Disney has some big shoes to fill with their first release after the worldwide phenomenon that was Frozen. Luckily they have just the thing — a large inflatable robot! Big Hero 6 is a superhero team film inspired by Marvel comic characters. The story features Hiro, a young robotics prodigy, and a mechanical nurse named Baymax that Hiro trains to fight. When a tragedy befalls Hiro and his latest invention is stolen, he joins forces with a group of genius teens to figure out what happened — after giving everyone a super-powered upgrade!

bh6-1Big Hero 6 may be one of the slickest productions Disney Animation has ever done. The animation was polished, the designs were wonderful, the characters were engaging, the voice acting was top notch, the music was fitting, the action was intense. This was a very good movie! The only part of the film that came up short for me was the story.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a perfectly fine story. But with just about every other aspect of the film overachieving, the story issues were a little more noticeable.

Despite a twist where it was nice to see a Hollywood film eschewing one of their usual conventions, most of the plot was fairly predictable. In fact, the whole thing hewed closely to the standard superhero team origin story formula (you know the one: the group doesn’t work together and doesn’t take advantage of their individual strengths allowing the villain to easily defeat them before yada-yada-yada…). For younger viewers this probably won’t be an issue, but parents won’t be expecting any major surprises.

There also wasn’t as much emotional pull in the movie as I was expecting, other than between Hiro and his brother at the beginning. For a film about a six person team, there really wasn’t a lot of interaction between them when they weren’t fighting. The big relationship in the film was between Hiro and Baymax, but that took awhile developing. Since Baymax is mostly emotionless, the growth needs to come from Hiro. A nicely done bit of dark storytelling in the middle of the film finally gave us a glimpse of that, but it never got fully explored. The film does have a heart, it just doesn’t let it show through as often as it should.

The story also had a problem with its stakes — why are our protagonists doing what they’re doing and what happens if they fail? The stakes here seemed very low. The Big Hero 6 team members could go home at any time and nothing too terrible would happen to hardly anyone. I’m not suggesting every superhero film needs to have world-shattering consequences. But here there wasn’t much more than a single building at risk without their help.

Lastly, the story was a bit repetitive. A couple of examples, without giving too much away: there were at least three scenes where the heroes take on the same bad guy with no one ever actually coming to any harm (and that doesn’t include the final confrontation); and there were two scenes showing Hiro making armor for Baymax. Occasionally I got the feeling that maybe they were adding some filler to the script to reach a specific running time.

But in all honesty, I’m probably nit-picking a bit too much. The story is fun and exciting. You’re not ever going to be checking your watch. And you’re going to walk out of the theatre happy with the time and money spent. So why so much criticism? Because it could have been an even more amazing film! Maybe even on par with The Incredibles, which was probably one of the best superhero films (animated or live-action) ever made. As it is, though, it still ranks pretty high!

bh6-2Back to the animation. The set designs in Big Hero 6 were spectacular — from the wide vistas of the harbor to the gritty city streets. Not only is this a world you’d want to live in, the world itself actually does look lived in. The character designs were also impressive: each unique and interesting while still working well together. This is one of Disney’s most diverse casts, which works all the better because it doesn’t feel forced. If I had to make a complaint it might be that the world and characters lack the warmth that was present in Frozen. But in fairness that’s probably due to the genre. The animation in a fairy tale probably should be more warm and less polished than that in a superhero action story.

Henry Jackman’s music in Big Hero 6 was never overpowering but always fit perfectly into the scenes, from the melancholy to the intense. But like a lot of great superhero movies, it would have been nice if there was a big memorable theme song.

Voice acting in this film could not have been any better. Scott Adsit and Ryan Potter, as Baymax and Hiro, inhabited their characters as perfectly as voices can. The entire Big Hero 6 team were spot-on as well, with T.J. Miller as Fred giving a particularly fun performance. James Cromwell gave his professorial character a nice gravitas. Alan Tudyk continues his John-Ratzenberger-like streak, and I see no reason he should stop after this role. And Maya Rudolph had a small but memorable part as Hiro’s aunt.

Big Hero 6 is a wonderful movie and yet another winner from Disney, who seems to be back on track after an infusion of leadership from Pixar almost a decade ago. And an infusion of characters from Marvel has been a boon as well – after The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney definitely has their next successful superhero team franchise. Despite some of my probably too heavy criticisms of the story, audiences will be more than satisfied with their film.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

Big Hero 6
November 7, 2014
92 minutes
Rated PG
directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams