Attack of the Nerds
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Disney’s first animated Marvel property, Big Hero 6 is a slam dunk of vibrant characters, storytelling, breathtaking animation, and a pro-science message that is sure enough to bring on a plethora of sequels. Very loosely based on the comic property of the same name, Big Hero 6 is the story of a child named Hiro, who lives with his brother Tadashi and Aunt Cass on the upper levels of a café in the charming metropolis of San Fransokyo. Hiro is something of a robotics prodigy, aspiring to be like his brother Tadashi, who works with the Nerd Club at the San Fransokyo Technical Institute on a robotic project. That project turns out to be a huggable medical robot named Baymax, who resembles a giant marshmallow more than anything else. After a tragic fire claims Tadashi’s life, Baymax and Hiro team up with Tadashi’s college mates to stop a masked fiend who is using Hiro’s nanobots to wreak havoc for originally an unknown reason. Big Hero 6 isn’t a perfect film, certain plot holes and leaps of logic take you out of the film on more than one occasion, but it is certainly an incredibly strong outing for Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Off the bat, the animation is simply stunning. The city of San Fransokyo is a zenith of production design, combining the sights of San Francisco and Tokyo with absolute seamlessness. As much as I absolutely despised Cars 2, the animation of Tokyo’s cityscape became the pinnacle of what animation could achieve in bringing an urban environment to life. Big Hero 6 bests that record and not simply because the city is ingenuous in its design but even more impressively so it feels as organic and germane as any other urban environment depicted on the animated screen. It feels lived in, as if this city has existed for years and years and years; not for a single second do you garner a “this is totally staged” feeling from the settings. The motion and speed of the characters’ movements is simply stunning and the best animation performance may be attributed to Baymax’s movement while he’s out of the suit. It’s simply superb.
The specter of death hangs over the entire enterprise and rightfully so. Tadashi’s death provides the emotional crux that the rest of the film hangs upon. It’s a horrible tragedy that works because of the time the film spends honing the relationship between the siblings and Tadashi’s relationships with his friends, even if the actual event that takes away his life seemingly arrives out of nowhere. It’a s bit abrupt in the actual narrative strand, but the emotional heft mostly saves it. Hiro and Baymax rightfully receive the most ardent characterization out of the film and the entire enterprise largely works because of it. The characterization problem that comes into play are the supporting characters, who make up what may very well be the most diverse Marvel character slate ever to appear together in a single film but get the short shift of character development. It’s not a massive quandary for the film, but it is a fairly noticeable one and that hopefully gets fixed in the sequel. The villain element is also relatively problematic. There really wasn’t much that demanded a villain and it doesn’t entirely work, even though the film to its credit tries its absolute best to pull a neat twist towards the third act. The chronology of the villain’s motivations is a bit muddled and as a result you may spend more time trying to put the film’s events in order rather than actually watching the film in the first place.
The voice acting is absolutely phenomenal, with Scott Adsit from 30 Rock taking home the top honors here and providing Baymax with more emotional catharsis than anyone could have imagined possible. The film is positively adorable and the chemistry between the gang is fantastic. What separates Big Hero 6 from a lot of animated films is its incredible emphasis on science and the success of the human imagination in spite of all odds. The cast as noted above is incredibly diverse and the female scientists aren’t treated as superfluous or even secondary. They’re integral to the entire enterprise (even though the supporting characters as a whole don’t get too much to do here). Often Hollywood has the terrible penchant of taking female characters and sticking them with a single attribute that becomes their defining characteristic. Here they’re multi-faceted, as complex as any of the men in the film. Honey Lemon, who I definitely want to see more shades to, has what is probably the best accessory of all time: a purse that has the Periodic Table on it that also functions as a weapons storage unit. She loves fashion and pink, but she loves the art of chemistry just as much. Go see Big Hero 6 and take your kids, too. There’s something for everyone here. Nerds, Assemble!
Title: Big Hero 6
MPAA Rating: PG
Directed by: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Produced by: Roy Conli, John Lasseter
Screenplay by: Robert L. Baird, Dan Gerson, Jordan Roberts
Based On: Big Hero 6 by Man of Action
Starring: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T. J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., Génesis Rodríguez
Music: Henry Jackman
Cinematography: Julio Macat
Editing: Tim Mertens
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Running Time: 102 minutes
Release Dates: October 23, 2014 (Tokyo International Film Festival), November 7, 2014 (United States)
Image Courtesy: Fandango