Sunday, May 3, 2015

BIG HERO 6 (2014)

RELEASE DATE: Friday 7th November 2014

Here we are, folks. The final movie in the Year of Disney project! This one wasn't originally scheduled to be included on the blog, since it didn't get an Australian release until the 26th of December. But as the blog went just a liiiiittle over time, we definitely had time to watch and comment on Disney's latest blockbuster.

I was actually a very lucky Aussie, in that I visited Los Angeles in late November (I flew to the U.S. to see the new production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" play in La Jolla, just out of San Diego) and so I got to see Big Hero 6 before anyone else in Australia. Even better, I saw it at Disney's El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, right in the heart of Movie-Land!

Now, Disney don't do things by halves. When you go to see Big Hero 6 at the El Capitan, you don't just see the movie. Oh no. You get an organist playing Disney classics while the audience is being seated. Then, as a pre-show bonus, you get a full light and laser show featuring Baymax himself! (Not surprisingly, someone managed to film it and put it on YouTube, but I can tell you one thing, seeing it in the theatre itself was another thing entirely!)

Big Hero 6 is very loosely based on a Marvel comic series. When Disney bought Marvel in 2009 it immediately began scouring the entire catalogue for something that might be able to be turned into an animated feature. Don Hall, who was directing Winnie The Pooh, stumbled upon a fairly obscure and not-very-well-known series called Big Hero 6. He pitched it to the Disney bigwigs and the film went into production.

The story of Hiro Hamada, his science-school friends and giant vinyl robot struck a chord with audiences. It has been extremely successful. It hasn't made as much money as Frozen (about half) but let's get real here - NOTHING has made as much money as Frozen! Big Hero 6 manages to match the thrill of a Marvel superhero movie with the heart of Disney. The result is something quite remarkable, proof that the Second Renaissance of Disney is still going strong.

In the slums of San Fransokyo, an illegal robot fight is happening between the unbeatable master Yama and a 14-year-old genius named Hiro Hamada. Yama doesn't much like being beaten...

As Hiro barely escapes Yama's henchmen, he is rescued at the last minute by his older brother Tadashi. Unfortunately, their late-night escapade lands them in jail, and their poor Aunt Cass has to bail them out.

Trying to steer his little brother back on to the straight-and-narrow path, Tadashi shows Hiro around his science college. Hiro is amazed by all of the cool tech on display, especially Tadashi's personal project, a health-care robot called Baymax.

Hiro, having already passed high school, decides that he must join his brother at the "nerd school." All he needs is an idea to showcase his talents. With some help from Tadashi, he finally finds the idea he's looking for.

Some time later, Hiro shows off his new invention - Microbots - to an enthusiastic crowd, including the school's own Professor Callaghan and a business entrepreneur Alastair Krei. Krei shows a keen interest in buying Hiro's microbot technology, but Callaghan warns Hiro not to sell them.

Hiro's impressive demonstration ensures that he is accepted into the college. Suddenly the entire building explodes into flames. Tadashi rushes inside to save Professor Callaghan and is tragically killed in the fire.

Some weeks later, Hiro - who hasn't left his bedroom in a long time - accidentally stubs his toe and says "Ow," which activates Baymax.

Hiro finds a solitary microbot under his bed, and Baymax tells him that the tiny robot is trying to go somewhere. In order to make Hiro "better," Baymax leaves the house to find where the microbot is trying to go. A frantic Hiro chases after him. They are eventually led to an abandoned warehouse where thousands and thousands of new microbots are being manufactured.

They are suddenly attacked by a man wearing a Kabuki mask. This mysterious man can control the microbots himself, and Hiro and Baymax barely escape intact. They rush to the police station to report the criminal. The policeman is not particularly interested in their story. Suddenly Baymax's battery runs low and Hiro must get him home before he stops functioning altogether.

Hiro sneaks Baymax back to his room and recharges the batteries. Baymax is curious as to where Tadashi is. Hiro tells him that Tadashi died. The robot, intent on curing Hiro of his sadness, comforts him and contacts his friends.

