Disney’s first venture into the Marvel world is poignant and hilarious, with “Big Hero 6,” in theaters Nov. 7. Based on the eponymous Marvel comic, “Big Hero 6” tells the story of teenage genius Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), who must choose whether to use his intellect for money or for discovery. He also must choose between revenge and forgiveness.
It’s a lot to cover in 102 minutes, but “Big Hero 6” pulls it off, albeit with a few bumps and awkward plot developments. “Big Hero 6” wraps up very serious, mature themes — grief, hatred and forgiveness — in the loveable, huggable package of Baymax (Scott Adsit), a “personal healthcare companion” created by Hiro’s brother Tadashi.
The story unfolds in futuristic San Fransokyo, a dazzling amalgamation of San Francisco and Tokyo, complete with a torii-gate-adorned Golden Gate Bridge. Hiro is a back-alley robot fighter, but his life changes after he sees Tadashi’s tech lab at San Fransokyo’s Institute of Technology, where Tadashi’s friends create electromagnetic wheel axles and precision laser cutters. After seeing the lab, Hiro decides to apply to the Institue of Technology, hoping to follow in Tadashi’s footsteps and use his big brains for more meaningful ends.
As his application for the school, Hiro creates “microbots,” tiny robots that can bond together to create virtually anything — a bridge, a car, a weapon. When tragedy strikes and the bots are stolen, Baymax helps Hiro face the masked culprit. Add Tadashi’s colorful array of “nerd friends,” and you’ve got a superhero movie.
Unfortunately, the film is bloated with predictable plot twists and too often takes the easy way out. The villain is at best only a little threatening. In addition, “Big Hero 6” tries to take on too much. For instance, in the penultimate act, there’s a scene wherein Baymax is told to “destroy.” He suddenly becomes Baymax Version 2.0, a.k.a. “Bad Baymax,” and we have a way-too-brief discussion about the uselessness of revenge.
However, the movie more than redeems itself with its snappy dialogue and endearing characters. Hiro is a charming smart aleck whose friendship with Baymax could melt even the hearts of the most cynical moviegoers. There’s also Hiro’s Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph), whose flustered parenting style wins the sympathy of us all. The rest of the film’s characters vary in their talents and bring distinct personalities to the table. Wasabi (Damon Wayons, Jr.) is cautious and precise (he’s the one with the laser cutters). GoGo (Jamie Chung) is tough and no-nonsense, saying little besides the occasional piece of advice, like “Woman up!” At first, Honey Lemon (Génesis Rodriguez) seems like your typical sorority girl, but she rebuts that stereotype by displaying her aptitude for chemistry. Finally, we have Fred (T.J. Miller), a self-described “mascot by day, and by night, also a mascot” who doesn’t know how to make robots, but whose moments of meta-clarity bring to light why “Big Hero 6“ differs from the average superhero movie.
As the team faces trial after trial, Fred makes comments such as “This is our origin story!” and “We’re getting attacked by a real supervillain!” that remind us that this is a superhero story with protagonists who lead surprisingly normal lives. The characters are just college students thrown into the unlikely position of “superheroes,” and their fights against the masked bandit are not only scary, but also exhilarating.
They’re simultaneously adults bearing a responsibility to fight evil, and kids experiencing the coolest thing that has ever happened to them. Baymax, with his balloon-like shape and passive nature, stands in blatant contrast to the sleek, sexy Iron Mans and Transformers of the superhero film genre. When Hiro tries to fit him into a suit, Baymax says, “This may undermine my non-threatening, huggable design.” Unlike most superheroes, his goal is not to conquer, but to heal. He’s the star of the movie, and my near-constant sobbing over his cuteness probably distracted me from making any more sophisticated observations about the film.
Reminiscent of a children’s movie like “Air Bud” or “My Dog Skip,” this film is tragic at points and ridiculously adorable throughout. In fact, this entire review could have been one large, 72-point-font “SO CUTE,” and that probably would have captured the essence of the “Big Hero 6” more succinctly.
Hiro and Tadashi’s brotherhood and friendship represent the centerpiece of the film, despite the fact that they have relatively few minutes on screen together. Tadashi’s compassion and love for others eventually become Hiro’s. From the start, we often see Baymax saying, “Tadashi is here,” while touching his heart. It seems like a tired cliché, but when Baymax says it, the phrase takes on a whole new meaning.
“Big Hero 6” is about loss, but the film doesn’t let itself dwell within sadness. Instead, it manages to build something to smile about, and I left the theater feeling warm inside. I’ll admit, the movie does juggle a few too many moral dilemmas, but at the heart of it is a story about learning how to move on. And even if we don’t all have huggable healthcare companions, the Baymax on the screen may be just enough.