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Review: 'Big Hero 6' a surprisingly fresh Disney effort

The main way this has changed American media is the shaping of the thunderously lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Big Hero 6,” which recently came out on DVD, is probably the most creative use of Disney’s ownership of everything Marvel.

“Big Hero 6” was originally a 90s comic series failure. I’m a huge comic book nerd and even I hadn’t heard of it before — it is essentially the artistic dregs of the Marvel’s comic history. But since Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment in 2009, this provided an opportunity to deconstruct and reinvent.

The movie is just fun, and not fun in an “action movie turn off your brain and enjoy yourself” kind of way. It’s bright and creative and colorful and even dotted with some powerful emotional moments.

The most striking part of the movie is the setting itself: the city in which the action is set is “San Fransokyo,” a sort of alternate reality mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo. From the Golden Gate Bridge composed of pagodas to San Francisco streets lined with kanji signs and blooming cherry blossoms, the sense of place is a huge delight.

The story takes a lot of cues from the classic “boy and his dog” setup.

Protagonist Hiro Hamada is a 14-year-old robotics genius who befriends Baymax, a big, puffy, deadpan, inflatable healthcare robot. This robot friend is good, happy fun. He is an excellent clown, providing nigh-constant comic relief with impeccable comic timing, and even when he becomes totally badass and battle-ready, he is still remarkably hilarious.

Hiro eventually makes friends with four other young students who are all passionate about robotics and science.

For the most part, the writing is exceptional — not just “for a kid’s movie,” but across all cinema. Dialogue is sharp and amusing, and even sometimes poignant and deep. Lines and themes are seeded early and referenced in subtle ways with different emotional contexts. It is just plain clever.

It is not perfect, however. Without delving too dangerously into spoiler territory, the development of the villain plot and backstory is sloppy at best. Considering how clean and intelligent most of the film’s other central themes are, it’s wholly disappointing and a bit shocking to see the ball dropped so hard on a few of the more important questions.

Additionally, the six big heroes are remarkably progressive in regards to gender and race, such as the high representation of Asians, and with only one white hero who is not even the standard alpha male (he’s more a goofy stoner who gets a dinosaur suit that breathes fire). Still, one of the women is far too standardly “girly,” with her super abilities involving throwing pink balls that literally come out of a purse.

They almost got it right.

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My complaints are overall quite minor. I was riveted and involved and laughed honestly many times. Even if Disney itself is a member of the “Big Conglomerate 6,” they are still capable of making something creative and new.

Graham Gentz is a theater and film reviewer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at culture or on Twitter 

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