Hiro takes it upon himself to find the masked man, but first he needs to give Baymax some upgrades so he will be more useful in a difficult situation. They track the man to the harbour, and just as Tadashi's college friends turn up, they are attacked by the man in the mask.

A manic car chase takes place. Go Go takes the driver's seat. Eventually the entire team is left stranded underwater. Baymax takes off his armour and floats them all to the surface.

When they need a place to dry off and regroup, Fred suggests that they use his house... This turns out to be a mansion, complete with butler. Hiro, now convinced that the man in the mask is Alastair Krei, decides that this group of super-nerds could become real super-heroes. All they need is some upgrades...

Testing out the abilities of Baymax 2.0, Hiro flies all over San Fransokyo, eventually coming to rest on one of the high-altitude wind generator. Baymax activates his new scanner to find where the masked man is hiding. He is located on a quarantined island.

The team visit the island and discover a failed transport device that had exploded some time ago. The masked man attacks, and it's revealed that he is in fact Professor Callaghan! He is planning to use the microbots in a revenge plot against Krei.

An enraged Hiro removes Baymax's healthcare chip and turns him into a destructive monster. Honey Lemon manages to insert the chip back in just as he is about to kill Callaghan. The professor manages to escape in the nick of time.

Back at home, Baymax will not let Hiro open up his access panel again. He shows Hiro footage of his brother, which brings everything into perspective. The team regroup and begin plans to stop Callaghan once and for all.

Callaghan attacks Krei's new building with his microbots, creating a portal in the sky and sucking the entire building through it. The team of heroes arrive to save the day. They are about to flee the unstable portal when Baymax mentions that there is someone alive inside the portal.

Hiro and Baymax fly into the portal to save Callaghan's daughter, who was presumed dead. Just as they are about to escape, Baymax is damaged and cannot fly anymore. He can save Hiro by using his rocket-fist, but by doing so he will be lost in the void. Hiro says a tearful goodbye.

Some weeks later, as Hiro is setting up in his new office at college, he realises that something is inside Baymax's hand - his healthcare chip! A new body is constructed, and Hiro is reunited with his squishy huggable friend.

IRVYNE: Disney has done it again! Big Hero 6 is a classic Disney film, while at the same time being quite unlike anything the company has ever produced before. Whereas Tangled and Frozen were aiming for a much more "classic" Disney vibe, Big Hero 6 is Disney's first superhero film. Even though it's a Marvel story (the comic books crossed over into the Avengers and X-Men plot-lines) it has a massive amount of heart that makes it unquestionably Disney.

For one thing, the relationship between Hiro and his big brother Tadashi is beautifully handled. Remembering back to Brother Bear, I commented that the relationship between the three brothers felt entirely false and forced, both in script and delivery. Big Hero 6 fixes this. Everyone would want a big brother like Tadashi; a soul-mate who is always looking out for you, always encouraging you to be your best, and never giving up on you. At the same time the brothers have friendly banter between them that makes the relationship seem all the more real.

When Tadashi is killed, we feel the emptiness in Hiro's world. He and Tadashi were always a pair. He never really admitted it, but he admired everything about his big brother. Baymax becomes the de facto brother-replacement when he activates, although he is just a robot and cannot feel any real emotion. The growing relationship between Hiro and Baymax - part owner-to-pet, part brother-to-brother, is at the very heart of this movie.
All of the supporting characters are fantastic as well. It could be said that the other four members of the team aren't really given much screen time to develop their individual characters, but I don't mind. I'm quite sure there's going to be a sequel someday, and their characters can be fleshed out more in that. It's important for this movie that Hiro and Baymax take centre-stage.

The city of San Fransokyo is brilliantly realised. What a fantastic concept! This is definitely a movie where you can constantly freeze-frame to see all of the details of the city.

The storytelling in this movie is absolutely fantastic. It follows a much more logical flow than Frozen or Wreck-It Ralph, and every character is really enjoyable to watch, especially the ever-entertaining Baymax. I am really looking forward to Disney making a follow-up movie, which is really unusual for me! I usually roll my eyes at sequels. Frozen certainly didn't need a sequel, but no one was surprised when that was announced. It makes financial sense. But as for Big Hero 6, I feel like there's so many more stories yet to tell! I just want to see more of this incredible city, and the adventures of this superhero team made up of science nerds.

