Coming out of the Marvel Entertainment vault, Disney’s new superhero flick is the animation, Big Hero Six. Having plumbed the depths of Marvel’s known works, and Marvel selling off the rights to its biggest franchises long ago, Disney is now content to adapt the more obscure teams and heroes for the big screen. Guardians of the Galaxy was obscure, sure, but at least it had vague connections to the greater Marvel universe and related works. Big Hero Six has none of those connections and is probably as out there as Disney could probably go. In all fairness, it seems to be working and Big Hero Six is no exception.
Big Hero Six follows kid genius, Hiro Hamada, and the inflatable robot carer, Baymax. Despite being a genius, Hiro doesn’t have much ambition. He’s happy to illegally battle in robot contests, that is until some brotherly motivations drives him to make something that could truly change the world. A tragic event occurs, his technology is destroyed and Hiro becomes griefstriken. Well, that’s not quite true. His technology wasn’t destroyed and when Hiro learns that it is being used for a more nefarious purpose than he intended, he, Baymax and four of his brother’s friends use their intellect to become superheroes.
Big Hero Six doesn’t revolutionise the genre, either in terms of superheroes or animation. But it is funny and it is charming. There are a lot of familiar tropes in play here, such as the loss of loved ones as a origin story, and most of the plot points and twists are easy to predict, but the writing never feels lazy. The story itself is simple but what gives it depth is the characters. These characters feel more alive than some of the characters in live action movies.
It helps that the central message of the film isn’t about learning to work together as it too often is in ensemble films. At times it feels as though the film is going in that direction, especially when the team don’t communicate in one fight and end up taking out each other rather than the target. Part of the main idea of the film is that friends are good and help keep us sane but there’s also a nice echo in the film about looking at problems from another angle. This is a film that encourages creativity and innovation in the youth. That’s a refreshing point from a superhero film.
Where Big Hero Six really excels is the portrayal of Hiro’s loss. His grief and depression are depicted with tact and with the perspective that this isn’t something he can just get over or easily treat. It’s something that it really takes the entire film and a friendship with Baymax to overcome but it doesn’t come without its setbacks. Some might argue that it is unrealistic. It’s not like people who suffer with depression can simply make friends and become a superhero team. But that’s kind of missing the point. It’s not the process of becoming a superhero that helps him overcome his grief. It’s the compassion and kindness of everyone around him that eventually brings him out the other side.
Diversity is also a major plus for Big Hero Six. The majority of the team isn’t white, which is extremely progressive when you consider that The Avengers won’t officially add a black member until phase three. An argument could be made for Don Cheadle as War Machine/Iron Patriot but that’s why the word ‘official’ is in there. DC are doing a little better, with an Israeli Wonder Woman, a black Cyborg and a Hawaiian Aquaman, but we won’t see Justice League until 2017, so Big Hero Six has it beat by a solid 2-3 years. Considering the recent controversy regarding how white-washed the Oscar nominations are, I can see the diversity of its characters being a huge draw for Big Hero Six.
Will Big Hero Six be a money maker like Frozen? Unlikely. It’s family friendly and Baymax is adorable though so it will definitely appeal to kids. Adults too, because I personally would love my own personal Baymax. If that technology is a bit too advanced some kind of massive plushie would be great. But most of the money will come from kids and parents of kids buying the merchandise. Fans of the comic book will likely enjoy the film because its a good film, regardless of its source material, but might be slightly disappointed. Their comic book counterparts, from what I know, are different and had connects to mutants and X-Men. Baymax for instance was not a carer and could morph into dragon-like creature. The X-Men connection was obviously cut to avoid issues with Fox but Baymax’s change into the loveable, inflatable, health care assistant was surely done to sell toys.
At this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Marvel and Disney can make Big Hero Six appeal to the general public. Before the superhero genre really took off in film, Marvel’s biggest cash cows were Spider-Man and Wolverine. All of the rest had their fair share of fans and readers but those two were major players. Tony Stark wasn’t even close. But Marvel and Disney have made household names out of Tony Stark, Captain America and Thor. They’ve done the same with Big Hero Six. It’s unique blend of progressiveness and charm make it a joy to watch.
American readers will already know this since they got to see Big Hero Six back in November of last year. I don’t know the reason for the delay to the UK but I’m not too bothered by it. Disney have more than made up for it by delivering Avengers: Age of Ultron to the UK a whole week before it’s due in the states.