Welcome to the futuristic San Fransokyo, where misfit robotics prodigy (aren’t they all) Hiro takes on his late brother’s project, a medical robot, Baymax. But soon Hiro and his band of misfit science geek friends (aren’t they all) are out to catch the evil genius (aren’t they all) who stole Hiro’s invention and caused his brother’s death.
Disney’s direct re-invention of How to Train Your Dragon is an manga-inspired mashup of The Incredibles and Wall-E; a comic-book romp that has eye-popping action and the now-obligatory flying sequence over a glorious San Fransokyo which steals the show. Drop me off in town to go exploring and pick me up when the super-heroics are over. I can guess the rest – it’s all about family, innit?
Instantly accepted into the local Eureka/Weird Science College for flaky geniuses, direction-less Hiro sees his brother killed in a suspicious fire. On discovering his world-changing invention of mind-controlled nano-bots was stolen under cover of the fire, Hiro becomes obsessed with vengeance, taking about five minutes to transform Baymax and his geeky friends, Go Go Tamago (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and slacker Fred (T.J. Miller) into a band of high-tech heroes.
Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) is a straight lift of How to Train’s Hiccup; Baymax (Scott Adsit) is the friendly side of Hal9000 mixed with the inflatable white Stay-Puffed marshmallow man and Wall-E – an unlikely battle-bot until Hiro dresses him as a Transformer. Hiccup – sorry Hiro – then invents a whole pile of techno-stuff in about a minute and a half for the rest of the geek squad, who take to their new roles as the elasticated Avengers in about the same time, which is fine, as there’s a lot of running, jumping, yelling and near-death experiences to go through before the end, which involves a wormhole machine and Alan Tudyk’s (Serenity) reckless industrialist.
There’s a couple of excellent chase sequences with the masked villain riding a tide of nano-bots (very Marvel comics) and some decent sight gags – the inflatable Baymax patching his punctures with sticky tape is a nice touch.
Unfortunately most of the characters get lost in this maelstrom of smash, bash and crash, colourful and frenetic as it is; although in its defence, there’s a lot less blurry-whirly than usual so for once I could actually appreciate what was going on. The early charm of Hiro and Baymax getting together evaporates under the pressure of the action movie that descends on them, however.
Which means the gloriously over-the-top Akira climactic sequence with its by-the-numbers, formulaic ending rather loses its power. There’s a nod to the wormhole sequence in 2001: A Space Odessey, but there’s also a socking great steal from Star Trek Nemesis (spoiler). Guess what – Hiro has to choose between vengeance and doing the right thing, all the rest fade away and it’s just one boy and his super-powered robot.
Perhaps it’s just me, but the movie peaks with the Act Two closing flying sequence over San Fransokyo, the urban equivalent of those two coastal flights in the Dragon movies; boy and flying robot in perfect harmony, with sunset and sea reflecting off the sky scrapers. I could have stayed right there.
But there’s money to make and plastic toys to sell, so we have to romp toward the big finish and on to the inevitable sequel gravy-train. Big Hero 6 is after all, a big snap-together movie franchise kit. Granted, a very expensive kit. I’m just not that bothered anticipating Big Hero 7. RC
Big Hiro 6 (2014)
Direcors: Chris Williams, Don Hall
Writers: Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Don Hall, Robert L. Baird, Duncan Rouleau
Genre: Animation, Sci-fi, Fanstasy
Running time: 1 hr. 33 min.
Cast: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Genesis Rodriguez, Daniel Henney, Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk as Alistair Krei