|'Hiro and Baymax combine elements of both surrogate father-son pair and odd couple crime-fighting duo, as well as providing a satisfying comedy partnership'.|
That Big Hero 6 won Best Animated Feature at the 2015 Academy Awards says a lot more about the way in which animated cinema is regarded by those in Hollywood than it does about the film itself. In short, as long as a film is visually impressive and comes from a big name US studio, it's a winner. Disney's latest is not a bad film by any stretch, but having seen all but one of the other five animated films nominated for the Oscar this year, it's hard not to see the winning film as the safest and most formulaic of the whole crop.
Big Hero 6 is by and large a straightforward superhero origin story, with all the beats and tropes now expected this far into comic book cinema's continuing reign over blockbuster movie-making. Hiro (Ryan Potter) brings together the intellect, arrogance and technological know-how - not to mention the suit-powered superheroism later on - of Tony Stark, with the adolescent struggle between power and responsibility of Peter Parker, as well as desire for revenge for a personal tragedy of countless other heroes.
Whilst each of these familiar traits isn't necessarily an issue in themselves, what makes them problematic is the lack of any attempt to do anything fresh or different with them. Co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams are perfectly happy for Big Hero 6 to remain firmly on the rails when it comes to both plot and character. A middle act reveal as to the identity of the mysterious Kabuki-masked villain pursuing Hiro and his friends is woefully predictable, with an attempted red herring thrown in early on receiving so little expansion it's unlikely to throw many in the audience off. Other than Hiro, most of the characters here receive only a rudimentary amount of development. The remaining five members of Hiro's team, likeable as they are, barely make it beyond one dimension.
As cookie cutter as Hall and Williams' approach is in a great many ways, Big Hero 6 still manages to remain enjoyable. The visuals are as solid as you'd expect them to be without ever truly wowing. The amalgamation of American and Japanese culture in the futuristic hybrid city of San Fransokyo delivers some nice, subtle touches throughout; the character design, however, feels like a missed opportunity by Disney, dominated for the most part by a Westernised style located somewhere between Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph.
The key redeeming feature of Big Hero 6 is the relationship between Hiro and his inflatable robot companion Baymax (Scott Adsit). Individually, both characters are the most successful the film has to offer, but together they deliver all of the film's most entertaining and well-executed moments. Hiro and Baymax combine elements of both surrogate father-son pair and odd couple crime-fighting duo, as well as providing a satisfying comedy partnership. It's the bond developed between these two that has undoubtedly charmed many - including those voting for this year's Best Animated Feature at the Oscars - but ultimately it's not enough to hide the profound ordinariness inherent to the rest of Big Hero 6.