In 2009, the Walt Disney Company bought over Marvel Entertainment, giving them full access to their vast back catalogue of characters and stories. It was only a matter of time before a merger project would surface, combining their strengths to give comic-book heroes the Disney studio treatment. Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams and set in the Americ-asian fictional city of San Fransokyo, ‘Big Hero 6’ is based on a comic of the same name from 1998 and documents the origins of a team of crime-fighting superheroes. Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a teen genius, but uses his intelligence to partake in illegal robot wars for monetary gain rather than applying himself academically, much to the dismay of his protective older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney). In an attempt to change his brother’s ways and put him on the right track, Tadashi takes Hiro to his university science lab and introduces him to his professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell) and Baymax (Scott Adsit), an inflatable robot he had created to serve as a caring healthcare companion. When disaster strikes leaving Hiro in turmoil, will he use his brain power for good or bad?
Narratively, it is very much a film of two halves as interesting characters and friendships are developed carefully and tenderly in the opening hour or so before the plot descends into more traditional, or generic, superhero fare as the Marvel roots begin to grow. The laughs come mostly from Baymax who is unknowingly hilarious and the physicality of the way his bubbly stature is animated only adds to the fun. Hiro and Baymax’s friendship has so much promise, and almost has a mismatched Kirk-and-Spock-like quality to it as both their similarities and their differences hold them together. The scripting sadly loses its early invention and creativity as the story develops, treading dangerously close to Scooby-Doo territory as the gang of goodies run around solving problems in order to unmask the villain of the piece. That being said, the visuals are stunning throughout, particularly in sequences involving Hiro’s magnetic micro-bots which can twist and transform to take any shape his imagination can conjure up.
‘Big Hero 6’ is an enjoyable watch that successfully opens up the exciting, limitless avenues of possibilities of the Disney/Marvel collaboration, even if the balance quite right this time. As a buddy comedy, it definitely works but as a comic-book origins fable, there’s something lacking. With the distraction of an action-laden final act along with some messy sub-plotting, the likeable characters aren’t given the emotive resolution they deserve and that is what Disney classics usually carry off so well. Flaws aside, we have been introduced to the brilliant Baymax and that alone is enough to make you leave the cinema with a smile on your face.