Movie Review – Big Hero 6 (2014)

This past weekend saw the release of Big Hero 6, the 54th feature film released by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Set in an alternate version of San Francisco (called San Fransokyo in the film), Big Hero 6 tells a story of a gifted young robot engineer named Hiro who is persuaded by his older brother to apply for an advanced engineering school.  When Hiro’s brother is suddenly killed in a terrible accident (or so it seems), Hiro befriends Baymax, an inflatable nurse robot that was his brother’s last invention.  Hiro soon learns that it was no accident that killed his brother.  With the help of Baymax and his late brother’s friends at the engineering school, the group of them form a super hero team and they track down the killer.

Big Hero 6 (2014) - movie poster

Big Hero 6 (2014) – movie poster

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, Big Hero 6 stars Ryan Potter as the voice of Hiro Hamada and Scott Adsit as the voice of Baymax.  This movie also features the voices of James Cromwell and Alan Tudyk, and a cameo by Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.  Otherwise, nearly all of the voice actors/actresses are from obscure talents in Hollywood.

Big Hero 6 is set in the near future in San Fransokyo, a blending of San Francisco and Tokyo.  The movie begins with 14-year-old robot engineer Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) participating in a back alley robot fight.  He hustles his way to an easy victory and collects a large amount of money for winning the fight.  This doesn’t go too well with the other contestant, and Hiro has to make a quick getaway.  He’s rescued by his older brother, Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney), but they’re both caught by the police along with everybody else at the robot fight.  The robot fighting technically wasn’t illegal, but betting on it was.

The two brothers are soon bailed out of jail by Aunt Cass (voiced by Maya Rudolph), the boys’ aunt and legal guardian.  It’s briefly mentioned that the brothers’ parents died about ten years ago.  Aunt Cass owns a popular bakery and coffee shop, and she and the boys live in an apartment above the cafe.  Tadashi tries to sit down and talk some sense into Hiro, but Hiro is more interested in hustling for money at robot fights instead of going to college and getting an education.

Tadashi reluctantly agrees to take Hiro to another robot fight, but instead of going to the fight he takes his brother to see the robotics laboratory at the school he attends, a private school for gifted engineers.  Hiro’s attitude towards school quickly changes when he meets Tadashi’s friends and sees the advanced projects that they’ve created.  His friends include Go Go Tomago (voiced by Jamie Chung), “Wasabi” (voiced by Damon Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon (voiced by Genesis Rodriguez), and Fred (voiced by T.J. Miller).  Fred is not a brilliant inventor but rather a laid back visionary who enjoys walking around in a costume.  His lifelong dream is to be able to mutate into a flying dragon.

Hiro’s attention spikes when he goes into Tadashi’s lab and meets Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit), an inflatable robot that functions as a personal healthcare provider.  After being given a tour of the lab, Hiro is introduced to Professor Callaghan (voiced by James Cromwell).  Callaghan inspires Hiro to take the more challenging road and to push himself and apply for the school.  Hiro does so and uses his fighting robot as inspiration to create a new engineering marvel.

Hiro presents his new invention, something that he calls microbots, at the engineering school’s annual exhibition.  A successful project at the exhibition means admission into the prestigious school.  Hiro wows the crowds as he demonstrates how his microbots are capable of forming any type of structure that his mind can think of.  The long-term potential for microbots is endless.  The crowd is amazed and Professor Callaghan offers Hiro a chance to attend the school.

However, Hiro’s microbots also catch the attention of Alistair Krei (voiced by Alan Tudyk), owner of the engineering company Krei Tech.  Krei tries to purchase the microbots from Hiro, but Callaghan steps forward and warns Hiro not to accept the offer.  He claims that Krei takes dangerous shortcuts with his company, all in the name of earning a quick profit.  Hiro turns down the offer and does not sell his microbots.

When the exhibition ends and everybody is leaving the building, a fire suddenly begins at the university.  Fearing that Professor Callaghan is trapped inside, Tadashi rushes into the burning building to try to save the professor.  Moments later the building explodes, killing both Tadashi and Callaghan.

After losing his brother in the fire, Hiro sinks into a depression and isolates himself from his aunt and his brother’s companions.  He stays alone in his bedroom and refuses to attend classes at the university.

One day Hiro accidentally injures himself, and this triggers a response by Baymax.  Hiro had forgotten that the robot was inside of its tiny case and sitting in his brother’s bedroom.  After talking to Baymax, Hiro discovers that one of his microbots was lodged in the shirt that he wore at the exhibition.  He had thought that all of the microbots were destroyed in the fire.  The microbots are attracted to each other in order to work properly and form shapes, and this microbot indicated that there are more nearby.  Hiro doesn’t believe and and also doesn’t want to deal with Baymax, so he gives the microbot to Baymax and sends him on a mission to see where the microbot wants to go.

