Out in Theaters: BIG HERO 6

In the past, I’ve been something of a bitch when it comes to animated movies. The Pixar classics are notorious for beating down my manliness and summoning up the tears – Up, Toy Story 3, even f*cking Ratatouille all got me going. Something about the to-the-bone earnest family connection gets this child of divorce waterworking. It’s clockwork. Minute 82 and I’m Niagara. The last animated movie to move me: How to Train Your Dragon 2. The Mom stuff. The Dad stuff! Whew. Color me teary.

In Big Hero 6, the tragic beats are there – dead parents (c’mon, it’s not a Disney movie without dead rentals), another family member who bites the dust in a ghastly explosion and, yup, a close friend and confidante who also eats the proverbial bullet. The kids in my audience gulped palpably and cried out in waves of concern.

But where was the lump in my throat? Had I grown too cold and calloused to experience my fair share of emotional woes? I felt like Palahniuk’s narrator stuffed into Bob’s meaty bosoms, post-Marla. What the eff was going on?! And then I realized, the fundamental issue was this was more Marvel movie than animated flick. The deaths were without meaning. The sacrifices just temporarily absences; a normative formula via disappearing act that’s taken hold in sequel culture. The offings were like watching Agent Coulson die in The Avengers (spoiler, whoops) or Sam Fury die in Cap 2 (whoops, more spoilers). You just don’t really care. Worse yet, you don’t believe it. This symptom of emotional weightlessness is part and parcel of the pricklinesslessness (not a word) that is the Marvel-verse. Everyone is safe, everything works out. If I had a nicket for every faked death in the MMU, I would have like a full quarter. This consequencelessness (also, not a word) leaves me cold and indifferent. With Big Hero 6, I laughed heartily, I generally enjoyed myself, but I never felt a single thing. Nor did I ever feel a sense of danger.


And that’s why I’m struggling to conjure up words to properly describe my experience with Big Hero 6. It was pretty good. It made me smile. But that’s kinda all one can really say. It’s a hearty head shake; a smiling nod. You can recommend it to just about anyone and they wouldn’t be offended by what they’ve seen. They’ll likely enjoy it quite a bit. It’s got plenty of funny moments to boot, the actions sequences are beautifully realized and colorfully captivating and there is a heart to it, it’s just more robotic than of flesh and blood. But once it’s all over (and with an inevitable load of sequels on the way) there’s really nothing to talk about; nothing that sticks with you.

The latest from Disney is adapted from an under-sung Marvel comic created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau in 1998. The first collaboration between Marvel and Disney since Disney acquired Marvel almost five years back, Big Hero 6 tells the story of 13-year old Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a robo-tech genius taken to back alley bot battles. After a narrow escape from one black-market moonlighting or other, Hiro is seduced by older bro Tadashi to go legit and enroll in a prestigious engineering program promising to hone his robotic skills. Decidedly won over by Tadashi’s classmates, his state-of-the-art workspace, his just-finished invention and the winning Professor Calahan (James Cromwell), Hiro decides to win the science fair and earn a place among these up-and-coming science wiz-kids.

Set in the hyper-futuristic San Fransokyo, the superhero saga sees Hiro team up with medic-bot Baymax (Scott Adsit) and fellow students Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung) and Fred (T.J. Miller) to take down a mysterious super-villain who’s stolen Hiro’s next-gen microbots and has nothing short of evil intentions for them.


The script has a massive nine credits (!!!) to its name, which accounts for the rigidly structured and carefully manicured movements of Big Hero 6, but co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams find ample opportunities to let the jokes waft from the otherwise stenchy grasp of formulaic mediocrity. The humor flows liberally from the emotionally stinted Baymax, a plushy bot who’s more Wall-E than Vision. From fist bumps to mixed colloquialisms, Baymax’s journey to figure out the human world – and the associated emotions that come with it – is flooded with moments of laughter and genuine warmth. Of the seis big heros, he’s the only one anyone’s going to be talking about exiting the theater. Trouble is, outside of this smiley Stay Puft marshmallow man, the film is inflated with flat characters and narrative breadcrumbs all leading to an overdone and overblown ending you could see from miles away without a super scanner. So while it is paint-by-numbers, the colors used are at least rather pretty.