Big Hero 6 won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but I think it should have been a nominee for Best Feature as well. It's definitely one of my favourite movies from 2014.

"Wow!" That's what I kept saying as I watched Big Hero 6 for the first time. This would have to be the most detailed and dense animated film Disney has ever produced. Every single shot is filled to the brim with more detail than you could ever see properly without pausing the movie every few seconds. The set decoration on all of the main locations - in particular Hiro's bedroom - is so clever. Every single item has a reason for being there and form part of the wider story. It is also a movie that is packed full of Easter Eggs!

(Some of those inclusions I'm a little skeptical about, but there were a lot that I'd never noticed before!)

The colour scheming of the film is also extremely clever. For example, when the team arrive at the quarantined island and find the chamber where the failed experiment happened, the lower level is shown to be bathed in a red light. When the battle takes the heroes downstairs, this ensures there is a big, dangerous and dramatic red hue to the scene where the villain is revealed and Baymax goes berserker.

The film's creators developed a brand new rendering system called "Hyperion" and used it for the first time in Big Hero 6. In particular, this new system greatly improves the way light reflects and shines through different surfaces. Although I am certainly a staunch advocate for the return of 2D animation, there is no doubt in my mind that Big Hero 6 would be a lesser film if it was hand-drawn. This definitely needs to be in C.G.I.

Big Hero 6 is not a musical, by any means. It only has one song in the movie, although it's a good one! "Immortals," by Fall Out Boy, which plays both during a montage and during the end credits, perfectly encapsulates the film: the Japanese-style influence, the rock guitar, and the lyrical themes. It's also really catchy!

Henry Jackman followed up his work on Winnie The Pooh and Wreck-It Ralph to provide the musical score for Big Hero 6, and he did a fantastic job. While there are some definite "superhero" moments in the score, it has a bit of a hard edge to it. There's a lot of rock guitar in there. Very cool.

While Big Hero 6 has certainly stood the test of time in the half-a-year it's been released, I have no doubt it will continue standing that test in the years to come. It is one of the best films Disney has ever produced. It's funny, it's heart-wrenching, it's exciting, it's beautiful to look at and it's the kind of movie you can watch over and over again. An absolute classic. Disney's next animated film "Zootopia" won't be seen until March 2016, so for now, this marks the end of the Disney collection. And what a way to finish! I love Big Hero 6!

MALEFICENT: This is a very clever film.

SHENZI: I love how Baymax still has such a polite, pleasant voice, even when he's been turned into a powerful super-robot.

PASCAL: My favourite scene is when Baymax has low-battery and acts drunk. "We jumped out a WINDOW!!"
SHENZI: That scene is so funny!

PASCAL: But I also love Hiro's little robot at the beginning with the happy face and the "you're-gonna-die" face. I want one!

HAKU: I first saw this film at the Downtown Disney cinema at Walt Disney World, and immediately loved it. As soon as it finished I just wanted to watch it again!

IRVYNE: That cinema had one of the best digital projection screens I have ever seen! The entire screen was curved, and the picture was so clear it was ridiculous!

MALEFICENT: Once again, Disney kills off a really nice character to make a good story... Tadashi is such a nice guy, I knew it straight away. I thought, "You're gonna die."

HAKU: Superhero movies don't usually have that level of emotional connection.

IRVYNE: You're right. Think about all of those millions of Marvel films. I know for me, I've never felt particularly close to any of those heroes. There's always an emotional distance between the viewer and the character. I tell you what though, this is the fourth time I've seen this movie, and the scene where Baymax shows Hiro the video of Tadashi, it gets me every time. Really gets me.

SHENZI: And to an extent, you can empathize with the villain as well.

IRVYNE: Yeah, we don't excuse what he does, but we can kind of see why he does it.

MALEFICENT: I guessed totally wrong on the bad guy's identity. I was sure it was going to be Krei's secretary. For some reason I just thought she looked pretty evil.

