Big Hero 6 is painful. By the end of the movie, you will feel it in a very physical way with aches creeping up your side and into your head. And you will love it. This is a guaranteed way to spend 100 minutes laughing and smiling your big stupid face off and fill your heart with jollies and joys. True to its protagonist, Big Hero 6 feels most like the biggest, softest hug and is something truly worth seeing.
Based on a Marvel comic of the same name—albeit with a vastly different tone—Big Hero 6 tells the tale a young robotics prodigy name Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) in the fictional city of San Fransokyo. He first puts his talents to the less inspired venues of back alley robot fighting, but his similarly intelligent and robotics-inclined brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) convinces him to make a visit to his “nerd school” where students work on outlandish and impressive technology like plasma cutter beams and maglev rotational bearings. Tadashi himself is working on a big inflatable robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit) that aids in personal healthcare.
After meeting the head honcho Professor Callaghan, Hiro decides he wants to attend the school as well and enters into an annual exhibition that showcases prospective students for admission. With the help of his brother and his friends, Hiro creates his microbots, a swarm of thousands of little widget robots that adhere to the directives of a headband-wearing user’s thoughts. A fire breaks out, though, and Hiro’s once redirected life heads back into the gutter after a sizable and wholly depressing personal tragedy.
You, however, can probably guess what happens. It is, in fact, strangely and wholly predictable. As the movie opens up, you think to yourself that it can’t possibly happen because it’s so cliché. But then it happens. And once you see where the drama is ginned up for the rest of the movie, you also find yourself saying in your head that this can’t possibly be where the film is headed, but then it ends up there as well.
So as a narrative, no, Big Hero 6 does not bring anything new to the table, which itself should not be surprising since by all means, this is a superhero origin story. It doesn’t, however, really need to do anything new because it does one thing and it does it incredibly well: it makes you happy.
You see, the dramatic impetus is a rogue use of Hiro’s microbots, but the true inciting action is the fact that Tadashi’s robot project Baymax even exists. He responds to anyone in pain, and one day Hiro accidentally activates Baymax, itself being an inconveniently large and clumsy but adorable inflatable entity. Designed specifically to maintain a huggable and helpful demeanor, Baymax just about perfect for generating ridiculous and hilarious scenarios.
As hard as you laugh watching the trailers where Hiro tries to adorn Baymax with armor or where Baymax attempts to patch himself up with tape, there is so much more to discover in the film where Baymax does absurd but lovable things. And that notion extends to the rest of the film’s roster as well. Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph), with whom Hiro and Tadashi live, is fantastically yet eccentrically parental. And then all of Tadashi’s school friends are so identifiably energetic and welcoming, seeing them feels more like visiting old friends than meeting new people.
One of the most impressive things about Big Hero 6, though, is its ability to generate the sensation of being somewhere. Very often in animated movies, settings feel far more impressionistic than specific, leaving you with hints of an existence unknown. San Fransokyo, a mashup of San Francisco and Tokyo, feels entirely like its own place while borrowing with a creative precision that is to be admired. It’s both cities at once while being neither and it all comes across as impeccably complete.
It doesn’t hurt that it is a beautiful movie from a visual standpoint as well. Elements where you’re used to seeing as flat or tucked away in other computer animated films carry heft and texture and are more pronounced here. There’s one scene in particular where the haze of the shot’s depth of field looks genuinely atmospheric, lending drama and gravity to the moment. And the end could not look more like some wish fulfillment of exploring literal art and is just fantastic.
While not exploring anything new, Big Hero 6 seems to accomplish all it wanted to accomplish, and does with aplomb. It handedly creates tension and humor and an almost physical sensation of love and support through the cuddly and wobbly Baymax, though certainly it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. But with its brisk pace and deft charm, Big Hero 6 is hard to deny. Perhaps the only disappointment is leaving the theatre without a Baymax of your own.
Final Score: 9 out of 10