Big Hero 6 is like a Nilla Wafer; yummy going down but nothing to write home about. It’s funny and entertaining in a bland, gingerbread kind of way. It’s the taste of the scrumptious substancelessness (not a word) that defines the Marvel cinematic universe now bleeding into Disney. I don’t doubt that you’ll like it, maybe even love it, but I challenge you to remember this movie five years down the line. You know, once the Avengers 4 is out.


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30 Most Anticipated Films of 2014 (20-11)


For those of you who missed yesterday’s segment on my Most Anticipated Movies of 2014 (30-21), check it out in full by clicking the link. Otherwise, take a look at slots 20-11 for some upcoming movies you definitely want to be aware of.

20. Dom Hemingway


Mixed reviews saw this film out of the gates at TIFF but I have confidence that what may turned many off about Dom Hemingway will work wonders for me. A violent crime caper with Jude Law playing a machismo, coked-up safe cracker, Dom Hemingway has been called a “second cousin to Nicolas Winding-Refn‘s Bronson” [RoS] a film I tremendously enjoyed. I love an interesting protagonist and Law’s Hemingway certainly seems like a character who’ll grab your attention and won’t let it go until the movie finishes. Hopefully, I’ll be on the side of the supporters when this one lands.

Dom will likely only arrive in a small number of theaters when it hits on April 4.

19. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a staggeringly successful revival of the 60’s sci-fi pop franchise and although it had some serious issues (pretty much all of the human characters were lacking), Andy Serkis and the WETA digital team knocked it out of the park. Gone were the hackneyed makeup jobs and inherent silliness found in later installments and Apes all of a sudden had a purpose again. This sequel sees the return of Serkis and features a whole new cast of human actors including the always reliable Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Since the events of the first film, all out war has broken loose so it’ll be interesting to see things going ape shit against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic human race. 

I’m guessing this one will be my birthday movie with a July 11 release date.

18. X-Men: Days of Future Past


Since before superhero movies were even a thing, Fox has known they had something on their hands with the X-Men movie property and although not everything from the franchise has been great, their track record so far has been largely in the green, both financially and critically. So while just another X-Men movie might not quite be enough to really amp up the anticipation levels, the idea of combining the original cast of the first trilogy with the cast of X-Men: First Class, a film I adored, is enough to get my blood boiling. Just seeing that post credits scene of The Wolverine was enough to get me amped and I’m really hoping this is the superhero movie of the year.

May 24th will unveil whether X-Men is truly looking toward the future or has run out of steam.

17. Exodus


This won’t be the only biblical epic on the list (hint, hint) which means this, depending on how you look at it, will either be a good or bad year for Christians at the cinema. Exodus isn’t quite garnishing the same controversy that its biblical counterpart is at the moment but the fact that we have Ridley Scott behind the camera really means that anything goes. Scott has definitely been on a strange path of late and though many have laid claims that he’s become too out there with films like Prometheus and The Counselor, I’m very much interested in his recent career and find almost as compelling as his inauspicious beginnings. The always terrific Christian Bale will portray Moses (a strange choice physically but hell, is there anyone out there better than Bale?) as he leads Jewish slaves from Egypt.

Hoping to part the Red Sea and head straight for the Oscars with a December 12 release date.