IRVYNE: Well you could pretty much guarantee that as soon as they say, "The man in the mask is Krei," it's not going to be Krei.

MALEFICENT: I was glad to see the token Stan Lee cameo, even though it's animated.

IRVYNE: Fantastic post-credits sequence! Always gets a big laugh. And you know, he's actually fully visible in the painting much earlier in the movie, but you're not really given quite enough time to process that it's him. I certainly didn't notice it on my first viewing.

SHENZI: I love Aunt Cass.

IRVYNE: Yeah, she's good fun. She's a bit nutty.

MALEFICENT: I love the other four heroes as well.

SHENZI: Fred is the best! I love Fred! It's awesome how all of their superhero powers are made up of their chosen field of science.

PASCAL: They make nerdiness look awesome!

IRVYNE: And that's something that the film-makers were pretty strong about: none of these guys are actually superheroes. They just use their scientific knowledge to do amazing things. I wonder how many kids have been inspired to be scientists after watching this movie!

SHENZI: It's amazing how detailed everything looks! When it starts and the camera sweeps over San Fransokyo, it doesn't even look animated. It looks like a real city.

MALEFICENT: San Fransokyo is amazing! What a concept! It's got cherry blossoms, the Golden Gate bridge with Japanese gates... It's so clever!

HAKU: It's a good reprisentation of the style of movie it is, East meets West.

MALEFICENT: How pretty is inside the portal? Ahhhhh!

IRVYNE: I KNEW you were going to say that! As soon as that scene started, I looked across at you and thought, "You're gonna LOVE this!"

MALEFICENT: I DID love it! Amazing fairy-floss world that's constantly morphing and changing! Just beautiful!

HAKU: It looks like concept art made real.

SHENZI: Reminds me of the place Jodie Foster goes to in Contact.

PASCAL: Out into space.

MALEFICENT: I'm glad it's not SPACE-space though.

IRVYNE: It's the space WITHIN space.

HAKU: All of the C.G. is top-of-the-line. The moment when I knew the character animation was going to be really good was right at the beginning of the movie when Hiro peers over the umbrella.

IRVYNE: I think in terms of facial animation, this is the best thing Disney has ever done in C.G.I. If you think of the movies even a few years ago, where Disney started with Chicken Little and Meet The Robinsons... The animation has come SO far!

MALEFICENT: It really has. You forget they're not real people.

IRVYNE: And you just know that hours upon days upon weeks upon YEARS goes into making the characters' expressions that good. One of my favourite moments in the entire movie, which is a really subtle moment, is the look Hiro gets on his face when he sees his own reflection, flying on Baymax for the first time.

PASCAL: And the moment where Baymax watches Hiro's feet moving and copies. It's so cute!

MALEFICENT: The music is really great too.

HAKU: The montage sequences work really well.

IRVYNE: Yeah, "Immortals" is a great song. It's a bit random that there's a couple of seconds of "Eye of the Tiger" in the middle of the movie. I mean, it's funny. It works well. I wonder what possessed them to put it in there though!

MALEFICENT: If they did go ahead and make a sequel - Big Hero 7 or whatever - do you think Hiro might create more microbots to help him?

IRVYNE: The problem with the microbots, from a plot perspective, is that they're too powerful. If you can control microbots with your mind, you can pretty much do anything. So they kind of dug themselves into a hole there. It's like Superman. Kryptonite notwithstanding, he's indestructible.

HAKU: I'm sure they could find a way to disable microbots.

IRVYNE: Yeah, I suppose. So Maleficent, for a movie that you didn't want to see...

MALEFICENT: I did not want to see this. You're right.

SHENZI: How could you have not wanted to see this? It's Disney!

MALEFICENT: I just saw the first teaser trailer and thought, "That marshmallow guy looks really irritating. I don't think I can deal with this." But now I really wish I'd seen it at the cinema! I think Disney made a mistake with that trailer. If they'd shown all of the six heroes and their powers, I might have got excited.

IRVYNE: Anything else that anyone wants to add, before we wrap this thing up for good?

PASCAL: "I am satisfied with my care."

IRVYNE: Very nice!

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