Prepare to fall in love with an inflatable. Big Hero 6 (2015) Review

BigHero6Continuing their recent strong run, Disney Animation Studios have dipped into the more obscure corners of corporate stablemate Marvel’s back catalogue and picked out a winner. But before we even get to the main event, we’re served up another treat as Disney continues its adoption of Pixar’s habit of including a supporting feature. “Feast” is a beautiful, cleverly told story of one man’s love life from the perspective of his Boston Terrier Winston and, more importantly, his leftovers. It’s a real gem of a short.

When Disney’s acquisition of Marvel was first announced, the biggest fear was the inexorable, creeping Disneyfication of the Marvel Universe. It never happened, of course, and everything to date seems to point to the House of Mouse letting Marvel do what it does best without too much interference. However, “Big Hero 6” provides a compelling argument that even if every Comic Book Guy’s worst case scenario had come to pass, it might not have been such a bad thing after all.

“Big Hero 6” benefits from a stripped down, straightforward narrative which deftly combines elements of traditional Disney and Marvel storytelling approaches to create a potent, merchandise-friendly cocktail of action, comedy and iconic cuteness. The story centres firmly on Hiro and his brother, both robotics geniuses who apply their gifts in slightly different ways as the movie opens. When tragedy strikes, Hiro finds solace and opportunity in his brother’s last creation: a health companion robot called Baymax.

Baymax here is radically reimagined from his comic book appearance and origins although iconic elements are retained, such as the memory card-based personality and the reinvention is a spectacular success. Unfortunately, “Big Hero 6” is categorically not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so you won’t get to see Baymax throw down with Iron Man – or Groot and Baymax try to out-adorable each other unless you have the Disney Infinity 2.0 videogame.

The character and production design are, as you’d expect, exquisite. The neon streets of San Fransokyo – a fictionalised reimaging of a San Fransisco rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake by Japanese immigrants – are beautifully rendered and there’s so much vibrancy and colour in this world that it’s a shame to dim them with 3D glasses. There are many subtle nods to other Disney, Pixar and Marvel films and a hefty direct lift from “Stargate” but the movie manages to feel new and unique despite its obvious inspirations. The voice work is excellent too, with Scott Adsit (“30 Rock”) giving a stand out performance of comic timing as the voice of Baymax, managing to convey emotions and humour without ever straying outside the confines of a robot’s logic.

My movie watching buddy, The Mertmas, absolutely loved it and remained spellbound for the entire duration of the film. Unsurprisingly, Baymax has shot straight to the top of his wish list for 2015’s birthday and Christmas.

The pinnacle of animated superhero films remains “The Incredibles” and while “Big Hero 6”, the most Pixar-esque Disney Animations film yet, gets pretty close it’s still not quite at the level of Brad Bird’s 2004 masterpiece. This introduction to the team would have benefitted from a bit more development of the other four members of Big Hero 6: GoGo Tomago, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred but this movie knows its strengths and plays to them, so Baymax and, to a lesser extent, Hiro are front and centre.

The relationship between a boy and his robot is pure Disney and wrapped up in the action heroic conventions of Marvel (yes, there’s a post-credits scene) it becomes an irresistibly fun movie. Fist bumps will never be the same again.