Disney Animation Studios’ streak of creatively outperforming its corporate sibling Pixar continues with “Big Hero 6,” a wildly entertaining animated adventure that successfully adapts the Marvel tradition to animation.
Based on a relatively obscure Marvel Comics series, “Big Hero 6″ may be a Disney Animation production, but the film’s influences are clear: It greatly resembles a Pixar film for its first half- including a nonhuman hero who resembles a bigger, cuddlier EVE
– before becoming a Marvel-style superhero team-up movie in its second half. From beginning to end, it’s always fun.
Set in a futuristic hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo called “San Fransokyo,” “Big Hero” starts with brothers Hiro and Tadashi who, like their city, are sort of Japanese and sort of not. Orphaned and raised by their Maya Rudolph-voiced aunt, the boys enjoy playing with experiments and robotics- one of which is Baymax, a big white inflatable robot who’s meant to work as a health care aide.
After there’s a tragedy, the survivors team up with a group of engineering students to form a superhero team- and that this is the third Marvel-rooted movie in the last two years to tell the story about the creation of such a team doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
The storytelling is original enough, even going in a couple of surprising directions, and its overall point- about the ultimate futility of revenge- is a refreshing change of pace. The plot places a much bigger emphasis on science and engineering than this sort of film typically does. I caught references to nanotechnology, the “grey goo
” problem, as well as futuristic applications of 3D printing.
I also enjoyed the secondary characters, including the Genesis Rodriguez-voiced girly girl called “Honey Lemon,” who resembles an anorexic Lady Gaga. T.J. Miller voices “Fred,” one of those characters who’s a stoner in every way except for the drugs part. And James Cromwell voices a professor, sounding all the while like he’s doing a full-on Liam Neeson impression.
But it’s not just the story. This film’s design, from the characters to the fictional city, is both inventive and breathtakingly beautiful. The animators have huge fun creating the half-San Francisco/half-Tokyo,
My only complaint? “Big Hero 6″ indulges in the year’s worst storytelling trend: Killing off a character, taking advantage of all of the resulting pathos, and then resurrecting them minutes later like nothing happened. I’m really looking forward to that particular trope biting the dust.
“Big Hero 6″ isn’t the best animated movie of the year- that’s still “The LEGO Movie”- and it’s not an instant classic like “Frozen.” But it’s about on par with “Wreck-It Ralp
(Note: Don’t be late to “Big Hero 6″- because the Disney short before it, “Feast,” is absolutely fantastic.)