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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Big Hero 6 (2014) CGI Animated movie review

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: Top notch CGI, emotionally charged story of love and loss, adorable mascot character, full development arc of main character, rousing soundtrack, delves into deeper themes of brotherly bonds and friendship. 

The Bad: cliched side characters and story threads.

3D Readiness: Rendered in full 3D. Recommended
IMax-ability: Not formatted for iMax but detailed scenes and magnificent CGI lend itself well to the format

This is not the comic book I remembered. This is.

Then again, I barely remembered the comic book at all. Goes to show how "critically acclaimed" it was. Big Hero 6 was originally a short lived team-up of Marvel's Japanese superheroes including X-men's Sunfire and Silver Samurai........which (thanks to some other movie studio) can no longer be featured. But no worries. In typical Disney tradition, Disney studios took the title of an existing piece of work, and changed the heck out of it.

Rapunzel, The Snow Queen, and now Big Hero 6. What was originally a government sanctioned team of of super powered black ops operatives is now a bunch of genius teens named after food. Each character is recognisable modern high school stereotype: Wasabi goes from a chef with mystical qi energy blades to the tough talking genius jock, Fred is the drawling slacker with a monster "Fred-zilla" suit, no longer the psychic who manifests a giant monster construct. Honey-Lemon keeps her power purse but goes from sexy-dressed secret agent to excitable genki girl-with-glasses. Gogo-Tamago loses her ex-convict background and power to turn into a high speed energy egg (hence the "tamago" name) and becomes your typical tough but quiet girl who is secretly loves an adrenaline rush (which she gets from her electromagnetic skating suit).

The biggest change is Hiro and Baymax, our main characters. Young Hiro Yamada finally finds his place among fellow tech-obsessed teens at his brother's university. With the help of his new found friends, he creates "microbots" which can form into any shape and are controlled by thought via a transmitter. A disaster robs Hiro of his invention and his beloved brother. Grieving the loss of Tadashi, Hiro accidentally activates Tadashi's project "Baymax", an inflatable health care robot who approaches Hiro as his patient. Hiro and Baymax form an awkward buddy relationship until news surfaces of a masked villain who appears to be using Hiro's microbots for crimes. Sensing that this masked man may be linked to his brother's death, Hiro sets out to investigate and take him down, with Baymax in tow whether he likes it or not. 

Ah Baymax.......Disney's latest stroke of merchandising genius. Kids love their adorable non- human sidekicks. Olaf the snowman in FROZEN, Pascal and Maximus from TANGLED just to name a few. And now Baymax, who gets stripped of his dark and gritty comic book origin as a shape shifting robotic hulk with the brain of Hiro's dead father, who can transform into a monstrous demon form and kick butt. (see below)

In the movie, he gets turned into an inflatable, huggable, balloon-bot with a simple programme to provide the best form of physical and emotional healthcare for his patient, even if he has little knowledge of human emotions outside of theory and data.  His adorable look and innocent personality will be a big hit with kids. Children everywhere will be clamouring for Baymax balloons, Baymax floats, inflatable life sized "hug-me" Baymax, and if technology allows, an intractable "talk-to-me" Baymax toy. 

Now putting adult cynicism aside, BIG HERO 6 does tackle some interestingly mature themes for kids' show. It is no doubt a tried and true superhero origin story fuelled by the death of a loved one. We've seen it in Spiderman, Batman, many times. The whole "boy and his robot, forming a bond of family, and learning the value of human life" thing was done with much more finesse and impact in James Cameron's TERMINATOR 2. But dig deeper into the narrative and even adults will find much to love about this movie.

We have the staple importance of sibling love, a recurring theme from FROZEN. We also have the theme of how one deals with loss, with various characters being put through the five stages of grief yet acting on those emotions differently based on one's values. On top of that, BIG HERO 6 deals with wish fulfilment of any kid's desire for the perfect friend. Baymax portrays love and care in its most simplest and innocent of forms.

Hiro on the other hand portrays a harsh world's tendency to force those closest to them into roles they were never meant for. His developmental journey with Baymax, from the awkward attempts at learning a secret handshake to the Baymax's straight faced earnest calm when faced with the gravest of situations, is a heartwarming and at times heart wrenching one as a boy and his robot forms an unbreakable brotherly bond. To quote TERMINATOR 2, seeing Hiro and Baymax "it was suddenly so clear. Baymax would never stop. It would never leave him, it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him or say it was too busy to spend time with him.". Love in its simplest form. Unconditional love that any child, past or present, secretly desires.

Digital artists and CGI aficionados too will desire BIG HERO 6's impressive computer generated imagery. Starting with the fictional city of San Fransokyo, the level of detail is astounding and almost photorealistic. Leaves flutter in the wind, strands of hair react to movement. Although the character designs retain the simpler streamlined, big headed, style used in previous disney CGI movie, the amount of care that went into crafting each model and animating it with the right sense of mass shows an amazing level of expertise in the field.

Bottom line is, BIG HERO 6 is good. It is colourful, action packed and simple enough for kids and inner children. Yet it packs a significant emotional wallop and some mature themes for those willing to dig deeper into the narrative. Visually, it is a fine piece of work to look at and just take in the details in the wonderful animation. Accompanied by a rousing electronic score by WRECK-IT RALPH'S Henry Jackman, BIG HERO 6 looks set to obscure its own middling comic book source material, (which is not entirely surprising since there was hardly any reprint of the comic aside from the hard-to-get single issues). Big on thrills, big on heart, big on technical achievement; that is BIG HERO 6. Oh and big bucks for disney's merchandising department.

*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: A
Art: A-
Animation: A
Story: B-
Characters: A 
Music: A-
Voice Work (english): A 
Replay value: A
"Brains": B+

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