16. Guardians of The Galaxy


So while I admitted that I’m fully expecting X-Men: Days of Future Past to be my favorite superhero movie of the year, I can’t deny that I’m very interested in Guardians of the Galaxy. For the first time since Iron Man, it seems that the Marvel folks are stepping outside of their comfort zone. With a talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper and a talking tree courtesy of Vin Diesel’s gravely vibrato, this is surely the most risky endeavor Marvel has taken in quite some time and, hopefully, will be a welcome break from the monotony of their core Avengers films. Plus, with James Gunn (Slither, Super) behind the camera, we’re sure to be in store for something unexpected.

Alien superhero gang set to show up in 3D IMAX on August 1.

15. Sabotage


So you probably didn’t expect an entry starring Arnold Schwarzenegger so high on this list but, in this case, it’s all about director David Ayer. In 2012, Ayer delivered one of the finest and certainly the most unexpected picture of the year with the stunning End of Watch and ever since, I couldn’t wait to see what he cooked up next. Although the name Schwarzenegger has become more of a punchline since his tenure as the Governator, this film which co-stars underdogs Joe ManganielloMireille Enos, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, and Sam Worthington looks to be a revival for the badass that once was. 

Bursting down theater doors on April 11.

14. Big Hero 6


Marvel + Pixar = Big Hero 6. Yes, you heard right, Big Hero 6, although not so well known to the world at large, is a Marvel property being handled by the old big guns over at Pixar. Although Pixar has been on a slumping trajectory of late, the inspired idea to play in the superhero world just sounds like a recipe for success. Pixar already proved that they can do superhero fare with The Incredibles and, with it, have set themselves a high bar. I know it’s been a while since we’ve seen something truly original from Pixar and although this is an already established property, it’s unknown enough for them to have a true hand in creating something innovative and magnificent. They have a sandbox to play in, now let’s just hope they bring their imaginations.

A near holiday release with a November 6 opening.

13. The Raid 2: Berenthal


The Raid is one of the single most over-the-top ridiculous action movies I have ever seen and yet I loved every single second of it. I watched it in bed and found myself cheering. I mean, come on, when do you do that?! You’re in bed to relax, not jump up and down like a little kid. Well that was the effect The Raid had on me. I felt like a little kid again, watching The Matrix for the first time. Picking up right where the first one left off, The Raid 2 follows the trail of corruption unveiled in the first film. But let’s be honest, these movies aren’t about plot, they’re about bone-breaking action and so long as director Gareth Evans can keep things fresh we’re hopefully in store for another unforgettable action movie. Keep in mind, this is the second film in a planned trilogy so it’ll be interesting to see how much the world does open up and how self-contained the story is.

Debuting at Sundance, The Raid 2 will strikes American theaters on March 28 with nearly 2-and-a-half-hours of action.

12. The Monument’s Men


Originally slated for a Oscar-qualifying run in 2013, George Clooney‘s The Monument’s Men got pushed due to incomplete post-production work. While the move is enough to make some nervous, the fact that Clooney’s WWII caper has taken the often unforgiving early February slot is hopefully inspired by financial reasons and not suggestive of its lacking quality. But honestly, even a bad Clooney movie is pretty good and from everything we’ve seen from this so far, there is absolutely no reason to think that this is bad. In fact, it looks pretty great. The trailers have showcased the comedy of the thing, which in my opinion is a great step away from the stuffy high-nosery that could have come from a movie focusing on art and Nazis. Backed by Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and John Goodman, how can this not be a score?

In may not be Oscar season with a February 7 release but could it have what it takes to stick around all year?

11. Transcendence


Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut with Transcendence, a story about a terminally ill scientist who synches his consciousness with a computer before he dies. Up to this point, Pfister has spent his career as a cinematographer, most notably for The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, and hopefully his time spent with blockbuster guru Christopher Nolan has rubbed off in a serious way. Although I’ve approached anything with Johnny Depp in a lead role with trepidation over the past few years, this looks like it could be a return to form for the wacky actor.

Will land across the nation on April 18.

That’s it for today folks. Check back tomorrow for the Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2014. (Which will actually have 11 films because of my miscalculation. Whoops.)

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