Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Big Hero 6 Review

I saw this movie on its release day, November 7th, 2014. It is now 11 days later and I am just now writing my review. Why is that? Because more so than any other movie this year, I don't know how I feel about this movie. Even as I write this review, I still don't know what I saw. Big Hero 6 is a weird anomaly for me to review because on paper, it should be a movie that I'm clamoring for and praising up the wazoo. Instead, I'm left with a feeling of apathy towards the movie.

Hiro Hamada is a young boy that lives in the city of San Fransokyo. He's a robotics whiz to the point where heis able to enroll into a robotics university and hold his own with some of the students there. One student, his brother, has been working on creating a robot named Baymax that is designed to be a medical robot to help heal patients. Unfortunately, after Hiro unveils his latest invention, mind controllable nanobots, his brother and professor both die in an explosion, leaving Hiro alone and by himself with only the company of Baymax. At the same time, a mysterious man in a kabuki mask appears with Hiro's nanobots and starts wreaking havoc across the city. So it's up to Hiro to cope with the death of his brother, defeat the kabuki mask man, and just try to heal from his wounds with the help of Baymax.

Healing is one of the biggest themes of this movie, and it's a theme that isn't really touched upon in most kids films. Baymax is expressively designed to heal people both mentally and physically, so all of his actions are solely for Hiro's betterment. Whenever Baymax talks, his primary objective is to heal people and make them feel better, which takes on some very interesting implications to more the movie goes on. Say what you will about Big Hero 6, but the ideas of coping with death and grief are very viable and are the longest lasting aspects of the movie. Everything else though....

If I'm being perfectly frank, I view this movie the same way I view Wreck-It Ralph. Wreck-It Ralph was a movie that was designed to step away from most normal Disney movies. It doesn't have a princess, the movie is more modern and contemporary, and it appeals largely to a nerd demographic. However, while it had a ton of potential to it, the result was something that was just... okay. It didn't redefine the wheel or become a banner movie for nerd culture, but just served as a footnote in nerd culture's presence in Hollywood.

Big Hero 6 serves that same function, but for comic book movies. In a time where we are in a comic renaissance (or over exposure for some), what's the point of this movie? Is it to serve as mainstream validification of comic book movies? Not at all, since every comic book movie is usually a million dollar movie. Is it to make a comic book movie for kids? I don't think so, because most comic book movies are viewed by kids anyway. So what's the point of this movie existing anyway?

To me, Big Hero 6 isn't really a comic book movie, but instead a movie about escapist fantasy. The comic book elements here are minimum at best and instead we have a kid who is able to become a hero and form his own team to save the world. It's every kid's dream! And add on to that a clear villain, a lovable sidekick, and a support team of nerds and attractive women and you have what every little kid wants to have. They want to be a hero, so this movie lets them feel like one.

But all of that is neither here nor there. What about the actual movie itself? Why am I so apathetic towards it? In the span of nearly two hours, I know next to nothing about these people, what they're like, and what makes them them. This movie was an origin story with a ton of effort placed in creating this team, but little in fleshing them out. I know a ton about Hiro, who isn't that interesting of a protagonist to begin with, while Baymax is just a lovable gentle giant. And make no mistake, I have nothing against Baymax. I have no criticisms to Baymax whatsoever in this movie. He is the best part of this movie. I'm just saying that h doesn't have much character outside of being a gentle giant.

The rest of Hiro's team though has no real depth of merit to them. You have all of these very colorful looking nerds and geeks, but I don't even know thing one about them besides their archetypes. Take one character, GoGo Tomago, for instance. She's the resident tough girl with a heart of gold that's usually cold and distant, but means well for the group. That isn't actually said in the movie mind you, I just know because that's literally all she does. We never have any scenes with her to get to know her, yet we're expected to resonate with her and her catchphrase of "Woman Up". I didn't even know that was her phrase when I saw the movie because I just viewed her as background noise. I wanted to be invested in these side characters, but I just couldn't when so little focus is placed on them.

I'm aware that a significant portion of my review has focused on the story elements and the characters above all else, so I just want to take some time to say that this animation looks great. While I'm personally sad to see that we've moved away from 2D hand-drawn animation from Disney, it's hard to complain when the alternative looks so good. Some of the best effects in the movie are just watching Hiro fly across San Fransokyo with Baymax or watching the villain manipulate thousands of nanomachines at once. It's great to watch and makes the movie much more of a spectacle than Wreck-It Ralph ever was.

But why do I feel so apathetic about this movie even now? Because for this whole week, I've just been thinking about why I didn't love this movie. Everyone else I knew was raving about this movie, while I've just been sitting here not doing much of anything. I think the reason I'm not going nuts over the movie is because nothing was accomplished in this movie. Hiro overcame his brother's death through Baymax's help and care, but everything else was just superfluous. In all honesty, this movie didn't even need to be a superhero movie. That part just comes across as a quickly pieced together after thought than giving some merit or weight to the material.

I just keep coming back to thinking about other family super hero movies. I think about how great The Incredibles is as a superhero film and how much more it said about the genre than this movie. I even think about The Iron Giant with the boy and his robot relationship and think of how incredible that movie was. The relationship between the two was amazing and overshadows how Big Hero 6 establishes its boy and robot relationship. Just everything about this movie is fine, but is done so much better in other movies.

Okay, this is just adorable
And so here I am. I do't hate the movie in the slightest, but it's done nothing for me. I literally feel like I have seen this movie done so many times before, just with a new coat of paint. I don't think this movie is awful, but the ideas touched upon this movie, outside of overcoming grief and despair, have been done better in other kids movies and other Disney movies. This movie is vanilla ice cream. It's fine for what it is, but it's not a fresh batch of cookies or a delicious cake. It provides sustenance, but without any real merits to it. You just eat it and move on.

I'm totally willing to give this movie another chance, especially if Disney is going to make this into a franchise. Then I'll gladly give this another chance. They just need to focus on the other 4 members of the Big Hero 6. We know about Hiro and Baymax, now just focus on the rest. And provide more weight to the movie. Give me something that I'll hold onto and value after the movie is done. Disney is usually so good and giving its audience warm fuzzy feeling when they leave the theatre. I just feel mildly lukewarm. It's better than being cold, but I'm room temperature.


Still, Baymax is totes adorbs

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