A film review by Craig J. Koban December 5, 2014 

BIG HERO 6 jjj

2014, PG, 81 mins.


Ryan Potter as Hiro Hamada (voice)  /  Scott Adsit as Baymax (voice)  /  Jamie Chung as GoGo Tomago (voice)  /  Génesis Rodríguez as Honey Lemon (voice)  /  Damon Wayans, Jr. as Wasabi (voice)  /  T.J. Miller as Fred (voice)  /  Alan Tudyk as Alistair Krei (voice)  /  James Cromwell as Professor Robert Callaghan (voice)  /  Maya Rudolph as Aunt Cass (voice)  /  Daniel Henney as Tadashi Hamada (voice)

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams  /  Written by Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson and Jordan Roberts


Where Disney’s BIG HERO 6 (their 54th animated film) lacks in originality it more than makes up for it in terms of energy and a fairly amusing and heart-warming story that preaches a noble anti-violence message.  

Directed with great exuberance for the underlining material by Don Hall (WINNIE THE POOH) and Chris Williams (BOLT), BIG HERO 6 is, quite predictably, an unqualified visual stunner that Disney can churn out with relative ease, but it also happens to be their very first animated effort based on Marvel Comics characters (albeit rather loosely), which is kind of surprising seeing that Disney has owned the Marvel brand since acquiring it over 5 years ago.  No matter, because BIG HERO 6 does a solid job of marrying the accouterments of the super hero origin film genre with that quintessential Disney charm and humor that we’ve come to expect from the studio. 

BIG HERO 6 takes place in an intriguing alternate reality San Francisco, dubbed San Fransokyo, which visually marries the trolley car street aesthetic of the Californian city with the neon-colored Asian influences of Tokyo's cityscape (even though there’s no real explanation as to why this city is the way it is…it doesn’t matter, because this fusion of East and Western architectural sensibilities makes for a sensational looking backdrop for the film).  The young hero of the film is Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), who is an extremely bright-minded boy that has an unnatural intelligence and skill when it comes to robotics.  His older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) is making a name for himself as an intrepid robotics inventor at a special college that caters to the gifted.  During one trip to the campuses Hiro becomes instantly obsessed with the prospects of attending, but he first must prove his worthiness to one of the college heads, Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell).



Realizing that he needs to “wow” the professor with something special, Hiro goes to the drawing board and invents a revolutionary series of microbots that could fundamentally alter the landscape of the robotics industry.  Shortly after Hiro unveils his invention, tragedy strikes in the form of a fire that kills both his brother and the Professor, but Hiro later learns that the fire was purposely set to cover up the theft of his very invention by a mysterious kabuki-masked villain that has vile plans of using Hiro’s microbots.  Realizing that he can’t take on a super villain alone, Hiro calls up his BFFs – Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung, Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Fred (T.J. Miller) – to form a super hero team with a secret weapon at their disposal in Baymax (Scott Adsit), a special medical robot that Tadashi invented and left behind for Hiro to watch over him. 

Baymax himself is a fascinating creation.  He’s kind of unlike just about any movie robot that I’ve seen before.  Instead of being a robust and intimidating looking mechanical monster made up of metal and gears, Baymax instead takes the appearance of a large and obese looking inflatable balloon.  His programming involves medical procedures and diagnostics, meticulously looking for aliments – physical and mental – that afflict Hiro at any waking moment.  A substantial amount of BIG HERO 6’s wonderful appeal is what a loveable creation Baymax emerges as, mostly because of how Scott Adsit delivers pitch-perfectly rendered deadpan line readings – sometimes at the most inopportune times – that gives the film a comic momentum throughout.  Baymax, visually at least, creates moments of hysterical physical comedy as well, seeing as his frame is so rotund that he often has to walk around objects to make his way through.  There has not been a robot as insatiably huggable in a film as much as Baymax. 

He’s also central to one of the overriding themes of BIG HERO 6.  Baymax is programmed as a soft-spoken, non-violent, and passive entity that will never do harm to any living soul.  When Hiro grows desperate in his search for the villain, he begins to toy with Baymax’s programming and attempts to transform him into a technological ass-kicking force.  Of course, Hiro learns the hard away about how his lust for personal retribution can cloud his judgment, not to mention that it further serves as an unsavory catalyst that strips away a person’s very humanity.  I give BIG HERO 6 large props for at least exploring these relatively complex themes with a real fundamental understanding of them.  Yes, the film does eventually devolve into the obligatory, action-heavy third act pitting heroes versus villain with the city itself taking heavy damage (so bloody common for the super hero genre these days), but it at least hones in on the thorny ramifications of Hiro’s relationship with his robotic ally; in essence, he learns how to use technology and how not to abuse it throughout the story. 

As mentioned, BIG HERO 6 is an imaginatively conceived and executed marvel on a level of its pristine animation.  The quasi-futuristic San Fransokyo megatropolis provides endless eye candy that inspires legitimate awe and wonder.  Even though Hall and Williams have obviously soft-pedaled the comic book source material for the purposes of making a largely family-centric and friendly entertainment, they have done so without it coming off as too obtrusively saccharine.  They also have a strong ensemble of voice actors that all, in tandem, keep the film buoyantly afloat for its near two-hour runtime.  There are times, though, when BIG HERO 6 perhaps gets a bit too manic and frantically energized for its own good, not to mention that some late breaking plot twists revolving around the real identity and motives of one significant character is not nearly as shocking of a surprise as the filmmakers think it is.  Some moments – like a would-be exhilarating sequence invoking Hiro and the newly armored-up Baymax flying joyously through the heavens – seems to recall similar sequences in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, but fails to attain the same level of high flying euphoria.  

That, and BIG HERO 6 doesn’t feel nearly as subversively innovative as, say, THE INCREDIBLES, another super hero themed animated film that had a bit more fun sending up comic book troupes.  Then there’s the genuine lack of development of BIG HERO 6’s protagonist; he’s an intimidating presence, to be sure, but his back-story seems a bit too hastily cobbled together for its own good.  Alas, BIG HERO 6 is a wonderfully entertaining Disney offering that’s equal parts humorous, action-packed, swiftly paced, and frequently touching.  It doesn’t hold up to the best animated offerings of the last few years, but it sure is a hard film to resist.  And Baymax is arguably the finest comic relief character in any film – animated or not – in many a moon.  He’s an irresistible and sweet natured force of compassion in BIG HERO 6, and his central bond with Hiro gives the film an undercurrent of tenderness amidst all of its super hero derring-do.  

And speaking of tender…the animated short that precedes BIG HERO 6, the lovingly crafted FEAST (presenting a POV story of a Boston Terrier’s 12-year relationship with his owner, during which time he eventually plays matchmaker and healer for him), is easily worth the very price of admission alone.

  H O M E