Thursday, November 13, 2014

Walt Disney Animation Hits a Solid Double with Baymax and Co.: Our Review of "Big Hero 6" (2014)

Directed By: Don Hall & Chris Williams (Winnie the Pooh and Bolt, respectively) 

Starring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Damon Wayans, Jr., T.J. Miller, Genesis Rodriguez, Jamie Chung

Rating: PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements

Run Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Synopsis: Hiro (Potter) is a 13-year-old genius who spends his time hustling people in back-alley robot battles until his older brother Tadashi convinces him to attend the same university that he does. After inventing "microbots" to impress the school's admissions office, Hiro faces a personal tragedy plus the theft of his microbots by the hands of a masked villain. With the help of a medical robot assistant named Baymax (Adsit) that his brother invented for him, Hiro joins up with some of Tadashi's classmates to create a superhero group with the purpose of stopping the masked villain.


Andrew: Hello dear readers! Last night Sarah and I went to our local multiplex to catch this past weekend's big animated film release, Walt Disney Animation's and Marvel's Big Hero 6. Disney's latest is based on the Marvel comic of the same name, but only in sort of the loosest sense in that it took the comic's title and the characters' names. In all other aspects it is nothing like the actual comic, from my understanding. In a sense it's a wholly original Disney animated film. 

Now Sarah, I think there were some relatively high expectations for Big Hero 6 because Walt Disney Animation has been on quite the roll the past few years. Frozen was their most recent film and we all know how big of a phenomenon that became, and before that was Wreck-It Ralph which was very popular and a financial success in its own right. 

So with this being the first Disney animated film using a Marvel property, and the trailers where everyone was already falling in love with Baymax, this one had some high expectations. Now that we've seen Big Hero 6, Sarah, do you think it lived up to those expectations?

Sarah: I don't think it quite lived up to my expectations, but it did have some really good aspects to it. At its heart it definitely kept to the fact that it's a children's movie, but it's a children's movie that has the aspects of a Marvel superhero movie, which I enjoyed. I thought it was well-done and touching at the same time. It had Disney's mark all of over it, which was nice. It was just kinda fun.
I guess I maybe went in expecting a little more "Marvel" from it and I think that's a mistake. I think they went in touting it's going to be this Marvel movie when we've come to expect certain things from a Marvel film, and we just need to remember, to come back down a bit and remember that it's just an animated movie. From Disney. And from that aspect it's really cute.

Baymax is definitely a very lovable character and you definitely learn a lot from him. I have to say though...Disney movies tend to pull at my heartstrings...they just do, there's no rhyme or reason, but all of them kind of have as of late and this one didn't so much. I wonder if that's because of my expectations or because the relationships between the characters weren't as established as I would've liked them to be. Does that make sense to you?

Without question the highlight of Big Hero 6 is the big, white and soft medical robot named Baymax, wonderfully voice-acted by Scott Adsit (30 Rock), who takes care of Hiro after his personal tragedy.

A: I does make sense, because I agree with you on A.) I thought Big Hero 6 was a good animated movie, it was a solid double from Walt Disney Animations; it's not the home run that Frozen was or even the triple that I thought Wreck-It Ralph was. But it was good and I agree with you, it didn't really hit me or tug at my heartstrings the way those other two did.

And B.) I think you may be on to something in that, at least with the main character Hiro, there's supposed to be this relationship between Hiro and his older brother Tadashi that drives the whole movie...I guess it's not a big spoiler but something happens to Tadashi that drives the rest of the movie's really like Hiro's "Peter Parker, Uncle Ben" moment that drives him to want to become a hero. And it's a little undercooked. They try but it happens just a little too fast for my taste. And then it turns into, really, the relationship that everyone's going to enjoy which is the one between Hiro and Baymax. At the end of the movie when I did shed a tear or two it was because of that relationship...

S: Not because of the one between Hiro and his brother.

A: Exactly.

S: Which I think maybe...I definitely get my heartstrings tugged a little bit more from Disney/Pixar movies than Walt Disney Animation movies, so this reminds me a little bit of Up's relationship between Carl and Ellie where it happens at the start of the movie but it's such a visual relationship. No words are ever spoken between the characters but you're still SO devastated when Ellie dies.

There wasn't that kind of impact here despite the fact that there's plenty of talking and plenty of opportunity to get to know these characters in a better way. So I found that very interesting. You're right, that Hiro/Tadashi relationship was a little undercooked and I guess I kinda wish that it hadn't been so much because it definitely would've helped the driving force of the movie a little bit.