A moment later Hiro realizes that Baymax is actually out in public and blindly following the microbot, accidentally causing chaos around him.  Hiro rushes after him and follows Baymax through the city streets as the robot follows the actions of the microbots.  By the time that Hiro catches Baymax, the robot is standing outside of what appears to be an empty warehouse.  The door is locked but the microbot keeps acting like more microbots are inside of the building.  Hiro and Baymax enter through a window and soon discover that somebody is using robots to create thousands of new microbots.  In other words, somebody stole the microbots and is building more of them.

Suddenly Hiro and Baymax are spotted by a masked man.  The masked man is wearing the control visor (it reads the user’s brain waves and sends the instructions to the microbots).  The man uses the microbots to attack Hiro, but he and Baymax are able to escape from the building.  Hiro later files a police report, but the officer is very reluctant to believe Hiro’s story about a masked man using brain waves to control microbots.

When Hiro returns home with Baymax, he decides to make the robot into a fighting machine.  He uploads a kung fu progam into the robot and then outfits him with armor.  Then he and Baymax set out to find the masked man again.  They use the microbot to track the masked man to a pier, but there’s no sign of him.  Suddenly he appears with a mountain of microbots, and he again attacks Hiro and Baymax.  Baymax’s upgrades aren’t effective against the masked man, so he and Hiro are forced to flee.

The two of them are rescued by Go Go, Wasabi, Honey and Fred, but they’re not clear of the danger.  They all pile into Wasabi’s tiny car and they try to make a getaway from the masked man.  When Wasabi’s driving finally irritates Go Go to the breaking point, she takes over and drives like a skilled street racer to out maneuver the masked man.  The chase sequence ends when the car accidentally falls into the water.  Baymax rescues the gang and Fred offers to take them all to his house to recover.  The gang is reluctant as they believe that Fred is more of a hippie and probably lives in a cave or under a bridge, but they’re shocked when they arrive at Fred’s mansion.

It turns out that Fred’s parents are incredibly wealthy explorers.  His parents are always away on exotic trips, so Fred is normally alone in the mansion along with the butler, Heathcliff (voiced by David Shaughnessy).  It’s going to take the team of them to be able to stop the masked man, so Hiro upgrades all of them with armor and weapons that suit their strong points.  Go Go is given special wheels that make her extremely fast, Wasabi is given laser hands that can cut through anything, Honey is given chemical balls that explode and form thick, foamy clouds that can ensnare people, Fred is given a dragon suit that allows him to jump large distances and breathe fire, and Baymax is given a powerful fist (it uses rocket boosters to fly and smash through anything) along with a jet pack, giving the robot the ability to fly.  Hiro can use his armored suit and attach himself to Baymax’s back.  Together, the team becomes super heroes.  They test their weapons and tactics with Heathcliff posing as the masked man.

When it’s time to test Baymax’s jet pack, Hiro joins the robot for an exhilarating flight through San Fransokyo.  They finally land on an elevated platform and Baymax uses his advanced scanner to locate the masked man.  He spots him on a nearby island.  Baymax then carries Hiro and the rest of the gang to the island so that they can confront the masked man.

The island turns out to be a quarantined island, the site of a former Krei Tech lab.  When the gang discovers the old control room they find video tapes of the lab’s final experiment.  The videos reveal that Krei Tech was experimenting with teleportation technology.  The experiment to send a human test subject failed and the lab was destroyed.

Suddenly the masked man appears with the microbots, and the gang successfully fights him.  When they remove his mask it’s discovered that the masked man is none other than Professor Callaghan.  The professor reveals that he started the fire after stealing the microbots, and that Tadashi’s death meant nothing.  When Hiro realizes that Tadashi died in vain, he removes Baymax’s healthcare chip, the program that Tadashi himself created, and just leaves Hiro’s battle chip inside of the robot.  Now the robot is a killing machine whereas before he was prevented from harming any human beings.

Hiro orders Baymax to kill Callaghan.  The robot nearly does so until the rest of the gang intervenes and Honey is able to insert the healthcare chip back inside of Baymax.  Professor Callaghan grabs his mask and flees with the microbots.  Angry at not being allowed to get his revenge, Hiro returns home with Baymax, leaving the rest of the gang on the island.

