Big Hero 6
Animation is having a wonderful time at the moment. No longer is Pixar ruling the roost, the efforts from Dreamworks Animation, Warner Bros and from Disney's in-house Animation department, are of a remarkable quality. Frozen aside to some extent, they are still lacking strong, independent Female characters. How To Train Your Dragon 2 and The Lego Movie both introduce kick ass women, only to have them little more than love interests later on. Wyldstyle in The Lego Movie even has to ask Batman's permission to breakup with him... This niggle aside, technically the recent crop has been superb, even if the 3D in most is only there to bump up the ticket price a tad.
Into the fray comes Disney's latest in-house production, Big Hero 6. The film, which is following a rather old school release schedule, having been out in the States in November, hits our screens on 30th January. Thanks to the exceptionally cool people at Den of Geek (top site, read, follow and enjoy) and Disney, they put on a special screening for a lucky 70 Den of Geek readers of Big Hero 6 at the Dolby Laboratories HQ in Soho Square, London. Lets just get this out of the way, if studio screening rooms are this good, I want to be a full time movie critic. A beautiful screen with a project turned up to eleven, with proper 3D glasses so that the film was still bright and left me with no chance to complain about "30% light loss" etc, and blasted from all sides from the best, as you would expect, Dolby Atmos setup you'll ever hear. I was in film geek heaven. The screening, other than the amazing tech, had another bonus, which was meeting Den of Geek's Editor Simon Brew, a lovely Brummie (they do exist) and his equally lovely family. As these things so happen, he brought along co-director Don Hall (director of the last Winnie the Poo movie) and producer Roy Conli (voice of Dr Frankenstein in Big Hero 6, if you listen closely), both rather glowing in the light of recent BAFTA and Oscar nominations.
Needless to say, I am not the target demographic for this film, so I took one along. My daughter Ellie and I do enjoy the cinema, Ellie's review will be coming soon. Before we get to the feature attraction, I just have to mention the starter . Big Hero 6 opens with a Disney animated short called Feast. This follows the love life of a guy, seen through the eyes of the dog he rescues and the food they share. Winston, the dog, is the sort of dog that only exists in animation, but one you recognise immediately. The short story is utterly lovely. If you walk into Big Hero 6 slightly stressed from life, Feast knocks that out of you leaving you ready to experience a rather special main course. Food analogies over. Big Hero 6 is based upon a Marvel comic that even Marvel had forgotten they had produced. Don Hall came across the book while rummaging through the Marvel archive after the Disney take over. The Disney version (fully outside the MCU, with Marvel's blessing) follows robotics genius Hiro Hamada and the efforts of his equally smart older brother, Tadashi, to get him into the robotics program at San Fransokyo's university. While Hiro is being shown around Tadashi's "Nerd School", Tadashi introduces Hiro to his friends, GoGo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred, and most importantly, to Tadashi's personal healthcare robotics project, Baymax. Hiro, mind appropriately blown, sets himself to winning a place on the robotics program and thus sets tragedy, adventure and redemption into action. If you've seen the trailers (if not, click Here), you know what the tragedy is, but I will not go into too much more detail because Big Hero 6 is a true delight, from beginning to end. The mash up of San Francisco and Tokyo creates a huge playground for the film makers to let their cast lose on. San Fransokyo is familiar yet wonderfully different. Ellie and I keep nudging each other when our Heroes entered a part of town we'd, sort of at least, visited. Yet, Hall and Conli told us that the audiences in Japan loved how much the city reminded them of Tokyo, down to the recycling boxes outside ever house. If the city is a masterpiece of design, the city pales to Baymax itself. Baymax is incredible, the ultimate in hugable tech. Don Hall explained that there is a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University that he met on a research trip that is working on soft robotics. As soon as he interacted with the vinyl arm the professor was working on, Baymax was taking form in his head. As Baymax himself points out, he has a non-threatening exterior, which lead to some of the best gags in the film. The interactions between Hiro and Baymax are the heart of the film and it is a heart that only grows as the film progresses. It is a wonderful film, not Paddington wonderful, but pretty damn close. The jokes are perfectly timed, rarely knowing and serve the scene and the story beautifully. The visuals and 3D served the story well, but at no point were things shoehorned in for a joke, like happens repeatedly in The Lego Movie. While The Lego Movie has more laughs, it would need a complete transplant to get anywhere near the heart of Big Hero 6 and that is where it triumphs. Where The Lego Movie throws in gag after gag and Will Farrell, while Big Hero 6 lets it characters grow and, impressively, lets them triumph without relaying on the male lead, too much anyways. One thing that stands out most is that there are no guns in Big Hero 6. The Lego Movie is 40% things shooting at each other, Big Hero 6 might have micro-bots, but there are no guns and no shooting. Roy Conli is right to be impressed with that, they have made a super hero movie without guns. While it does have a pile of destruction towards the end, a la every super hero movie of the moment, it serves a point to close one of the story lines from earlier in the film and completes our heroes journey. For that, the destruction is forgiven, but I long for a super hero movie that can end without destroying a city and the hundreds of innocents that goes with it.
The Q&A at the end was stolen by a young chap, of no more than 6 or 7, who asked a simple question that summed all our feelings up, "How did you do that?" When the lights came up after the brilliant post credit sting (you have to stay for it, it's brilliant) Ellie and I just had huge smiles on our faces. That the last two films we've seen together have had that effect on us means the world to me. Big Hero 6 cannot be recommended highly enough and I know who I'm rooting for this Awards season. You'll never do a fist bump in the same way again. Oh, one more thing, I want a Baymax to hug me when my emotional state is down. It looks like the greatest thing ever, after an Ellie hug of course.