Big Hero Six (2014)

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It’s hard to believe that Frozen is two years old, given how I’m still hearing about it even now. That should tell you just how beloved Frozen is.

Disney has always been a family favourite but the last film that really received anything approaching the popularity of Frozen was Beauty and the Beast (which is 24 years old). So how do you follow your most popular and well received film in a quarter of century? You do something completely and utterly different, you do Big Hero Six.

Now, there is as a little bit of controversy surrounding Big Hero Six. A controversy so small that I think that only hardcore fans of Marvel Comics would even be aware of (and an even smaller percentage of which actually care). You see, Big Hero Six began life as a Marvel Comic about a team of Japanese superheroes, way back in 1998.

Marvel Comics has tried numerous times to branch out into cultures where their comics didn’t have much penetration (however, the movies have sidestepped that issue). They have created Japanese and Indian versions of popular Marvel characters in an attempt to engage those audiences. I have absolutely no idea if they were successful or not. Big Hero Six (the comic) was one such attempt to crack Japan.  I’m also fairly certain that the movie interpretation is a similar attempt to find a new audience (as I believe Frozen is very popular in Korea and other eastern countries). Ironically, Big Hero Six is called Baymax in Japan…

The firony that the West is now trying to sell its animations to the East is not lost on me.

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“Any similarity between any comic book character living or dead is unintentional.”

The controversy (for me) around Big Hero Six is that it doesn’t have the now familiar Marvel Comics logo on it. They borrowed many elements from the original, such as character names, designs and backgrounds, Stan Lee even makes an appearance (of sorts), so shame on you, Disney, for not officially recognising this as a Marvel movie (though I do understand why it wasn’t).

Anyway, the plot (as usual, I’ll be light on detail). This film follows the exploits of orphaned brothers, Hiro Hamada (Hiro Takachiho in the comics), a 14 year old boy genius, and Tadashi Hamada, a genius university student.

Both are experts in robotics and have their own really advanced projects. Hiro has developed micro-robots which work together to do amazing things, like form towers and construct things, while his brother has developed a medical robot he calls Baymax (in the comics, Baymax is a robotic lizard thing).

Tadashi persuades his younger brother to stop wasting his life and join him at university, where he meets Fred, GoGo, Honey Lemon and Wasabi (all named for their comic book counterparts) and Professor Callaghan.

Some stuff happens, a villain arises and the university students utilise their science experiments to become superheroes. Lessons are learned, characters develop and it is both moving and exciting. If you have seen any Pixar movies, you’ll know exactly what to expect.

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“I do love how they have interpreted the original characters to be their own thing in this movie, Fredzilla being the best example. In the comics, he actually is a part-time fire-breathing lizard man but in here, its just his costume.”

Let’s cut to the chase: Big Hero Six is brilliant.

The writers took a not-very-well-known Marvel title and translated it into a fantastic animated movie. As a follow up to Frozen, it could not be any more different and yet, it is every bit as good.

Both have the now familiar Disney animation style, first seen in Tangled and obviously employing  techniques first developed by Pixar (which Disney purchased in 2006). Frozen stands out from Tangled, and the follow up, Brave, because it had an amazing story, spectacular songs and an excellent message.

Both of these two latter movies feature orphaned siblings with a deep familial bond which drives the story forward, but Big Hero Six ditches songs for action and has it in spades. It also has an amazing story and an excellent message. Also expect to see action figures everywhere.

The story is very well plotted and… and… I’m struggling to find fault with Big Hero Six. Like at all. It is like Pixar and Marvel Comics were introduced to one another by their mutual friend, Disney, and the result is a power-couple surpassing Brad and Angelina.

And I have to say, while I am not a fan of 3D (I accidentally turned up to a 3D showing, curse you, Android cinema app), the 3D here was really, really good. If you want to see a good example of the 3D technology actually working (and working well), go see this film.

It has been hailed as “Frozen for boys”, which I think is a vaguely silly statement, given that Frozen is beloved by boys and girls. And I see no reason why girls won’t like Big Hero Six. But I think the statement was supposed to describe the quality, not the target audience.

I’m really impressed with what Disney has done here. It is a Marvel Comic turned into a Disney film, through and through. And that’s not a bad thing. Indeed, I would love to see something like Power Pack or New Warriors given this kind of treatment.

Indeed, Disney entered a new renaissance since buying Pixar: I’ve liked everything they have produced from Brave onwards and I love that they are writing good stories that promote equality. While I don’t think my niece will be as obsessed with this as she is with Frozen (she’s all about the princesses), I see no reason why she wouldn’t enjoy it.

This deserves to be as popular as Frozen. Just don’t forget the origins of Big Hero Six.

TL:DR “Disney makes a fantastic animated movie about a superhero team based on a forgotten Marvel property. But since Disney own Marvel, they can do whatever they like it seems.”

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