Big Hero 6 is built to amaze, and amaze it does. It’d take some 10 viewings to properly enjoy its fantasy city of San Fransokyo. Torii arches top the caissons of the Golden Gate Bridge. Coit Tower is a pagoda. Everything meant to give the audience an oriental anxiety attack in 1982’s Blade Runner—the neon, the noodle shops, the blimps, the ornaments—is here used to delight an audience of 2014.
Our orphaned hero Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a scruffy 14-year-old designer who fritters away his skills in illegal robot fights. Big brother Tadashi took a more legitimate path at the lab in SF Tech. Tadashi works with an assorted (but never fully differentiated) Scooby Gang of five students—particularly the Shaggyish leader Fred (T. J. Miller).
Tadashi’s breakthrough invention is an inflatable first-aid robot named Baymax, a bot with a pleasantly calm and toneless voice (Scott Adsit). After some plot thickening, Hiro seeks to retrofit this nurse-bot into a warrior.
Baymax is self-inflating, but Big Hero 6 doesn’t puff itself up with importance. If you’ve ever daydreamed what a Disney-animated Batman would look like, it’s here: a Kabuki-masked mad-engineer surfs a tidal wave of millions of mentally controlled robots, each the size of a toggle button. Riding his moving steel mountains, he stimulates the first car chase I’ve cared about in years. Training montages slow things down, but Big Hero 6 gets back its excitement in what you could call “the final finale,” a sequence bursting with tropical colors, a reef of colossal sea anemones and razor-sharp debris.
If the producers are fishing for young male viewers, this dazzling spectacle doesn’t flatter their bloody-mindedness. It still takes a good old “Comics Code” approach to vigilantism. It’s not mere kid’s stuff to prefer stories where the villain is left alive and chastened.
‘Big Hero 6’ is playing in wide release across the North Bay.