Review: “Big Hero 6”

When Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, one’s imagination couldn’t help but go wild. What stories in the existing Marvel Universe could be told with the talented Disney affiliated minds behind them? The possibilities were endless, which makes it that much more depressing that their first animated film based on a Marvel property is a dud. “Big Hero 6,” based on the comic book series of the same name lacks personality, a heartfelt story or even decent laughs. It’s not a terrible movie by any means, but neither is it very good. It’s just kind of there.

Hiro (Ryan Potter) is an engineering prodigy who graduated high school at age 13, but hasn’t done much since aside from hustling people in underground robot fighting. However, his brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), understands his potential and helps him harness it in an environment that could allow him to change the future with his inventions. After a successful exhibition of his nanobots, he is accepted into a school for the scientifically gifted, but he ends up not attending, as his brother is killed in a tragic fire shortly after.

His brother’s invention, an inflatable medical robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit) is all Hiro has left of him. One day, when Baymax wanders off, Hiro follows him and discovers something he didn’t expect to find: someone wearing a kabuki mask is manipulating his nanobot technology for evil. So he, along with his brother’s school friends, use their engineering prowess to turn themselves and Baymax into superheroes and set out to identify the masked man and bring him down.

Despite its source material predating its release, “Big Hero 6” feels like a poor imitation of “The Incredibles.” It has a similar visual style, eccentric characters with crazy superpowers and the same dark-but-not-too-dark-so-as-to-appeal-to-the-kiddies narrative. Unfortunately, the narrative here isn’t particularly interesting, as it breezily moves from here to there with few moments of consequence in between. The only character worth caring about is Tadashi, primarily due to the wonderful sibling relationship he has with Hiro. Their relationship leads to some heartfelt and, eventually, heartbreaking moments, but he leaves the picture so early on that the rest of the film feels lackluster in comparison.

Once he leaves, the relationship angle is primarily centered around Hiro and Baymax, but it’s rudimentary at best. While not impossible to create a meaningful relationship between a human and machine, “Big Hero 6” squanders it by focusing less on the human qualities of Baymax and more on the fact that he’s a machine capable of upgrading. The more it focuses on the latter, the more the viewer realizes that whatever limited personality he has can be replicated. When Baymax finds himself in precarious situations later in the movie, it doesn’t matter. If he’s destroyed, it won’t be difficult to build another.

Luckily, there are a couple interesting twists in the movie to keep viewers interested, even if they don’t necessarily raise the stakes in any meaningful way. In particular, the finale is thrilling and goes in a direction that, at least visually, is wonderful. These final moments show the real beauty that this type of filmmaking is capable of imagining up, which goes a long way in making up for the rest of the film’s good, but typical aesthetics.

“Big Hero 6” is a movie without an audience. Older viewers with more distinguished tastes will be able to see through its thinness while younger audiences may find themselves too frightened by the admittedly menacing kabuki mask wearing enigma. But in the end, it simply lacks the personality, humor or charm of Disney’s other films and while it doesn’t offend in any way, neither does it impress. “Big Hero 6” is 102 minutes of pure mediocrity.