Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Cast: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung
Watch Big Hero 6 online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Disney is a studio with a reputation for princesses and castles, fairy tales of the most traditional nature. This is, of course, deeply unfair. Of its 52 animated classics, only 11 of them feature canonical Disney Princesses. The studio seems to have forgotten, with good reason, about Atlantis: The Lost Empire and The Black Cauldron, both of which feature royal women, too. It’s not all about wisp-waisted waifs for the House of Mouse, and a large amount of its canon is made up of films that have nothing to do with them. For every Beauty and the Beast, there is a Lion King. Currently, the studio seems to be alternating between Princess and non, thus: Tangled to Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen to their latest, Big Hero 6.
Featuring robots and superheroes, it’s about as current as you can get in the cultural zeitgeist, and a thorough rejection of sparkly dresses and balls. Not only that, but it’s an adaptation of a Marvel property, so that means it is very ‘of the moment’ in a way that is slightly, depressingly boring. Well, it’s not a boring film, per se, but in fitting in with cinema’s most prevalent genre at the moment, it fails to stand out, either from others like it, or from within the Disney canon; there’s lots to love, but it leaves you with the suspicion that it will be forgotten in a few years time.
The film’s USP is Baymax, a sort of inflatable healthcare robot that, when kitted out with the latest tech by his owner Hiro, becomes a crime fighting machine. His design is superb, maximising the use of Disney’s classic animation technique – “squash and stretch” – and conveying a wealth of different emotions using two dots and a line for his face. He’s not only the source of all the film’s best jokes, but also the centre of the film’s themes, tactfully exploring loss and grief through the medium of healthcare. He’s one of the best characters that the studio has created in years, and whenever he is on screen, Big Hero 6 is a massive success.
Elsewhere, there’s nothing especially memorable. The story, about a young boy dealing with the death of his brother while forming a superhero team, is handled gracefully and is ultimately moving, but the actual heroics are quite forgettable. The flying sequences smack of How To Train Your Dragon fan-fiction, never properly seizing the imagination in the way they should. The rest of the characters are fairly one-note, although it’s nice to see science and intelligence being championed in a kids’ film, and the action is slick but unremarkable.
Disney’s next film is Moana, set in Polynesia and about, yep, a Princess. When its more modern stuff like Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph fall a little short of greatness, a return to their safe ground isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Tangled, Frozen and Princess and the Frog are the best films that Disney has made in the 21st Century so far, so hopes are high that the House of Mouse will continue its run. If it wants to keep making snappier, more modern films, Disney should aim a little higher than a tribute to The Incredibles, especially when the mark it hits is closer to Meet the Robinsons.
Big Hero 6 is available to watch online on NOW TV, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription
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