Big Hero 6 (2014)

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 PBig Hero 6 is a plump, sweet-tasting animated movie about ordinary youngsters who through extraordinary circumstances become superheroes. Their costumes look like tailored manifestations of candy store produce. Their superpowers are not powers at all but results of their incredible technological intellect, a bit like Tony Stark, who could very well have entered the film to play their mentor and not looked out of place, unless he looked like Robert Downey Jr. It’s a movie of good cheer, some wicked ideas, great action sequences. The kids in the audience (especially the young girls) will relish it. The adults, I’m afraid, might find their attention wandering by the third act; there’s only so much soft cuddly goodness they can take before realising their brains have stopped churning.

The soft cuddly goodness radiates from the healthcare robot called Baymax (Scott Adsit), who is designed by Tadashi Hamada (Daniel Henney), a nerdy college student. Baymax can detect and find a suitable cure for just about any wound or illness, physical or emotional, which leads me to wonder if the cures for cancer and AIDS have finally been resolved. Considering the capabilities of Baymax and the innocence with which he projects himself onto the world, I’m mildly surprised Tadashi hasn’t been discovered by Honda and catapulted into superstardom. Hey, he is Japanese after all.

Tadashi has a younger brother, Hiro (Ryan Potter), who loves hustling underground robot fighters with his unbeatable little robot, made out of Microbots, sort of little black Lego pieces. Tadashi is convinced Hiro is wasting his intelligence on illegal underground sports and encourages him, rather sneakily, to join the college if he can persuade its professor, Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell), to endorse a radical new invention.

The new invention is also made of Microbots, which can unite to create any form or structure so long as the person wielding the special neuro-headband thinks it. “It can do anything! Building, construction. What once took hundreds or even thousands of people now only takes one”, Hiro boasts. That’s all well and good, but what will happen to the hundreds or thousands of workers who now find themselves out of a job?

These Microbots, when they come together, take on the physical mass and imposition of the Sentinel army from The Matrix movies, which was an army so preposterous all those who saw it still didn’t believe. The Microbots reach nothing of that level here but provide the movie with a lot of sensational sights, as the villain, whose true identity will no doubt be deciphered by the more discerning adults in the audience, wreaks havoc on the city of San Fransokyo. I particularly like how Hiro controls the Microbots early on with just his mind, but later the villain gesticulates and waves about as if conducting an orchestra. No one would really enjoy a torrent of interlocking micro gadgets swirling around a motionless man.

The plot’s all basic (there are no surprises), which is a massive travesty because its content deserves so much more. Hiro’s a spunky kid who endures a terrible tragedy (what, I cannot say) and unites with a few friends to find justice. All their technology is way cool — the girl whose roller blades are really blades (Jamie Chung) zips around with a daring ferocity — and their personalities are actually charming. The villain is too stylish and knowing for the film, which makes his revelation all the more unbelievable, but he has fun with his simple motives.

The animation by Disney is what grabbed me, scene after scene, shot after shot. The city is a portmanteau of San Francisco and Tokyo, which does little except provide all the movie’s designers with a neat platform to demonstrate what would happen if San Francisco underwent an Oriental facelift and was suddenly overrun by a population of English-speaking Japanese immigrants.

But observe the details, the crispness of the animation, the softness of fabrics. I swear at some points I was carried away by the look of the movie and forgot it had a big huggable robot at its centre trying to tell a story. This is where the adults’ attention will begin to stray. The kids will remain transfixed on Baymax and his bromance with Hiro, which is loveable in its way. The adults will look at Big Hero 6 and wish San Fransokyo was a real place.


Best Moment | What can I say. Baymax is adorable.

Worst Moment | Baymax behaving like a drunk as his battery runs dangerously low. He tries too hard to earn cheap laughs.

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