Resolutely refusing to change its name, riskily provoking cries of displeasure from simpletons who “haven’t seen the first five films”, Big Hero 6 shows some balls as it eyes up awards nominations and more.
Of course, this isn’t the sixth film of a radar-avoiding franchise and there is no suggestion that anyone thinks otherwise; but a significant part of me hopes that somebody somewhere is staring at a poster for this wondering how they kept missing the previous instalments. It might be a laugh to submit a fabrication along these lines to some mystified bloke in a pub in an attempt to convince him that the moment a Jeff Goldlbum-voiced giant superhero defeated an inter-dimensional villain voiced by Gilbert Gottfried in Big Hero 3 was a defining moment of your childhood.
Big Hero 6 adapts a Marvel property of which I had previously only the slimmest knowledge. Having taken close to $500m worldwide, it looks certain to become one of Disney’s biggest franchises, and justifiably so.
Set in the sprawling, neon-lit, future metropolis of San Fransokyo, Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is the 14-year-old tech genius who makes the leap from back-alley robot fighting to university robotics lab, inheriting the squishy healthcare robot, Baymax after his brother’s death. With Baymax in tow, Hiro and a newly-acquired band of nerd-mates, do battle with a Kabuki-masked nuisance who’s stolen his design for an all-purpose microbot.
The soft, pliable, inflatable automaton, Baymax steals the show in the frenetic and thoughtful adventure. With his simple, almost brainless expression, and kindly air of innocence, he’s got to rank as one of the most downright loveable sidekicks in recent memory. Watching him perform even the simplest acts, like negotiating a static coffee table are both endearing and hilarious. Pulling off CGI-generated physical comedy with panache, Baymax reminds me of the best silent movie comedians. There’s something Keaton or Laurel-esque about his meticulous, delicate motions.
As a backdrop, San Fransokyo’s mash-up of Western and Eastern cultural iconography harks back to the neo-noir of Blade Runner and provides a suitably stunning visual elegance. The action is as frenzied and madcap as you’d expect from an animation with its roots in the pages of Marvel Comics, but its rowdiness never overpowers the story or risks tipping over into obnoxiousness. And at every turn there’s the comforting, amusing presence of the big daft, positively human Baymax. An endearing friend whose naive wit and clumsy charm make me wish I had really missed five episodes of this and had a whole lot a catching up to do.
Genre:Animation, Action, Adventure Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures Release Date: 30th Janauary 2015 (UK) Rate: PG Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams Cast: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Maya Rudolph, Alan Tudyk