Big Hero 6 is the latest from the Disney Animation Studios and marks the first time that a Disney movie features characters from the Marvel universe, although you wouldn't know it unless you are really really into Marvel comics. The characters of Big Hero 6 are a really deep cut. It was inevitable that this would happen eventually, what with Disney acquiring Marvel in 2009, and I for one am glad that they went with characters that I had absolutely no idea were part of the Marvel Universe.
What Disney has done by choosing an obscure property like the team of Big Hero 6 is brilliant: they get to use the Marvel name and dip into how popular comic movies are these days, but they also can do pretty much whatever the hell they want with the characters because nobody knows nor cares who they are. They can also lose all of the baggage that comes with Marvel's convoluted continuity, and absolutely no one will be freaking out about it. So, what we get is a property that uses the basic core ideas of these characters and completely changes and reinvents them, leaving only a vague similarity to what was originally in the comics.
Think about it as if a writer was going to do a Spider-Man film, and the only parameter that he had was “this guy has spider powers.” No radioactive spider, no Uncle Ben, no Mary Jane, none of it. Just give the guy spider powers and see what happens. Which in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing.
Set in the fictional future city of San Fransokyo, the film is the story of boy genius Hiro, who is incredibly gifted in the field of robotics. His brother Tadashi is a student in the very competitive and advanced robotics program at the university and has created a medical companion robot Baymax. Baymax is an inflatable robot shaped kind of like a teddy bear with short little legs and a big belly. The idea behind Tadashi's design was to make Baymax friendly and huggable, as a care provider has no need to be a big stompy robot. A bad guy does bad thing, and Hiro uses his technological genius to turn his friends, as well as Baymax, into superheroes to fight the bad guy. It's a children's movie, so that's about as complex as the plot really needs to be.
The movie does hit a lot of sweet spots. The city is beautifully designed—basically San Francisco if it were in Japan. Baymax is very well designed as well; visually he communicates everything his character is supposed to be. The villain’s design is also right on the money. The movie moves along quite well, getting in all the beats an action film needs. It has some laughs, some drama, some good action scenes, and a fairly well-constructed plot—pretty much what we've come to expect from Disney's animated features.
On the other hand, it does leave a little to be desired. On the design front, the other characters that make up the team are a little muddy and aren't nearly as well-designed as Baymax. When creating a superhero, the costume needs to communicate the hero's power set and personality immediately, and other than Baymax, the other characters don't really have that visual impact. The characters are all fairly one-dimensional and fairly stock in their personalities as well, minus Fred.
The screening I saw was in 3D, and I felt it added nothing to the film whatsoever. Although, that is how I feel about anything in 3D in general. Well, except Friday the 13th Part 3.
What Big Hero 6 ends up being is just pretty good. It hits all bullet points but fails to give us anything as charming as Disney's other recent standout features, such as Wall-E or Frozen. It just doesn't have that same next-level cleverness or appeal.