With the sudden ubiquity of superhero movies, each film needs something really different to enable it to stand out from the rest of the costumed crowd.
The Disney touch may just be the thing to do that. Walt Disney Animation Studios, the production company behind 2012’s fun “Wreck-It Ralph” and 2013’s omnipotent “Frozen,” brings its unmistakable touch to the superhero genre with “Big Hero 6.”
The property is actually a rather obscure Marvel Comics group—essentially a Japanese team of Avengers—that Disney bought and heavily transformed. And what an exhilarating transformation it is.
After going through a terrible personal loss, young robotics genius Hiro Hamada (voiced with nuance and authenticity by Ryan Potter) must lead a callow yet high-tech group of heroes to save the futuristic city of San Fransokyo (as you may guess, an amalgam of San Francisco and Tokyo) from the mysterious workings of a masked villain named Yokai.
The team includes the kinetic Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung), the bubbly chemist Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), the obsessive-compulsive blade wielder Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) and the monster man Fred (TJ Miller). The team of teenage geeks gets a tech upgrade through Hiro’s expertise in a sequence rousingly reminiscent of Marvel’s “Iron Man.” They also get a unique teammate.
The big star of the show is the adorable android Baymax (comedian Scott Adsit from “30 Rock”). Ostensibly an inflatable, cybernetic nurse for Hiro, Baymax becomes both a valued member of the team and the movie’s primary source of awws and bwahahas.
Add him to the list of iconic Disney characters like “Frozen’s” Olaf and the titular Wreck-It Ralph. Whether making you laugh out loud, cry real tears or experience a thrilling ride, Baymax is unforgettable.
Directed by Disney animated veterans Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) and Chris Williams (“Bolt”), “Big Hero 6” is exuberant and inventive, with the directors pushing all the right buttons.
A big part of that spirit is provided by the lush world that the directors have built. Every nook and cranny of San Fransokyo feels real and imaginary at the same time. The background characters feel the same way. It’s a sprawling, constantly diverting setting. “Big Hero 6” also benefits from great voice work by the cast, including Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell and Alan Tudyk.
This is not Disney’s first superhero film, as evidenced by Pixar’s excellent 2004 film “The Incredibles.” But “Big Hero 6” is a brighter, bouncier creation that meshes Disney’s masterful mechanics with Marvel’s originality (Disney bought Marvel in 2009).
Yet despite the film’s colorful flash, it’s actually an emotionally complex piece of work. This film is a sublimation of the two companies’ strengths, and augurs well for such projects in the future.
This onscreen future is a great one: “Big Hero 6” is a story that embraces its own comic book origins. Hopefully we’ll get more high-octane and high-IQ adventures. It only adds to the film’s charms that a lot of its fantastical elements are grounded in real-world technology.
In fact, “Big Hero 6” may be the slickest learning experience ever, as it breathlessly celebrates science at every possible turn. It’s just as Fred says: “Science, yeah!” Yet it also manages to be Disney’s most action-packed animated movie ever, coming at you from all directions and all angles.
Just as “Frozen” is about sisters, “Big Hero 6” is about brothers. At its dynamic heart, this crowd-pleasing spectacle is all about the bond between a boy and his robot. Make sure you don’t miss anything by staying till the credits are over.
Bring everyone to see it, because perhaps the most irresistible discovery about “Big Hero 6” is how it can, magnificently, be so many things all at once, and thus offer something for everyone. It is exactly as Hiro Hamada states: “The only limit is your imagination.”