Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: Big Hero 6

I'm starting to think that "superhero" movies are starting to turn into a broader genre of film.  At one point, it was simply "hero A shows up, discovers villain B, destroys villain B."  Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Superman, Spider-Man, they all followed a pretty standard formula.  It's only in more recent years we've seen even the slightest variation of this in mainstream Hollywood.  The movies for Captain America were more "war movie" and "spy thriller" than standard superhero films.  It's not common, but I think studios are starting to realize that you can tell other kinds of stories in worlds where superheroes happen to exist.

Big Hero 6 is such a movie, taking a formula about "a group of heroes band together to fight evil" and twisting it around into a story about grief, loss, and morality.

As well as "once you get him away from his brothers, Damon Wayans, Jr. can actually be fun to have in a movie."

Big Hero 6 is a fun movie.  It's a good movie.  It's not a great movie, but it's quite good.

It features 14-year-old Hiro Hamada, a robotics genius whose lives with his brother, Tadashi (also a robotics genius) and their aunt, Cass Hamada (chef and familial worrywart).  Hiro spends his free time engaging in back-alley robot fights (which, as he points out, isn't illegal, but the fact he bets on them is) until Tadashi takes him to the robots lab at the college he attends.  Hiro is introduced to the rest of his classmates (Gogo, Honey Lemon, Wasabi, and school mascot Fred), as well as their professor, Robert Callaghan.

Hiro is immediately hooked and attempts to earn entry by producing "microbots" at a science event.  However, there's a fire at the event and Hiro loses both his brother and future mentor Professor Callaghan in the inferno.

If you're afraid I've spoiled too much, don't worry, I really haven't.  That's simply "lead-in," much like the entire first chunk of Frozen leading up to Elsa's coronation.  Or everything that happens to Peter Parker up until Uncle Ben gets shot.

Hiro winds up with Baymax, a (this comparison has been used so much I'm loathe to repeat it) mix between the Michelin Man and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.  He's programmed to be a medical robot, diagnosing and treating any injury, sickness, or disease someone might have.  When confronted with Hiro's grief over the death of his brother, Baymax is at a loss, resorting to downloading guides from the Internet, and we all know how trustworthy the Internet is.

An interesting thing about the movie is just how much it diverts from the source material.  The original source material featured Hiro Takachiko (actually, that's a lie, it originally starred Sunfire, easily the least-liked X-Men member, and Silver Samurai, also known as "that guy who can't ever be allowed to beat Wolverine because his only power is "killing people").  Wasabi was originally a martial artist sushi chef, Honey Lemon was a super-agent with a Hammerspace purse allowing her to access any weapon she wants, and Gogo wore a full battle suit.

The less said about Fred(zilla) the better.

It was pretty stupid.  Fun, but stupid.

The funny thing is, I've heard fans knee-jerk with hostility the moment anything from a character's background or style is changed.  Alter Superman's costume just slightly?  The Internet will be filled with rage.  Ultron is going to be built by Iron Man instead of Hank Pym?  Raaaaage.  Characters names, looks, ages, and powers are going to be changed for Big Hero 6?


It's the joy of taking a D-list team and bringing it into the forefront.  Sure, there might be one or two people who wish Silver Samurai could've been shown as a hero (okay, maybe just me), but I think the movie improved almost everything about the characters overall.

Imagine this scene being in a movie that you'd pay money to see.  Yeah, they did the right thing.
Something else I found interesting was that the movie has kind-of the reverse problem that Frozen does.  Frozen focuses almost entirely on the relationship between the two sisters and the relationship between Anna and Kristoff.  The "villain" of the piece really goes without any deep character growth.

In this movie, though, while Hiro and Tadashi's relationship (and the grief stemming from the loss of the relationship) get the lion's share of the story (I'm including in that the relationship between Hiro and Baymax, since Tadashi's death is the fuel behind that relationship), the villain's story also gets some major time and exposition, while the side characters (the aforementioned fellow students) suffers.  We get brief flashes of who they are and of their personalities, but then the movie quickly moves away to focus on the main story again.

The movie isn't perfect, there are a few plot holes in it that left me scratching my head trying to figure out how the movie's "logic" went, but for the most part I was able to enjoy the movie from the beginning to the end.

Of course, any of you with kids have undoubtedly already seen it (and probably own it by now), but if you haven't, grab a bowl of popcorn, watch a fun little film, and then rush out and buy yourself a Baymax toy.  Because you'll want one.

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