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Last week on Sunday, I saw Big Hero Six for the first time. And while it didn’t completely blow me away, instantaneously, like some other films I’ve seen, I thought it was a pretty good movie.

And then, I was sick on Monday and for most of the week. And while I was sick I re-watched it, and went WOW!

Okay, from now on, there will be SPOILERS, so if you have not seen it yet, consider yourself warned.

Sometimes, it seems like Disney movies are always either hit or miss. Sure, they’ve done some movies that are okay, but mostly they either smash or bomb. And just to be kind to Disney, I’m qualifying this as a Disney movie even though technically it’s also Marvel (though it was made by Disney Animation, not Marvel Studios.)

This movie is, first and foremost, a family movie. So much of it is driven by the dynamics of the family, and the movie benefits. Hiro’s relationships with his brother and aunt (Tadashi more than Cass) have lasting impacts on his actions, decisions, and his entire life. This would make it like Disney’s other animated superhero classic, The Incredibles, but the family dynamics in Big Hero Six are different. Rather than being about a more mainstream family that has drifted apart over time and must find out how to come back together, Big Hero Six is about two brothers and an aunt who are very close knit, and then has one member torn from them. As such, it’s somewhat darker and more of a drama than a family comedy.

I had had part of the movie spoiled for me, but I also knew it had to be without receiving any spoilers, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they didn’t kill off Tadashi almost as soon as they’d introduced him, instead giving him his own hopes and dreams and making him a hero in his own right. More power to you, Big Hero Six.

This movie deals with some pretty heavy stuff for a Disney movie. Personal loss, grief, dark sides, what people are willing to do to other people to get what they want–Hiro is no angel, and at one point his grief drives him to take away what makes Baymax unique, what makes Baymax himself, in order to get back at the villain. However, I was delighted once again–at the end of the movie, Hiro redeems himself, following in his brother’s footsteps to save the daughter of the man who had been trying to kill them.

Now, on to the characters!

I absolutely loved the characters. They were diverse (not just racially), and well-fleshed-out. Wasabi is probably my favorite, though I loved all of them. The filmmakers did an amazing job, especially with Baymax. His almost glitch-y repetition of words and phrases like “Tadashi is here” actually made him seem more human. Also, though his played-for-laughs misunderstandings of metaphor and figures of speech and his expression of the sound of the explosion for a fist bump are funny, they’re even more endearing.

I thought it was amazing, how well Hiro’s grief was expressed by the writers and actors, and the moment when he takes away Baymax’s personality to get what he wants (revenge on Callahan) was gritty and tragic. I am so impressed with how well they did this, and still more impressed by Hiro’s redemptive act, mirroring his brother’s sacrifice earlier in the movie. Too often, people forget to add the necessary balance (aka, adding the redemption to counter the transgression in a hero or keeping a sympathetic villain villainous by having him violate something sacred to the reader), leading to an unbalanced story or an antihero who is completely unlovable, or worse things. Such as a villain who doesn’t drive the story forward because, I don’t know, he’s not really a freaking villain!?! (Sorry, that’s my pet peeve.)
Speaking of villains, while I pretty much predicted who the villain was going to be about halfway between the beginning and the big reveal, I still think Callahan is one of the most compelling villains I have ever seen. Think Inigo Montoya gone badly wrong, out for revenge for his daughter rather than his dad, and you have Callahan. It’s one of the best motivations for a good man gone bad that I can think of, and is compellingly done. One of the quotes, though, was disappointing to me; when talking about Tadashi’s death, Callahan exclaims “Then that was his fault!” or something like that. I thought he cared about Tadashi and would have been more satisfied if Callahan had showed that he, too, felt guilty about Tadashi’s death. Maybe he blamed Krei for that, too? It seems like a waste of potential for character development.
When I first heard about the premise of this movie, I thought it sounded a lot like Iron Man. However, it’s not like Iron Man at all. While the premises (making bionic suits to fight villains) are very similar, the execution is different, and Big Hero Six is entirely innovative. Microbots? Tony Stark has nothing on them. Also, aren’t you glad they didn’t make any Jericho jokes? (Because the Jericho missile played the same role in Iron Man that the microbots did in Big Hero Six.) While there are parallels between the movies, Big Hero Six doesn’t feel like an Iron Man ripoff. In my opinion, Big Hero Six has even more heart (though, about the same amount of style) as Iron Man.
The visuals of this movie are incredible, with a more sleek feel than Iron Man, and the team dynamics are similar, though distinct from, The Avengers. It really feels like a near future sci-fi story, but is realistic enough that you can believe it could happen any day. The setting, San Fransokyo, is actually in California, but it takes place in an alternate history where, after the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco was largely rebuilt by Japanese immigrants, creating a unique, streamlined, Asian-American, city-of-the-future culture. It is so beautiful and believable, you’ll want to take your next vacation there and then be surprised to hear that it’s not a real place.
However, I do have a few issues with elements in this movie. For instance, how did Callahan live after his presumed death? Did he have a separate bank account set up to allow him to lay low after faking his death? In which case, does that mean that the fire was set by Callahan, or was it just a “lucky” accident? Also, Callahan’s use of the microbots seemed a little lackadaisical–if he’s such a robotics genius, why doesn’t he innovate something new to use with them, or figure out a new way to use them, or play around with them a little more?
For another thing, I would have loved to see more of the titular team… you know, acting as a team. Mostly, we just see them operating on their own, coordinating their attacks, but otherwise just working alone, which was sad for me. The teamwork in Avengers was what elevated it above all other movies of its genre, in my opinion, but Big Hero Six is, out of necessity, different. While Avengers always was a team movie, with an equal focus on each character–it was essentially a journey with six equal protagonists–Hiro Hamada is clearly the main focus of Big Hero Six. All his teammates are supporting characters, and while they are autonomous, they aren’t given equal screen time, like the Avengers were. Still, that doesn’t mean that all the characters couldn’t have done more team stuff. (I did like it, when early in the movie, they ended out cancelling out each others’ work because they weren’t being a team. Way to go, Disney, showing that teamwork is necessary!)
Other than that, I did see the Big Plot Twist coming from a mile away, but maybe that’s just because I’m an author and I write Big Plot Twists. Good grief, I’m practically the unchallenged queen of Big Plot Twists! Still, Disney, you’re getting predictable, and I like to be surprised.
Overall, though, my experience was all positive, though, due to the issues I mentioned, I can’t give it five out of five. So I’ll settle for giving it four and a half out of five stars.
(On a side note, if you must cross your crossovers, forget the Big Four (also known as the Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons); I want to see Rise of the Guardians, How to Train Your Dragon, and Big Hero Six crossovers!!!)
Big Hero Six, ladies and gentlemen–the best animated superhero movie since The Incredibles.