Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review! Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different classic from the Nerdosphere. This week Dave and Patrick review the 2014 Marvel/Disney animated hit Big Hero 6!
The Flick: Big Hero 6
What’s it About: In a future a merged megacities where technology has taken over most aspects of everyday life, young Hiro is an inventor with a penchant for finding trouble. His older brother Tadashi tries to set Hiro on a better path by encouraging him to apply at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology where Tadashi is a student developing a medical care robot named Baymax. He also introduces Hiro to Robert Callahan, the head of the institute. Hiro is so enthralled by Tadashi and his other students’ inventions that he develops micro-bot technology to show at the Institute’s Innovation fair where Callahan decides to take on new students. During the expo, an explosion occurs and Tadashi is killed trying to rescue Callahan, who was trapped in the building. In the wake of Tadashi’s death, Hiro discovers someone has stolen his micro-bot technology and is using them to commit crimes. Hiro converts Baymax into a super hero robot and forms a team of heroes among Tadashi’s friends in an effort to bring the thief to justice.
Metacritic Score: 74
The Nerds’ Take on Big Hero 6 (2014):
Patrick: With the Halloween season past us, I convinced Dave it was time to shift the Nerd Review to some more heartwarming fare. With that in mind I suggested the Disney/Marvel animated flick Big Hero 6. The Movie follows the story of fourteen year old Hiro who forms a team of superheroes in the wake of his older brother Tadashi’s death. Front and center in this team is Baymax, a nursing robot created by Tadashi but no converted into a fighting machine by Hiro. Hiro does this to track down a mysterious villain who stole Hiro’s micro-bot technology. Like many Disney films, it is difficult to summarize the plot because it is incredibly complex for an animated feature. The film tackles issues of grief and healing as well as building friendships. It does this all while also putting together a vibrant, colorful action film.
The film does a great job building the relationship between Hiro and Tadashi in the first act so that Tadashi’s death really impacts the audience along with Hiro. From there, Hiro’s story really plays out as an allegory for the five stages of grief. In the wake of Tadashi’s death, Hiro is sad but also in disbelief. He initially reacts to Baymax’s efforts to cheer him up with anger. And it could be argued that Hiro’s drive to create a superhero team and alter Baymax’s programming is an attempt at bargaining to bring back Tadashi before seeing his obsession bring him and the team to the lowest of lows. Once Hiro accepts the reality that Tadashi is truly gone and that there is life moving forward, Hiro and his team can then successfully track down the mysterious figure who stole Hiro micro-bot tech. It’s a rich story that opens some real opportunities for parents to talk with their children about life and loss.
But enough of the heavy stuff. The animation in Big Hero Six is top notch, especially in the team’s use of color. Everything is bright and pops off the screen which makes for an exciting experience. The little O’Dowd ate up this film. The action sequences are exciting, but not too scary for younger audiences and there really is a character for everyone. The voice cast is great as one would expect from a Disney film. Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell, T.J. Miller and Maya Rudolph are probably the most famous names in the cast, but everyone carries the film well.
I’ve held the belief that superhero films can carry heavy themes, but bottom line they need to be fun. Big Hero 6 accomplishes both in a terrific movie. This film was one of the earlier off the wall Marvel books picked up by Disney and it was a shrewd decision. The gamble paid off in the box office as well and spawned an animated series on the Disney Channel. Big Hero 6 is a terrific film for the entire family loaded with heart. You will be satisfied with your care.
Patrick’s Rating: 4.25/5
Dave: After spending the past two weeks in some pretty dark, scary, and sometimes quiet places, this weeks Nerds’ Review went in the complete opposite direction. There are very few certainties in this life: Death, taxes, and Disney making an excellent animated feature. Big Hero 6 is no exception to this rule.
Although Disney acquired Marvel back in 2009, Big Hero 6 was actually the first time that a Disney animated film featured Marvel characters. To say Disney got it right here is an understatement. The movie tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old boy living in the fictional city of San Fransokyo (which is a pretty spot on rendering of what a merging of San Francisco and Tokyo might look like). When the movie starts, Hiro is more interested in Bot fighting than anything else in the world. Hiro is highly intelligent for 14 years old and he has developed microbot technology, a variation of nanobot technology where thousands of tiny robots all merge together through the use of a neural transmitter worn by an individual. Using the neural transmitter, the wearer becomes something akin to Green Lantern, able to use the thousands of microbots to create just about any solid structure imaginable. At the urging of his big brother, Tadashi, Hiro uses this technology to impress Robert Callaghan, the head of the University’s Nerd Lab, aka its robotics program. During a presentation of this technology, Callaghan is impressed and offers Hiro admittance into the program. Before the celebration begins in earnest, however, a fire breaks out at the Exposition Hall. Callaghan is trapped inside and Tadashi selflessly goes into the burning building to rescue him. It is in vain as an explosion kills Callaghan and Tadashi.
From there, the movie goes in a different direction. Tadashi had developed a robotic healthcare robot named Baymax. Baymax tries to help Hiro overcome his grief, in line with his programming. Along the way, they discover that Hiro’s microbots were not destroyed in the fire and that a mysterious man in a kabuki mask has gained control over the microbots. Hiro surmises that this mysterious individual was responsible for the fire that killed Tadashi. He enlists the help of his friends and fellow robotics students from the university to fight this mystery man. In addition to giving Baymax some seriously powerful upgrades, the group evolves into Big Hero 6, with each individual utilizing robotic technology of some sort to, in essence, become super heroes. Hiro’s quest to avenge his brother leads to some difficult morality choices and, just like any good super hero movie, we soon discover that not everything is as it seems.
As noted before, Disney does not know how to make a bad animated movie. This one has all the elements you are looking for. The art-style is top notch and the story is excellent. It is charming and heart-warming in so many places. Hiro deals with a great deal of loss in the movie and the relationship between he and Baymax is the heart and soul of the film. I also particularly enjoyed the heroes. Unlike Project Power from a few months back, where all the heroes seemed to be copies of other well-established heroes, all of the heroes here felt quite unique. They are all flawed in some way but they all work together well as a team. If there is a minor complaint it might be that the team does not truly come together until late in the movie. Then again, this is an origin story of sorts. Make no mistake though, Baymax is the star. He persistently sticks to his programming, which makes him unique in that he appears to have sentience, but he really is not a form of AI. Nevertheless, he clearly learns as the movie progresses, and this is especially notable at the end which is equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful.
The movie was a huge success, both commercially and critically. It was the highest grossing animated film of 2014. The film was so successful that it spawned a series on the Disney Channel in 2017 and rumors of a full-fledged sequel have swirled for years. It is easy to see why. Unlike the DC animated features, which are excellent in their own right, Big Hero 6 is more about the characters involved and the relationships of those characters, than it is about the on-screen action. Even so, Marvel’s influence is heavily felt in the movie, including a nod to the MCU movies by combining a Stan Lee cameo with a post-credit scene that clearly opened the door to a sequel or two. Big Hero 6 can’t match the size and scope of a live-action mega flick like Infinity War or Endgame and it does not have to. It is unique and excellent in its own right and it is another of the many movies we have reviewed here that definitely get Big Dave’s stamp of approval.
Dave’s Rating: 4.25/5