But let's be honest: Baymax is going to sell ALL over the world because he is the most adorable character. Hiro is...he's a genius but he's a little undercooked for me, too. I didn't fall in love with Hiro, but you definitely fall in love with Baymax. Here's the thing I really wish I had seen more of: the other four action heroes in this movie.

A: I agree, and I think that might be a little bit...I think the marketing for this movie maybe focused a little too much on Baymax, not that it's going to hurt the film's box office numbers. But going into the film, it's called Big Hero 6 because it's a team of six "super heroes" - it's Hiro and Baymax, but then there are four college students that went to school with Tadashi at this great science institute, and with the help of Hiro they all get their own super-suits to become heroes with their own identities. Then the six of them join together to fight the villain in this movie, but you would NOT have gotten that from the marketing for this movie at all.

S: Not at all!

A: And I agree with you, I would've loved to have seen more of them because they had some really good voice-actors for those characters.

S: They had some really good voice-actors and they were really cool characters! And I wish they had been exposed more.

A: They were pretty cool but I think there was also a bit of a missed opportunity here to give a more emotional relationship between Hiro and the four friends, because they all very much care about Hiro and cared about Tadashi, but they're kinda out of the picture for a fair amount of time. So that kind of bummed me out.

I also get the feeling that...this movie had almost a little much of a origin movie feel to it, in that it's just the jumping off point for a potential franchise that I'm sure Disney is going to turn this into. Which is fine, it's a great starter movie if you have kids and you want to introduce them to these kinds of movies...

The Big Hero 6 team (from left): Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), Hiro (Ryan Potter), Baymax (Scott Adsit), GoGo (Jamie Chung, and Fred (T.J. Miller).

S: It's pretty simple at its core. It's very much like Baymax, it has one purpose and kinda serves that purpose and that's about it.

A: I agree. It's a very simple film, and again, that's fine. It's a kids movie. From an adult aspect, especially for people like us that have seen these kinds of movies a lot, it was fairly predictable, which is fine. They hit all the beats perfectly fine. But again it's sort of an origin film and I j ust hope that the next movie raises the bar a little bit and is more than just the solid double that this one is.

But I do want to say that the animation here is fantastic.

S: It's phenomenal. And that should be no surprise. It's very well-done and it's a lot of fun to just watch. We didn't intend to see it in 3D but we definitely ended up seeing it 3D and it was not a waste of money. It was beautifully done. It's well-done animation in all facets.

A: The opening sequence of the film is a establishing shot of the movie's setting of San Fransokyo...

S: And it's gorgeous!

A: Absolutely gorgeous. I would've sworn that it was real footage if I didn't know any better. That's how great it looked.

S: I'll give the movie this, too: the design of the city was awesome because it's not only San Francisco but it's like Tokyo and you get a beautiful mix of the two and a great re-imagining of two cities that people are generally very familiar with from movies and television. It kind of turns those two cities on their heads and throws realism to the wind in a beautiful way.

So yeah, I enjoyed Big Hero 6. I thought it was a lot of fun, a little undercooked but it was fun as far as a simple, basic animated movie can be.

A: There are much worse movies you could see. We laughed a number of times, especially at Baymax. And again I want to point out the voice-acting was great. T.J. Miller is excellent as Fred, Damon Wayans, Jr. is the perfect voice for Wasabi, and while I couldn't pick out the voices of Jamie Chung or Genesis Rodriguez as Honey Lemon or Go-Go, respectively, they were both great fits. But I really enjoyed Maya Rudolph as Hiro's Aunt Cass, who effectively raised he and Tadashi for the past ten years. She gets some pretty funny lines.

S: She's the quirky, funny aunt.

A: Yeah, but she also cares and the lines she was given and the delivery that she gave least from an adult aspect was something I don't think kids will fully get but was something I surely appreciated and found touching.

S: So what would you give this one overall?

A: I would give it 3.5 out of 5.

S: Okay. Cuz it was beautifully stunning though a touch undercooked, but it wasn't a movie geared towards us. It was definitely geared towards kids and I have to give it praise for that. It definitely didn't have as many of the adult undertones that the other two Walt Disney Animation films we've mentioned had. I will also give it a 3.5 out of 5.

It was fun, simple. See it if you have kids, but even if you don't have kids and just want to watch something simple and fun, Big Hero 6 is a good one to catch in theatres.

FINAL VERDICT: Worth catching a matinee of, regardless of if you have kids.

(Individual Scores - S: 3.5/5  A: 3.5/5)

Photo Courtesies: Walt Disney

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