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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Big Hero 6

February 23rd, 2015

Big Hero 6 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Big Hero 6 just won the Oscar, which is great timing, as it hits the home market this Tuesday. Many were surprised that the film won. Should they be? Is this really the best animated film of the year?

The Movie

The film begins in an underground robot fighting ring. We meet Hiro Hamada, who is a hustler. ... and a 14-year old boy. His latest victim, Yama, reacts as one would expect, violently. However, Hiro's older brother, Tadashi, rescues him from Yama's goons, just long enough to get caught by the police. Robot fighting isn't illegal, but gambling is. They are bailed out by their aunt, Cass, who understandably yells at them.

Despite this, Hiro immediately starts looking for another bot fighting venue to hustle at. This time, Tadashi decides to drive him there. He says if he can't stop him from going, at least he can keep him safe. However, he has an ulterior motive. He first takes Hiro to his university, under the guise of needing to pick something up. In reality, he takes Hiro there to show off the lab he studies in and the people he studies with. Go Go is working on a bike that uses mag-lev suspension for greater speed. Wasabi built a contraption for plasma-induced lasers. Honey Lemon is the chemist who is working on chemical metal embrittlement, which is a fancy way of saying it makes metal break instead of bend or stretch. The final person he meets is Fred, who is not a student, but is a science enthusiast who hangs around the lab giving people nicknames and asking for the kind of Sci-fi devices you would find in comic books.

After that, Tadashi shows Hiro what he's been working on: a robotic nurse called Baymax. They are interrupted by Tadashi's professor Robert Callaghan, who is a robotics legend. After seeing what Tadashi and his friends are working on, as well as who he would be learning from, Hiro decides he has to get into the program. For that, he's going to need to design some amazing tech for the university's showcase.

After an initial bout of writer's block, so to speak, Hiro designs a project that is sure to amaze. Based in part on his fighting bot, he creates a modular robot that he calls a microbot, which can be controlled via brain waves and neural transmitter. Individually they are nothing special, but when they work together they can do amazing things. It is so amazing, that a tech industrialist, Alistar Krei wants to buy the technology. However, Robert Callaghan convinces Hiro that education is better than a quick buck and that Krei would abuse the technology. Hiro agrees with Callaghan.

After leaving the building, Hiro and Tadashi have a heart-to-heart talk, but then disaster strikes. The building the exhibition was held in catches on fire and Robert Callaghan is still inside. Tadashi runs in to save his mentor, but just seconds after doing so, the building explodes killing both men.

After Tadashi's death, Hiro slips into depression and doesn't sign up for classes. He accidentally activates Baymax and shortly afterward finds one of his microbots, which is trying to return to the hive, so to speak. This should be impossible, but when he accidentally sends Baymax to find them, the pair find an abandoned warehouse with a robotics lab that is mass producing the bots. They are attacked by a man in a Kabuki mask, but get away. After talking to the cops, Hiro figures out whoever stole the bots must have used the explosion to cover their tracks. Therefore, they must be responsible for Tadashi's death. In order to do that, he will need to upgrade Baymax. He builds him some cool armor and teaches him karate.

Unfortunately, it isn't enough. The only reason Hiro and Baymax are not killed is because Baymax contacted Hiro's friends, so Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred arrive just in time to help it get away. They barely get away with their lives, but instead of giving up, they decide they need an upgrade to catch the masked man.

The details definitely enter into spoiler territory, so we will end the plot summary there.

So, is Big Hero 6 the best animated film of the year? I'm not so sure. I would argue that The LEGO Movie tops it, or at least comes very close. On the other hand, if someone told me The LEGO Movie only appears so awesome because expectations were so low, that would be hard to argue against. Also, the screener for The Tale of Princess Kaguya arrived late and I haven't gotten a chance to review it yet. That might turn out to be the best animated film of the year. Regardless, Big Hero 6 comes very close.

Big Hero 6 doesn't have the most unique storyline. It is a super hero origins story, after all, which means we see the same beats that usually happen in origin stories. That said, the execution is very strong. The characters are fun and there's enough difference between them that they all stand out, both in terms of writing and in terms of voice acting. Scott Adsit's performance as Baymax is absolutely fantastic. Not all of the characters have complete characters arcs, but Hiro's story from coming of age, to loss, to desire for revenge is the heart of the movie and it works. Fred is the only other member of Big Hero 6 with a real arc, and that's mostly from the epilogue. Yes, there's a scene after the credits, because it is a Marvel movie, so of course there's a scene in the end credits. The villain is also well-developed and I like the parallels between his arc and Hiro's arc, although details are spoilers.

Besides the writing and the characters, there are other aspects of the movie that help it stand out. I simply like the look of the film. The name of the city the action takes place in is San Fransokyo, so you can probably tell it is a combination of San Francisco and Tokyo. The combination gives the film a more unique look and that helps the film stand out. Also, there are many action scenes in the film that are fun and are not repetitive.

The Extras

Extras start with Feast, the Oscar-winning short film. Up next is The Origin of 'Big Hero 6': Hiro's Journey, a 15-minute making of featurette hosted by Go Go. Big Animator 6: The Characters Behind the Characters is a 7-minute look at the animators who helped create the movie and the process. There are also four deleted scenes. Finally, there is an Easter Egg. Go to any of the bonus features and press up. A Baymax will pop up and press enter. You will then see a three-minute featurette on Easter Eggs seen in the movie.

The technical presentation is excellent, of course. It is a Disney digitally animated movie. Of course the video is reference level quality, as is the audio. There is simply no part of the technical presentation that isn't flawless.

The Blu-ray combo pack costs $19, which is $4 or 26% more than the DVD. This is lower than expected.

The Verdict

Some people are complaining that Big Hero 6 won the Oscar for Best Feature-Length Animated Film. I don't think those complaints are valid. It is, at worse, a toss-up for best animated film of the year. The DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack are not loaded with extras, but there's enough that it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Big Hero 6, Kaguyahime no monogatari, Scott Adsit, Paul Briggs, Jamie Chung, James Cromwell, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Maya Rudolph, Alan Tudyk, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Ryan Potter