The Academy's pick for Best Animated Movie of 2014 has finally been seen by me, and maybe it was all the hype, or the unrealistically high expectations that were set by its being a Disney animation and Marvel superhero movie, but it underwhelmed me. The pop and sparks of brightly animated colors and dazzling action sequences do not alone a great movie make.
|They can only make it visually good, and that it was.|
Our hero's name is Hiro. (Ryan Potter) He is a smart little whippersnapper, with a hot head but a good heart. He's a genius, but, as is common with geniuses, he can also be super dense, and hardly has two common sense to rub together. He's also an underachiever, something his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) helps remedy. Tadashi is also smart -- maybe not a genius like Hiro, but he makes up for it heaps and heaps of common sense, which he turns into advice and encouragement and gives generously to his flighty little bro.
The four sidekicks are pretty much just there to fill the number requirement. And in Fred's case, to provide some gnarly comedy, dude! Actually, Fred's pretty cool, and we get to know him very well. Not to say that we understand him; he's super rich, but acts like a beach bum, and is obsessed with superheroes and monsters. The rest are so boring that I will not even devote individual space to them here. As a whole they're there for backup and to look cool, and that exactly what they do. They don't feel like wasted potential, nor do they seem like failed attempt and being more than they are.
|Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, and T.J. Miller make up the four that make up the six. Alan Tudyk gets another side character to master, and Maya Rudolph is present.|
It's a kiddie movie, so I understand why it turned out this way, but the initial super cool creepiness of the baddie when he first shows up in the kabuki mask and the black cape with the dramatic lighting and the army of mini robots is seriously diminished once we learn who he is, and what his motivations are.
But most importantly, there's Baymax. (Scott Adsit) He alone holds this film up on his big puffy shoulders, and my only regret is that I watched the trailer too many times (which housed most of his best stuff) so it wasn't as new fresh and funny as it could have been. But I definitely still enjoyed all that was new to me. As a robot Baymax has a singular character that is impossible to twist around to suit the plot. He has his one goal of seeing to Hiro's medical needs, and he pursues that goal with a tenacity that only can be described as "robotic" but in surprisingly sweet, surprisingly heartfelt way. And also funny -- even if he's not actively doing something that's funny he still is, and never stops being funny.
Not so much problematic as it was average, the plot was a nice blend of classic Disney animation and classic Marvel superhero-ing. Good, classic structure, healthy doses of excitement and drama; but safe. As interesting as the safeness would allow, but safe none the less. A result, I imagine, of the very premise being something of a risk (although after Guardians of the Galaxy was it really?) what with almost no one having ever heard of these heroes before. And I should be more lenient anyway, and give these guys a chance to have their origin story before expecting anything bold from them, but then again the best origin stories are bold too.
So the plot itself wasn't fantastically or memorably bold, but one thing in this movie was, and that was simply the way it looked. What with the setting of San Fransokyo, and Disney feeding off the ever-popular superhero pizzazz, everything, and I mean everything in this movie was striking; beautiful scenery, cool, sharp action and general immaculate, artistic animation, so full of color. I wanted to see this in theaters, 3D and everything, and maybe if I had it would have immersed and overwhelmed me and my senses enough so that I wouldn't have seen the flaws I saw, but I didn't, so I did.
|Yep. That's a view.|
Individually none of the gaps and holes in this story were too bothersome, but collectively they add up to a good deal, especially once you add the big one:
(Kinda big Spoilers in this section)
It's not totally unimaginable that in a moment of anger Hiro might ask Baymax to kill the villain, or even think to remove Baymax's "good" chip, not realizing both what the results would be and Tadashi's would-be disapproval. It is far-fetched, not making any sense with his established character, but can be overlooked in a pinch. Sure. Okay, but after, at home, Hiro still hasn't cooled down any, or realized what happened? He just tried to murder someone, and nearly killed his friends in the process, (and let the bad guy escape) and that doesn't make him second guess his rash decision of murderous revenge? All so that there can be a emotional scene where he finally comes to his senses? That's just way too much. Because Baymax is so great, the part where he prevents Hiro from removing the "good" chip again is good -- great really, possibly the best dramatic moment of the whole film -- but I'm not sure if it was worth the unexplainable and dramatic character change in Hiro.
|"I'll MAKE IT fit!!"|
The problem manifested itself mostly in that event, but its origin was more fundamental. When a film's main enjoyability rides on the "wow, 3D" or "ooo, shiny" factor, and overshadows the rest of the features, no matter how nice they are, there's something wrong in my book. And even worse is when the need for visually cool, attention-grabbing things becomes a compulsion, and causes the really important things (like characters) to not only be ignored, but twisted into a shape they don't fit into.
The Big Hero 6 team had some soaring ups, that were all leveled out by drooping lows to the same averagely good place it all would have been without either extreme. So the question is, are the lazily drooping lows worth the occasional fun and fantastic heights? The answer is, like the movie, neither an extreme high or low, but the more middling positive, "I suppose so." There isn't much substance, and half of it is sadly miss-aimed, but it's a literally high-flying, laser-shooting, funny and diverting spectacle.