head out to celebrate.
That’s nice, if a little anticlimactic.
That’s because we’re just getting started. As they are leaving a fire rages in the exhibition hall and Hiro watches as Tadashi is engulfed in flames and smoke until an explosion puts paid to any hope of him re-emerging. In his grief Hiro becomes reclusive until he hurts himself and inadvertently triggers Baymax, an inflatable robotic healthcare companion created by Tadashi who sets about attempting to heal Hiro physically and mentally. In the process the pair discover the fire may not have been an accident and are confronted by a masked man who appears to be mass producing Microbots. Tadashi’s fellow students, concerned for Hiro’s well being seek him out and get caught up in the ensuing encounter so team up to unmasked their assailant.
So it’s a revenge tail.
Not entirely, that wouldn’t be very Disney. At least not without some form of redemption. While Hiro is motivated by revenge the tail touches all the usual bases of internal conflict, doing the right thing, finding the hero inside and being true to yourself. Along the way it has some great action, some comedy and I even found myself shedding a tear, but then I am a bit wet. It looks spectacular and the city of San Fransokyo is beautifully realised.
I’m sorry? San Fran where now?
Ah, yes. You may have noticed there’s an eastern flavour to the marketing material for Big Hero 6 and going in I certainly expected a Japanese setting. Geographically however events take place in San Francisco and throughout the film we see familiar landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz only repurposed in a parallel universe where presumably it was the Japanese who colonised the land mass rather than Europeans. Though why they’d then go with English as their primary language starts us down a wormhole probably best avoided. It’s an interesting hybrid of cultures visually, even if the Japanese influence does seem superficially that.
But is it any good?
Yes. It has all the elements required for an entertaining time and at just over an hour and a half it doesn’t outstay its welcome even if it does push the limits of infant bladder control. It does however lack a degree of depth in that it is not as layered as I have come to expect from family movies. There is little by way of nuanced appeal for older viewers and the post cinema conversation suggested it was much the same experience for all viewers, which while not necessarily a bad thing means that while it was fun I don’t anticipate it will be appearing on my home screen as frequently as the likes of The Incredibles, Frozen or Kung Fu Panda.
The family ticket (2 adults 2 children) was co-financed by the reviewer and his daughter using a voucher she was awarded at her primary school at the end of the previous academic year. The details as to how the school acquired the voucher and others like it are unknown to the reviewer or those in attendance with him. The kids’ popcorn (small) was free as part of the family ticket.