Written by Ankit Ojha
What to Expect
There’s a certain pattern with Disney animation films. There’s the heart, the humor, the fun and the redemption from conflict. That has always been there since the days that have passed, and – from the looks of it – will continue its run. But then again, in pattern, that’s how most animation films are. Even a topic as different and ballsy as Despicable Me in the genre of family animation has the obvious three-act structure that’s been almost forever dedicated to family animation. It’s no surprise thus that a film like Big Hero 6 has the usual expectation levels one can have from an animation extravaganza.
Technically though, we’ve got sound names and a sound inspiration. Otherwise famous for writing and co-writing for Disney animated movies, Don Hall, post the dazzling critical acclaim with his first co-directorial attempt in Winnie the Pooh‘s (also one of the writers) titular movie adaptation in 2011 (a journey similar to other co-director Williams, for whom – since the lovable Bolt – this is his second attempt at directing as well) had to bounce back with a bang to write and direct something different.
What one least expected, however, was Hall to go ahead and bring in something as eye-popping as a Marvel comic book series as source. And while Marvel is essentially a Disney acquisition in more means than one, this, according to the film’s producer Roy Conli in my interview of him, “[…] was always going to be a Disney animated film, and we were going to remove it from the Marvel universe and place it in our own universe.” And when you look at it more as a branding tactic, it makes perfect sense.
It’s bound to be that something this dazzlingly promoted will have lingering doubts. After all, we’ve had many cases of people not being able to measure the end product with the way they felt when they watched the film’s first look.
What’s it About?
Bot-fighter Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter; lives with the studious geek of his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) in the homelier part of a rather dazzlingly obscure fictional cityscape of San Fransokyo. Tadashi has successfully developed a prototype nurse-bot Baymax (Scott Adsit), while Hiro, inspired by Tadashi’s willpower and thrilling lab setup in his university and to prove himself worthy, designs an invention that has the potential to change the World… and break it.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
An animation film, according to me, rests on three absolutely necessary ingredients:
- Stellar animation work;
- A very convincingly directed story packed with its own absolutely lovable set of characters; and of course
- A LOT of heart
Now there have been a host of Disney films that have failed to capture the imaginations of the laymen watching it. A film like Planes, with its ensuing sequel Fire and Rescue are perfect examples of Disney itself not being able to reach the heights of the standards set by itself. Fortunately, Big Hero 6 checks all the boxes without any pretense, and mostly nails it. The characters of Hiro and Baymax are, might I say, the most well written characters in the film, supported brilliantly by the rest. In essentiality however, Baymax wins the film. His character’s absolutely adorable as the nurse-bot, and his friendliness and pertinence to be consistently pleasant will strike a major chord among the audience. Hiro is essentially the protagonist of the film – and they’ve made him one for good reason. He’s an ambitiously brainy kid, fairly confused, and basically does a lot of these things kids growing up and hitting puberty do. Despite all of this however, the film shows him to be a mature, understanding chap at times – a necessary element to justify the loss in his past.
The other four characters – GoGo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred provide the much needed (although predictable) dynamism the film needs. The movie hinges itself on a lot of superhero tropes, but has it in itself to joke along with them tropes; what with some of them absolutely meta, self-aware pitches turning out to be a lot more than the curveballs they look like.
What really acts as a bummer is the justification behind the antagonist’s being. While that Scooby-Doo-esque twist in the tale is undeniably interesting, the deceptive foreshadowing almost led me right there at the conclusion. The target audience won’t have any issues with the antagonist and his justification. I, however, personally would have thought of milking how terrifying he is for more than two-thirds of the film – and believe you me, for an animated super-villain, he’s deadly-terrifying – all the way till the end. The movie, however, is filled with a lot of heart and emotion that it strikes the right balance of tone through and through, more than making up for the rather tiny hijinks in narrative.
The movie boasts of some rather spectacular animation work. While the 3D modelling of the characters is impressive, what strikes a real chord is the rather dynamic blend of kitsch and class, of the gaudy and the grand, and of culture and liberty. While the overall architecture of the buildings, houses, roads, bridges and monuments are deliciously eye-popping, what does in the end manage to get your attention is how amazingly realistic is looks. A lot of the landscape, extra-wide-angle shots are able to bring a very close degree of realism to the animation – so much so that its only when you’re able to see the characters that you realize this is an animated film. The edit knits the film tightly through (despite some surprising pacing issues), while Henry Jackman’s score is lively and suits the nature of the film quite well, supporting it throughout.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Choosing voice actors must most definitely be an ardrous task, as these are actors that are constricted to performing in nothing but a four-walled live room installed with nothing but bafflers. For that alone, the choices here are widely dynamic and almost bang-on. While Potter and Henney are absolutely free flowing as Hiro and Tadashi respectively, Maya Rudolph pulls off the voice-act of the hapless cafe-owning aunt pretty well. Jamie Chung as the acerbic GoGo and Genesis Rodriguez as the rainbows-and-unicorns-but-I’m-totally-usefull-and-have-brains Honey Lemon are pitch perfect. Damon Wayans Jr. underplays the part to an extent, and while he does have his share of humor, he’s restrained it to an understandable degree, which works perfectly here. The real stars of the show, however, are Baymax’s Scott Adsit, who voices the bot brilliantly, and Fred’s T. J. Miller, who is howlarious, which fits the bill of his signature deadpan humor almost amazingly well. Adkin’s vocals have a lot of structure, but the warmth with which he decides to speak his bot-dialogue nails it. Put together, he and his Baymax are easily the star of the show.
This might not be as wild as the spectacularly original The Lego Movie, which saw its release earlier this year, but it, sure is inventive and has its heart in exactly the right place. On the one hand, they’ve decided to make “nerds” way cooler – an important movement in the high-school situation in these times – and on the other, they’ve also added the love of pure science to balance that all-too-eye-popping superhero vibe abound it all. Unafraid to make subtle jokes on its own source material and filled with a lot of emotive pertinence, this film is sure to be an instant favorite of the whole family, if not just the kids.
A definite must-watch. Recommended for children of all ages.
Star Rating: 4 / 5