Wednesday, November 12, 2014

'Big Hero 6' review

Disney Animation has been on a roll lately, churning out hits like Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph before producing one massive, game-changing blockbuster in Frozen. Disney is now the premiere animation studio in Hollywood once again, and it looks like they have another hit on their hands with Big Hero 6. Quality-wise, Big Hero 6 is a slight step back for the studio. It's a fun film and it's a film that's easy to love, but it's predictable and flawed. The relationship between the central characters is strong, yet I expected to love it much more than I did. Disney will undoubtedly get a franchise out of Big Hero 6 and I can only hope that they realize the strengths (emotion) and weaknesses (story) of this film.

Hiro (Ryan Potter) is a budding young scientist with a lot of potential, who really only wants to do robot fighting. However, when his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), brings him to the glorious and incredible "Nerd School", Hiro immediately finds a new passion in life. But after a terrible tragedy and the emergence of a new supervillain in town, Hiro must team up with four other scientist friends (TJ Miller, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez and Jamie Chung) to save the world. Hiro's strongest bond ends up being with the cuddly and cute robot Baymax (Scott Adsit) who helps him overcome tragedies and learn to let go.

Big Hero 6 is an endlessly cute film, with a lot of surprisingly mature themes and fun action. So I've had trouble trying to figure out why I felt let down by this movie. Maybe it was the lackluster and tedious first act. Maybe it was the forgettable supporting characters. Maybe it was the predictable plot and even more obvious twist. In the end, I think it was a combination of all of those things. However, despite the movie's shortcomings, Big Hero 6 is enjoyable thanks to emotion injected into every scene and the awesomeness that is Baymax. He's one of my favorite movie characters of the last few years. Big Hero 6 will entertain kids with its Marvel-esque action and funny characters and will probably be enjoyable for adults as well thanks to the relationships. It might be contrived and predictable, but it overcomes that by being a film injected with sadness, passion and joy.

Big Hero 6 starts off well, with an exciting and hilarious robot fight between Hiro and a fat Japanese gangster. Despite that quick start, Big Hero 6 quickly falls off. The first act of this film is surprisingly bland and laborious, dwelling on the "fun" science aspects and the less interesting supporting characters. Hiro's relationship with Tadashi is strong, but Tadashi isn't exactly the most interesting person in the world. All of the supporting superheros are also introduced during this time period and none of them are particularly entertaining, funny or compelling. I definitely liked TJ Miller's Fred the most, but Go-Go, Honey Lemon and Wasabi are kind of uninteresting, one note characters.

The movie comes alive with the arrival of Baymax, the appealing and adorable robot character. Baymax is a weird mix of the Iron Giant and Mary Poppins. He was designed by Tadashi as a healer and was made for the sole purpose of helping others. That is an interesting story device because Hiro is trying to overcome the pain of losing someone close to him (even though it's revealed in the trailers, I won't spoil it here). Baymax helps him to let go and it makes for the sharpest emotional point of the movie.

The animation is also breathtaking and shockingly realistic, undoubtedly some of the best work that Disney has ever done. Every single detail on the characters is fantastic and perfectly articulated. Setting the film in the fictional world of San Fransokyo was a stroke of genius from the filmmakers, allowing them to do a lot of cool stuff with the animation. The action is perfectly constructed as well, although as someone who has experienced countless Marvel extravaganzas, this was really nothing.

The story is another trouble spot for the film, because it is so egregiously predictable. I typically am not bothered by predictability in films, but in Big Hero 6, it was extremely obvious. I give the film credit for throwing a twist in there, yet I figured that out as soon as they began hinting at it. Disney's typically innovative storytelling is truly not present in this film.

The action in the third act will probably appeal to people of all ages, but I think it will be the biggest hit with children who haven't seen the big-scale superhero blockbusters of the past few years. Kids who have already experienced films like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy will likely still enjoy this. Just not as much as those who haven't seen those movies yet. The final act is an appropriate mix of big-scale Marvel action (not surprising since Big Hero 6 was based off a Marvel comic) and down-to-Earth human emotion. It's a fantastic conclusion to an imperfect film.

In the end, Big Hero 6 gets by thanks to its raw and surprising human emotion. Even though it's packed with so-so action and poor storytelling, Big Hero 6 is a film that everyone can relate to thanks to the love and care taken by the filmmakers to craft an affecting film. Days later, I'm still thinking about the film's emotions and I realize now that this is a much deeper film than I initially thought. It's a light achievement, but any film that can find a way to my heart is a film worth watching.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                              (7.2/10)

Image Credits: Hitfix, Yahoo, Screen Rant, Cartoon Brew, Disney Wikia

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