Back in his bedroom, Baymax asks Hiro if killing Callaghan will help improve his emotions and make him feel better.  Hiro replies that it would, but killing Callaghan would not bring back Tadashi.  Baymax informs Hiro that Tadashi is still there, inside of him.  The robot then plays a series of videos that Tadashi recorded of himself testing Baymax’s previous versions.  After seeing Tadashi struggling and working hard to finally make Baymax work correctly, and that the robot is there to help people instead of harming or killing them, Hiro realizes that killing Callaghan is the wrong answer.  By that time Hiro’s companions arrive in his bedroom.  Hiro makes up with them and then the group sets out to find and stop Callaghan.

It’s discovered that the human test subject in the failed teleportation experiment was really Abigail Callaghan (voiced by Katie Lowes), Professor Callaghan’s daughter.  That explains why he tried to warn Hiro about giving his technology to Krei back at the exhibition.  He has blamed Krei for the presumed death of his daughter.  Knowing that, they know where Callaghan is going to strike next.  The gang quickly assemble in their super suits and head out to stop Callaghan.

At the new headquarters of Krei Tech, Alistair Krei is conducting the dedication ceremony when the celebration is crashed by Professor Callaghan and the microbots.  Callaghan uses the microbots to grab Krie and hold him hostage.  He then has the microbots assemble part of Krei’s teleportation portal above the headquarters building, and then he activates it.  Krei can only watch as his new building and its contents are slowly broken apart and attracted upward into the portal, being teleported into an alternate dimension.  Callaghan intends on saving Krei for last so that he can also be teleported and never returned, just as what happened to Abigail.

Hiro and the gang show up at Krei Tech and begin fighting against Callaghan.  The fight doesn’t go well for the young super heroes, and it’s only a matter of time before Callaghan uses the microbots to stop all of them.  As Hiro is hanging upside down and being pulled towards the portal, he realizes how to stop Callaghan.  He has the team fight the microbots instead of the professor.  They work together and use their strengths to break apart the microbots, sending them upwards through the portal.  By the time that Callaghan realizes that most of the microbots are gone and he doesn’t have any weapons left, it’s too late.  He has been defeated.

When the battle is finished, Baymax detects that a human is still alive and inside of the portal.  Knowing that the portal is unstable and close to destroying itself, Hiro and Baymax fly into the portal and find Abigail asleep in her test pod.  They use Baymax’s rocket engines to fly back to the portal, but he runs out of power.  The only way to save Hiro and Abigail is if Baymax stays behind and uses his rocket fist to propel the two of them back through the portal.  Hiro refuses but Baymax insists that it’s the only option.  Hiro gives the command and then he and Abigail race through the portal and back to San Fransokyo.  The portal then collapses and is destroyed, leaving Baymax trapped in the alternate dimension.  Abigail is alive and well and Professor Callaghan is arrested by the police.

A short while later, Hiro discovers the fist that Baymax fired to save him and Abigail.  Inside of the clenched fingers is the healthcare chip, the chip that Tadashi programmed with Baymax’s personality.  Delighted by the discovery, Hiro builds a new version of Baymax and inserts the healthcare chip.  Baymax comes to life and he and Hiro are reunited.

Big Hero 6 ends with Hiro and the gang being super heroes and helping those people in need.  In a post-credits scene, Fred discovers a secret door in his family’s mansion and realizes that his father was really a super hero.  His father (voiced by Stan Lee) then appears and confirms that his secret identity is true.


So is Disney’s Big Hero 6 a good movie?


At first I was skeptical of this Disney film because the animation looked to heavily influenced by the Japanese style of animation, and right now I’m not a huge fan of anime.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when watching this film and being much more focused on the story rather than how the characters and buildings look.  In the end, this was simply a fantastic experience from start to finish, from the story to the characters to the music to the fantastic looking locations.

Unlike most Disney animated films, Big Hero 6 is not a musical.  This is a straight up action / comedy / drama film that transitions into a super hero movie.  That really shouldn’t be too surprising as Big Hero 6 is technically part of the Marvel Comics, hence the cameo by Stan Lee.  He’s had a habit of making cameo experiences in many of the recent Marvel films.

Big Hero 6 (2014) – movie trailer

In the end, this is a fun movie from start to finish.  While other recent Disney animated films such as Tangled and Frozen appeal more towards girls, Big Hero 6 is going to appeal more towards the boys.  However, chances are likely that girls will probably enjoy the film just as much as the boys, especially when they see Baymax’s personality and antics.  Just take note that some of the subject material is a little dark and evil, but the overall story is still very family-friendly.

A bonus with seeing the film in the theater is that it’s accompanied by Feast, a short animation involving a puppy and how he helps his owner find true love.

four stars