On the Silver Screen – Big Hero 6
Disney and Marvel spawn their first animated feature in the form of Big Hero 6. It’s a Marvel Comics property that I knew absolutely nothing about going in so that’s a new one on me. Upon further research it’s clear that the comic is a really obscure one and the adaptation appears to be so loose that it really doesn’t matter. If you want to know about the origins of this idea then I’ve given you a handy link here.
This film is the story of teenage robotics genius Hiro (Ryan Potter) who is forced to grow up after suffering a personal tragedy and decides to go after a villain to seek some form of retribution. While on his quest for revenge he turns himself and his friends into a group of technologically enhanced superheroes who form the titular team.
In terms of story the film doesn’t do anything that can be considered revolutionary. It is entirely reminiscent of pretty much every superhero origin story you’ve ever seen and hits many of the same beats that you’ll be used to. This is no bad thing though as the story is executed really well. It also accomplishes the strong message of encouraging kids to value intelligence and work hard to develop it. I’m all for positive messages for children. Most importantly it doesn’t talk down to its audience and gives them the respect that they deserve.
Hiro is a fun character to watch and Potter does a great job of voicing him. His character arc goes from youthfully arrogant to unproductive mourning to angry and vengeful until eventually arriving at heroic. Again, nothing new here but a fun ride all the same. Hiro is well written enough that it’s easy to root for him throughout the story and his character arc feels organic enough.
The other human members of his team are similarly interesting consisting of Fred (T.J. Miller), Go Go (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez). Each of these characters have varied and distinct personalities. Like Hiro, they are a lot of fun to be around and as an ensemble they are perfectly matched -or mismatched-. T.J. Miller is clearly having a blast as Fred and Jamie Chung manages to give Go Go plenty of life over and above her seemingly typical tomboy persona. I really like that she uses the phrase “Woman Up!” Regardless of the gender of the person she’s speaking to. Genesis Rodriguez gives plenty of depth to Honey Lemon and manages to elevate her above the nerdy girl tropes that might otherwise present themselves. Damon Wayans Jr. does a great job with Wasabi with some great laugh inducing line delivery. I have to applaud this film for not leaning on star power for the voice cast. Most of them are relatively obscure and it helps to identify with the characters since they don’t have instantly recognisable voices.
Scott Adsit’s Baymax is the real star of this show. This huggable medical robot is incredibly well designed and characterised. No attempt is made to suggest that Baymax has a soul or anything like that but he is given just enough personality to allow Hiro -and by proxy the audience- to project humanity onto him. It’s a clever way of making Baymax stand out and be instantly memorable. His design is very unique and clever giving plenty of scope for some great physical comedy. For some reason the sound of something deflating will always be funny. No doubt he will be a bestselling toy soon enough, if he isn’t already.
My biggest criticism of this film is that I just don’t feel like it was long enough. Hiro’s anger and grief being helped by Baymax -who goes along with Hiro’s plan as it’s part of his programming to cater to emotional well-being as well as physical- is identified as the heart of the film which is it but it means that the rest of the characters fill background roles. It’s not due to poor writing at all and only exists as a problem due to the fact that the film doesn’t have the time to fully develop them. Adding another 20 minutes of running time to allow these characters to interact a lot more would have likely fixed the problem as the script is definitely strong enough to benefit from this.
By the time the film reaches the big action climax I felt a little surprised that we were there so soon. There was probably a lot more time that could have been spent on the development of their robot suits and getting used to their particular skills. I’m sure the sequel will get the chance to hit the ground running but it’s a shame that this film was cut so short.
I’m not at all precious about the original comics having not read them so this loose adaptation completely works for me. Given that it seems to have changed so much from page to screen I do wonder why they chose to call this an adaptation at all. It could have been called Robot Warriors or something far less rubbish and been the same film. Clearly they weren’t hoping to coast by on brand recognition since the comic is so obscure. If any of my readers are familiar with the original comic please do get in touch and let me know what you think of this adaptation.
A very entertaining animated superhero team origin story. The story as written is fairly typical but the execution is so good that it doesn’t really matter.
The real strength of the film is in the characters who are all really well fleshed out. Hiro and Baymax form the heart of the film with the others serving mostly as backdrop but they are all distinct and entertaining in their own right. Hiro’s arc is fairly standard but feels organic and he’s an entertaining character to watch. Baymax is undoubtedly the real star of the show and will have kids loving him for years to come.
In general the film suffers from feeling a little too short. Most of the characters are left in the background due to the lack of screen time that is given to them. By the time the film hits the action climax there’s a feeling of it arriving too soon. I think there was plenty of scope to flesh out the development and learning curve associated with their robot suits.