On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?
Baymax asks this question over and over again throughout Big Hero 6, yielding different responses every time, depending on who he asks and when he asks. For almost any moviegoer of any age, however, the answer will be a big, fat zero — except when the movie wants you to feel some pain. Big Hero 6 is soothing, soulful, and so much fun, easily among the best all-ages movies of 2014.
It takes place in San Fransokyo, a fictional city that’s recognizably San Francisco with Tokyo influences in architecture and technology. It’s clearly a world that’s advanced beyond our own, with floating energy stations hovering across the city, and illegal ‘bot battles unfolding just around the next dark corner.
Big Hero 6 is soothing, soulful, and so much fun, easily among the best all-ages movies of 2014.
Fourteen-year-old super-genius Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) makes annoying amounts of cash at these battles, pool-sharking (bot-sharking?) opponents into horrible submission. But there’s so much more he could be doing with his intellect. He’s already graduated high school, and he’s leaps and bounds more intelligent than older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), a handsome and courageous young man who isn’t a slouch in the brains department either.
Tadashi wants Hiro to realize his potential, and to that end, he introduces his baby brother to “Nerd School,” the college he attends alongside other brilliant-minded peers. They spend their days experimenting in high-tech laboratories, innovating new technology for the betterment (and amusement) of all mankind. Tadashi’s personal project: Baymax (Scott Adsit), an inflatable healthcare robot. More on him in a minute.
Impressed by the patrons and potential of Nerd School, Hiro decides that he wants in. He creates his greatest invention yet as a form of application: a series of nanobots called “microbots,” operated by a crown-like neurotransmitter that allows the wearer to use the microbots however he or she likes. But shortly after unveiling the new technology, a horrible accident occurs, leaving our hero without his invention — and even worse, with a huge hole in his heart.
The deeply wounded and angry Hiro locks himself away for weeks, refusing visitors, rejecting any and all attempts to pull himself back together. But Baymax doesn’t take “no” for an answer — unless you tell him that you’re “satisfied with your care.”
Sensing the young man’s injuries, both physical and emotional, Baymax springs to life and befriends young Hiro, whether Hiro wants him or not. Together, the two begin a healing process that involves investigating the mystery of the missing microbots, the pursuit of an evil masked man, the formation of a superhero squad, and Hiro learning how to heal himself.
Big Hero 6 is based on a Marvel Comics book, but only barely. It takes its name, plus some characters and cues from the comic book written by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau, but little else. It’s not connected to the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe, either, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have anything in common with those films. Like the MCU movies, Big Hero 6 dishes out belly-deep laughs alongside high-stakes action and philosophical questions. There’s an obligatory Stan Lee cameo (blink, and you’ll miss it) and the obvious superhero component, too.
Between this movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers, Disney has the superhero team scene on lockdown.
In terms of the super-heroics, Big Hero 6 is breathtaking. The action is incredibly fun and inspired, using San Fransokyo in immensely creative ways. The recognizable San Francisco geography provides the groundwork for some pulse-pounding chase sequences through the city’s rolling hills. The power-sets of each Big Hero 6 hero and villain plays out perfectly on the big-screen, with Disney’s animation team choreographing fights with equal measures of glee and danger.
The superheroes themselves are all standouts, too. Without spoiling too much, Hiro needs his Nerd School friends as he and Baymax get closer and closer to solving the microbot mystery. Each of the friends has their own unique personality quirks and technological interests, which they use to craft their superhero identities. Whether it’s bubbly Honey Lemon (Génesis Rodriguez), fast-wheeling GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung), razor-sharp Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr), kaiju enthusiast Fredzilla (T.J. Miller), or Hiro himself, every Big Hero 6 viewer will walk away with at least one new favorite superhero.
But in all likelihood, everyone’s going to agree on the big star: Baymax. It takes a surprising amount of time before the inflatable, marshmallow-looking robot becomes a big deal in the movie, but once he’s in, holy moly. He’s the best, for every reason, from his soothing voice to his unchanging face (except for one notable moment near the final act), his fart-noise inflation sound effects to his amazing fist-bumps. Baymax is big and huggable, but capable of some serious bad-assery given the right programming and the right circumstances — or even the wrong circumstances, sometimes.
Best of all, though, is that Baymax isn’t a fighter, at least not primarily. He’s a healer. He heals with impromptu (and occasionally inappropriate) medical diagnoses, with laughter, with caring. He’s an incredible friend and an amazing role model for kids, especially compared to so many of the other action heroes and superheroes in theaters right now. With Superman busy breaking necks, and even Captain America wielding guns from time to time, it’s really refreshing to see Baymax as this beacon of light. And lest you think that’s a little too fluffy for your tastes, just wait until you see drunken, low-battery Baymax; any warm-blooded adult can relate.
If there’s a weakness in Big Hero 6, it’s that the plot is predictable and straightforward. Kids might not figure out some of the key mysteries right away, but pretty much any adult will nail it. But it’s a minor complaint in the face of everything else the movie gets right in terms of characters, themes, and diversity in tone.
Without a doubt, Big Hero 6 is another big win for Disney. Between this movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers franchise, Disney has the superhero team scene on lockdown. If you have kids, Big Hero 6 is a must-see. Even if you don’t, check it out — you’ll learn a thing or two, too.