Big Hero 6

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams
Starring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney

Inspired by the Marvel Comic strip of the same name, Big Hero 6 is the 54th Disney animated film and the first since the success of last year’s double Oscar winning phenomenon Frozen. With Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for best animated feature for 2014, the film is the first Disney movie to feature Marvel characters and sees gifted robotics engineer Hiro create a hi-tech team of superheroes to take on a mysterious masked villain.

Hiro spends his spare time fighting the robots he has built in the back alleys of a futuristic, playfully named Fransansokyo. His elder brother Tadashi, worried that Hiro is wasting his prodigious talent as well as his time, takes him to his university’s robotics lab. Hiro is inspired to apply for a place himself, where his talents for tinkering are harnessed for the greater good.

Big Hero 6 is an action adventure movie for the digital generation and its focus on the healing power of friendship is bound to resonate whatever your age.

In one scene Hiro is introduced to his brother’s ingenious creation Baymax, a friendly marshmallow shaped robot programmed to “heal the sick and injured”. As the pair get acquainted, Hiro reconnects with his brother through his new friend, in a sequence that’s as typically funny and touching as you’d expect from a Disney animation.

This isn’t Disney’s first foray into the world of artificial intelligence; 2008’s Wall-e was a groundbreaking look at the relationships that define us, intelligent and far from artificial, even if it’s loved up leads were a pair of robots. Big Hero 6 arrives at a time when the seemingly inevitable advent of AI looms large in the creative consciousness of Hollywood’s top talent, addressing the question of what qualifies as human and how we identify humanity when we see it? 

Distinguishing humans from humanoids was the focus of 2013’s Her, which is about a lonely man’s emotional attachment to his new AI voice-only operating system; this year’s Ex Machina, in which a young programmer is invited to interact with a prototype AI in the form of an attractive young woman; and 2012’s Robot and Frank, a touching tale of companionship between a retired man and his home help robot. This intriguing new sci-fi sub-genre has re-configured the emotional drama, in which relationships and how we relate acquires a new dimension.

Big Hero 6 has no pretensions to existentialism. Like most of Disney’s CGI animations it’s a gorgeous spectacle that wears it’s heart on its sleeve, but it does have a soulful disposition. In getting to know and interact with Tadashi’s creations Hiro is able to know and interact further with his brother through his machines, despite the fact that he’s no longer with him. The result is a touching spin on the hero movie, with emphasis on the importance of fostering meaningful relationships with those around us, while we still have the chance, and the life affirming influence of genuine friendship.

The film contains a narrative thread dealing with bereavement which is shown to be the principal motivating factor for the main character. Some references to puberty and growing up. 

Ronan Wright blogs about films from Belfast at Filmplicity.

Ronan Wright is a graduate in Film Studies from The Queen’s University of Belfast. As well as contributing to MercatorNet as a film critic since March 2011 he has run Filmplicity, a Belfast-based film...