by Mark Woodhouse
Rated PG. Starring the voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung. Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams.
Last year people all over the world fell in love with a singing snowman; this year, it’ll be a white inflatable robot, in Big Hero 6.
Fourteen-year-old prodigy Hiro Himada (Potter) is wasting his genius betting on illegal robot-fights, and big brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) is worried about him. In an effort to set Hiro on the right path, Tadashi introduces Hiro to his project: a healthcare robot named Baymax (Adsit). When Tadashi is tragically killed, Hiro is devastated. But Baymax is there to take care of him (but diagnoses him with ‘puberty’). As the mystery surrounding Tadashi’s death begins to unravel, Hiro and Baymax turn their nerdy friends into high-tech superheroes in order to investigate.
Big Hero 6 is inspired by the little-known Marvel comic of the same name. That makes this a Disney film with a bit of a Marvel feel to it (hint – stay to the end of the credits!). It’s a superhero origins story through a Disney lens, a film full of action and cool technology with real heart.
The film is set in a city called San Fransokyo – it’s not quite San Francisco, and it’s not quite Tokyo. With San Fransokyo, Disney has constructed a compelling and beautiful city that really fascinated me and drew me into the Disney world. It’s an enthralling place and culture that feels at the same time both familiar and foreign.
It’s also visually stunning and detailed, which adds a layer of realism. Disney actually developed a huge amount of software to make this film possible! Even the crowds that fill the background are unique. All this detail doesn’t strike you until you realise just how deeply involved in this world of San Fransokyo you actually are!
Baymax the healthcare robot is the highlight for me. He’s helpful, yet a bit clumsy. He’s full of medical knowledge, but a little naive. He’s big, cuddly, non-threatening, but… capable of being ‘upgraded’. He’s a very funny and endearing character. And there’s also a lot of depth to his character, which is surprising (because, well, he’s a robot).
The film is driven by Baymax’s attempts to heal Hiro. After the death of his brother, it seems that nothing will cheer up Hiro. But Baymax cares, because that’s what he’s designed to do. Director Don Hall says Baymax “sees Hiro as his patient… He realises that Hiro’s dealing with the loss of his brother and his mission is to heal his broken heart.” As this relationship develops, we get a great insight into the growth of both characters. It doesn’t always go that smoothly, but that’s what makes it all the more interesting.
Big Hero 6 is very thematically rich, and deals with ideas of family and friendship, of loss and grief. I was lucky enough at the screening to hear producer Roy Conli speak about the importance of getting theme right, and describe the effort that goes into the thematic side of these films. I think this film has explored these themes very well, and packaged them in an entertaining, provoking, often-hilarious way. As long as Disney keep exploring such universally human themes as these, they will keep keep making great movies!
It’s because these themes are universally felt that Disney films are so popular. Kids feel them, adults feel them. Even Jesus felt the joys of family and friendships, and the heartache of loss and grief. I’m reminded of John 11 and Jesus weeping over the death of his friend, Lazarus. Even though John begins his account of the life of Jesus by saying Jesus is God (John 1:1), in this story we see a very human Jesus. His plan is clear – he’s going to do what Baymax could never do and restore Lazarus to life. Yet still he weeps, feeling death so close, seeing loved ones grieve the loss of their brother and friend.
It’s because Jesus is human that he can stand in the place of all humanity, can take the punishment due to our rebellious race. The good news of the gospel is that God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Jesus our saviour, Jesus our brother, Jesus our God became one of us to save us.
Big Hero 6 is a great film that will appeal to a huge range of people. It delighted my eyes, it made me laugh, and it stirred my soul just a little bit! Four-and-a-half stars.
Big Hero 6 will be released in cinemas in the US on November 7th, in Australia on December 26th, and in the UK on February 13th, 2015.