Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Studios, PG)

Big6 75The film feels focus-grouped and producer-noted within an inch of its life.

Big6 500 

Big Hero 6 is the first Disney animated feature since last year’s mega success Frozen, and those who are hoping the company will maintain its winning streak will be disappointed. Not that I expect it to fail (hardly, though I’m sure it won’t do as well as Frozen, either), and not that it’s really that bad, but it does feel focus-grouped and producer-noted within an inch of its life: “Hey, let’s make a movie that combines elements of past successes! How about we blend Up and The Incredibles, and maybe some How to Train Your Dragon? That’s bound to be a hit!”

Also, with Disney going from Wreck-It Ralph in 2012 to Frozen in 2013 to this in 2014, its alternating between gender-targeted films is getting pretty glaring. The premise of Big Hero 6 is a young robotics prodigy, Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter), is inspired to stop illegally betting on bot fights and go back to school by his older robotics prodigy brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney). Tadashi, for his part, is working on a robot named Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit) that is trained to provide first aid for injuries of all sorts. When—spoiler alert—Tadashi dies early on in the film (audiences love animated films where someone dies early! Look at Up and Bambi!), Hiro and Baymax become attached, and, yes, eventually start fighting crime, alongside Tadashi’s group of school friends, collectively making the team Big Hero 6.

About the only good thing about Big Hero 6 is Baymax: He’s a sweet, fun character, and his Michelin Man appearance is animated very well. Really, the whole film is animated well, but Baymax is the only one who has a halfway appealing character design. One gets the impression that the characters and names of Hiro, Tadashi, and the setting of “San Fransokyo” is a halfhearted attempt to tap into the ever-growing anime market; nothing about this film feels terribly rooted in Japanese culture, apart from the names. (The movie is based on a Marvel comic, but based on what I’ve read, it isn’t very similar to its source material, and there’s no Marvel logo at the start of this film.) 

There are other weird, hard-to-justify references like this in the film, too. For example, the college campus Tadashi attends bears more similarities to the public conception of Apple’s headquarters than it does to any real college campus I’ve ever seen or heard of. Then, there is what appears to be a direct lift of the mockingjay emblem from the Hunger Games movies. Pretty much anything Disney can take from prior pop culture successes and slap it onto this film it did so, hoping to get more people in the door.

The end effect is that Big Hero 6 feels like something DreamWorks might have made right after The Incredibles hit. It’s serviceable to a certain extent, but is forgettable with no new ideas, and thus hard to justify from any real artistic standpoint. Just because it’s derivative doesn’t automatically make it bad, but it does make me not care. | Pete Timmermann

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply