I tell ya, I haven't been this surprised by a movie since I saw The Lego Movie back in October, and it seems that my streak of seeing 2014 movies that would have made my Top 10 list of that year's best films after I released it is alive and well, because boy howdy, does this one fit that bill perfectly! Big Hero 6 follows Hiro Hamada and his robot sidekick Baymax as they team up with a group of college students to take down a supervillain after Hiro's brother perishes in a fire.. It's strait-forward with a few admittedly sharp reveals out of left field (I thought Callaghan's daughter was introduced just a bit too late to give motivation for the villain in particular), but as with any good Disney film, the emotional pull is here in spades to pull you through any minor hiccups in the plot, and there's plenty of fun to be had throughout the movie besides.
Taking a page from The Iron Giant, seeing Hiro teach Byamax about humanity, specifically emotional care, is both sweetly amusing and really touching. I particularly loved when Hiro has to sneak Baymax into his own house without his aunt noticing- very Iron Giant there. Baymax himself is adorable in his naïveté, and his development throughout the movie from huggable plain robot to badass superhero with a big heart is one that is so enjoyable to watch.
Hiro's journey is the thing that really strikes you where you feel, and this really surprised me given that this is a Disney movie, because Hiro is not only dealing with the loss of his brother and grieving for him, but this movie also takes a rather dark theme of revenge and not only has the bearings to plasters that onto the protagonist, but its level of depth into the subject of grief and what that can do to a person, especially a teenager, is handled and presented beautifully. It reminded me a lot of Finding Nemo actually, just in how the film handles its dark concepts... yet never manages to become macabre or dour because of them. Indeed, Baymax and Hiro's friends provide a great balance of pathos and light-hearted antics to balance things out; it never becomes depressing, but it's still incredibly touching nonetheless.
The scene in the middle of the film after Hiro and Baymax have their second fight with Callaghan and escape, where Hiro becomes increasingly more frustrated and agitated just had me weeping because the tension quietly built up alongside Hiro's mounting grief; it was simply beautiful and super touching. The theme of grief and love and friendship is something that has rarely been presented as the central driving theme in a Disney film; sure, that is often the beginning causes of the journey of the hero of the movie, but this film delves into these concepts and explores them in and of themselves, which I find refreshing and important given that this is a kids movie- I liked the tone of this a lot.
But while the movie deals with that, it never forgets itself in terms of fun, and man oh man, is there so much fun in this movie! Rarely is there a moment of action or comedy where I didn't have a huge smile on my face! The animation is of course Disney-gorgeous, and the setting of San Fransokyo (yeah) gives this a great amount of scenery eye-candy! The way the sidekick heroes use their various equipments and gadgets had me on the edge of my seat for most of the film (the character GoGo definitely has the best weapons to me, though she borders on SFC-status more often than not, I'm sad to say). They work great as a unit, though there's not much character to them as individuals. That's not really a negative considering the film's run time and its excellent exploration of its themes, but it is worth noting that this is not an ensemble film. The team surrounding Hiro is mainly there for laughs, and they succeed quite well at that! The chase and fight scenes are just absolutely stunning, and considering how over-saturated the film industry is right now with superhero movies, I give the creative team and animators a lot of credit for keeping things fresh and unique for this outing.
Given that this is a Marvel property, I was also pleasantly surprised at how non-superhero-ish this movie felt. Oh sure, there are definite nods to Iron Man, The Avengers, and the aforementioned Iron Giant (if you count that as a superhero flick), but this movie has an identity all its own in terms of action, comedy, and especially in terms of the themes that it chooses to explore. Definitely, if you haven't seen this film yet, do so! For me, this ranks as one of Disney's best, and certainly a prime example of how to tell a wonderful superhero story with grace, and most importantly, with a hell of a lot of heart!