The problem with Big Hero 6...

…is that there’s not more of it. Zing!

Hate-baiting title aside, I really loved the hell out of Big Hero 6. Even in a year that had more than its share of great animated movies (The LEGO Movie, Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2), it stood out as something memorable. I cried no less than twice both times I saw it, and that doesn’t happen often. I rarely cry at movies, and that’s no boastful claim; I’ve unfortunately gotten so jaded that hardly anything gets to me, but Big Hero 6 managed to push my buttons.

Part of this was that it’s largely a hodgepodge of all my favorite animated and/or superhero movies and TV shows. There’s a little bit of The Incredibles, a touch of Spider-Man 2, a dash of Teen Titans, and a lot of The Iron Giant. It’s hard for me not to love a relentlessly optimistic and colorful superhero movie about a diverse team of geniuses saving the world with science. I’m all over that kinda shit.

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But more vital to Big Hero 6’s success is its speedy and effective character development. You could practically teach a class on establishing character traits using this movie. Check out this scene.

In the space of a single minute, you instantly know everything you need to about each individual character’s personality and skill set, and almost none of it is exposition. It’s all demonstrated through character action. It’s the perfect example of why “show” is always superior to “tell”.

In fact, the brief nature of our individual interactions with these characters is the chief complaint I had, as I alluded to at the start of this piece. This above scene isn’t just the introduction of the team, it accounts for almost half of the time we spend getting to know them. Despite ostensibly being a superhero team movie, Big Hero 6 at the end of the day isn’t really an ensemble film. This is 100% Hiro Hamada’s story, and the film revolves almost exclusively around him and his incredibly toyetic sidekick Baymax, who would easily be Marvel’s top breakout character of the year if he didn’t have Groot for competition.

The remaining four members of the team exist on the fringes of the film, to the point that they have almost no impact on the events of the film at all. They’re here only to provide emotional support and backup during the fight scenes, both of which Baymax is chiefly responsible for and could easily have handled on his own without changing these scenes much. At the end of the day, the other team members almost feel more like extensions of Baymax rather than individual participants in the narrative.

This isn’t really an obstacle so much as it is a missed opportunity. The laser focus on Hiro’s story works great as it stands. It tells a funny, touching story of dealing with loss, and of revenge versus justice, which sets up its world so beautifully that you’re left craving more. Baymax is one of the best robot characters I’ve seen in the movies in years, wonderfully simple, yet effective in design, and avoiding many worn-out clichés and effortlessly tugging on your heartstrings with every frame. He and Hiro make the perfect duo to hang the film on, and I’m glad we’ll be seeing more of them.

That said, it was a bit frustrating to see a supporting cast of instantly lovable and visually dynamic characters end up as little more than set dressing. Marvel’s previous team movies did a great job of giving all its characters room to breathe without losing focus on the story, and unfortunately the same can’t quite be said of Big Hero 6. It’s a testament to how great these characters are that I was left craving more of them, even with only about a few minutes worth of dialogue apiece. Hopefully, Marvel has more plans for these guys, because Gogo, Wasabi, Honey, and Fred* are too good a team to remain in the background.

[*Also Aunt Cass. Am I the only one who loves Aunt Cass? Because Aunt Cass is awesome.]

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  • Wizkamridr

    “I cried no less than twice both times I saw it, and that doesn’t happen often.”

    I cried during a movie that most fans hate, and it wasn’t because I felt it destroyed my childhood. It was either:

    a. nostalgia

    b. the music

    c. the scenes impacted me differently than most

    “There’s a little bit of The Incredibles, a touch of Spider-Man 2, a dash of Teen Titans, and a lot of The Iron Giant.”

    It looks more like a mixture of anime and super sentai to me. I thought the Iron Giant was based on Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor).

  • tcorp

    It’s probably unfair to compare this movie to Frozen, but watching this movie re-emphasized for me why Frozen was not the bellwether of a new Disney renaissance that everyone thought it was.

  • Joseph Patrick

    You hit the nail on the head. If anything, I could see them transitioning this onto Disney XD as an animated show much like “Aladdin.” Where they get to continue their adventures and maybe expand on this world they created. More importantly focus on the team dynamic, which I felt made them feel like props. At least in the Avengers or Guardians, each member has a direct relationship to one another, getting to know them as characters we can empathize with. The closest we get to that is Fred’s character, but it’s not nearly enough. On a side note, I find it funny how they casted TJ Miller as the guy dressed as a Kaiju… since he dealt with a Kaiju in “Cloverfield.” As it is, I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite animated film to have come out. As someone who had to watch every widely released animated film, it manages to be in my top five, but not my top three.

    I’d say what those films I rank, but i’d spoil the fun in an upcoming countdown!

    • Moppet

      I’d love to see them go back to Disney Afternoon era style cartoons in general, but a spin off of the movie series would be neat. I’m under the heavy impression they’re going for more movies though. One can dream.

    • Wizkamridr

      The avengers and guardians were just meh for me. I did not hate the films, just wasn’t blown away. I only watched the avengers because of the hulk. I only liked the raccoon and groot in gotg.

  • jbwarner86

    This was my main issue with the film (well, that and they kinda cheaped out on the ending by [SPOILERS] revealing Callaghan’s daughter to have really been alive the whole time [/SPOILERS]). I know Disney doesn’t really do TV shows based on their animated movies anymore, but I really hope we get one for Big Hero 6. Honey, GoGo, Wasabi, and Fred are just begging to be developed further.

    But even in spite of that, Hiro and Baymax were a great pair of characters and I really loved their story. It just left me wanting so much more.

  • I had different issues, none of which had to do with the heroes of the story, mine has to do with the villain who’s motivation comes too late in the game and whose personality is really weak.

    Also, while the team’s introduction comes fluidly into the narrative the start of the movie is obnoxiously explanation heavy (watch the scooter escape from the robot fights, the two brothers take at each other about establishing information and it is crap).

    • Capt. Harlock

      I actually liked the villain inversion concerning the “Wise Mentor” vs the “Greedy Capitalist.” It lent some realism to the characters.

      • I just saw it coming. And even though I saw it coming it isn’t foreshadowed. He lost a child, so why not have him get wistful at some random point? Or have a picture of her somewhere in a scene?

        Really he was only a mentor for a month, not really enough time for the betrayal to really sting.

        I would have had it be the elder brother. That way you have the inversion of the older brother using the younger brother’s invention to wreck havoc, and the younger brother has to use the elder’s invention to stop him. Maybe their parents died because of an accident, and the older brother knew and blamed the rich man. That way the younger brother has a reason to join in the mayhem, but ultimately makes the right decision, that has more impact.

        In the movie as it stands there is no real moral conflict, the bad guy killed the heroes brother, stole his work, and is trying to kill a patron of science because of blaming him for an industrial accident.

  • Gallen_Dugall

    It was good. Incredibles was still better.