Big Hero Six: (USA: 2014): Animation for the boys

Big Hero Six is Disney’s latest foray into the boys’ animation film market. If it can be compared to any recent release, it reminded me of How to Train Your Dragon. Like that movie, the adolescent hero of the story, Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter), must overcome grief, parental loss and thrusts himself into adulthood quickly to save his city. The emotional weight of the story is carried by his feelings for his lost older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), who dies in a fire trying to save his professor. Whether his memory will inspire Hiro to be one of the good guys, or his loss will turn him towards vengeance is the major conflict of the movie, which has far too few conflicts to sustain it for a full 90 minutes.

When the movie opens, Hiro is a wild boy. Obviously gifted in robotics, he decides to use his talent as a hustler in the Bot War underground of San Fransokyo, the hybrid city setting of the movie. (It has both high speed rail AND cable cars!). After barely escaping his latest bought (no one likes to be hustled), his brother takes him under his wing and introduces him to a nerd lab at the local institute of technology. Hiro has found his calling and the first 1/3 of the film deals with him attempting to invent a new type of robot to gain entry into the elite school. Unfortunately, after winning the competition, his invention is destroyed in the same fire that kills his brother.

Enter Baymax, Tadashi’s last invention. The Baymax is a health care robot, purposely designed to appear inoffensive as it scans and probes its charge for whatever ails him or her, emotionally or physically. The interactions between Baymax and Hiro are probably the highlight of the film. Throughout the film, Hiro takes Tadashi’s robot places where he wasn’t designed to go, weaponizing him to suit his own desire to catch the super criminal he thinks caused his brother’s death. If this were a different kind of drama, Baymax would probably be have a psychological conflict about being forced to do things against his nature, but Baymax is too nice a servant and as a Robot he’s been programmed to care unconditionally and provide advice, not push back.

The final segment marks the rise of the Big Hero Six – Hiro, Baymax and four of Tadashi’s friends at the technology institute who have banded together to watch over Hiro. Despite their roots as a Marvel comic book  super hero team and their collective name is in the title, the team origin story is probably the least dramatic one in films in recent memory. There really isn’t any conflict between members. They are all nice and competent people – perhaps not yet competent using their powers in tandem – but nothing arises which would make them disband. While each member has a few quirks, but outside of Baymax and Hiro, they are all the same kind of science nerd. It wasn’t until the end of the movie that I realized their connection of the group on screen to the title.

I liked the movie and enjoyed the Baymax concept for awhile. He is two parts Wall-E and three parts Sven from Frozen. But the film sags for lack of drama and obstacles. There will probably be a sequel someday, but there really isn’t anything left open at the end for the team to discover about themselves. I won’t be disappointed if there isn’t one.

**1/2 of Five

IMDB: Big Hero Six

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