It’s easy to look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and decide that Marvel and Disney have integrated perfectly, but realistically, that’s far from the truth. The movies are doing well, but elsewhere, it’s an odd fit. Into this gap comes Big Hero 6, the first non-“Marvel Universe” movie from Disney, and while it’s a good movie for kids, it also illustrates that Marvel and Disney have a long way to go when it comes to understanding each other.
Granted, Big Hero 6 is just a weird choice in general. Disney can’t use half the team’s members, since they’re mutants and thus owned by Fox for film purposes. And it’s hard to think of a property more obscure in recent Marvel history. Essentially Marvel’s attempt to get on the rising tide of anime sales, Big Hero 6 didn’t click, and truthfully, the movie doesn’t draw much from the comics aside from names and powers.
The main problem is that this movie is very, very much a Disney movie and not very much a Marvel movie. Probably the best thing about it is 30 Rock‘s Scott Adsit as Baymax, delivering a vocal performance and the few edgy jokes this movie allows; Baymax having a “low battery” is even better than it looks in the trailer, and his interactions with Hiro, well played by Ryan Potter, really anchor the film.
The main problem is really the fact that merchandising won out. Take the team in the movie; they exist because they’ll make good toys, not because they add anything to the plot, which is pretty much entirely the Hiro-and-Baymax show. Only Fred has any real character arc, and that’s not even paid off in the movie proper.
Speaking of the plot, you can tell this movie originally was quite a bit darker before a few key plot points are essentially walked back in the closing moments. It’s particularly strange because this movie gets pretty heavy for a fair chunk of its running time: Hiro is a grieving mess. He’s been orphaned twice, the second time quite possibly his fault, and that… doesn’t do much for his decision-making skills.
Thankfully, those choices make sense; it’s exactly what a hot-headed kid with Hiro’s skills would do. But it’s a bit odd to have a flowers and rainbows ending for a movie that spends most of its running time using its teenage hero as an emotional punching bag.
I don’t want to gripe too much because it’s a movie for kids, and they’re going to love it. It doesn’t talk down to them and rarely gets cutesy, even with a walking plush toy as a main character. And, importantly, it’s not going to drive adults utterly crazy on repeat. It’s funny, the action sequences are clever, and it’ll tug your heartstrings at the right moments. Still, if Disney is going to keep doing this, they should set aside their formula a little bit and see where Marvel can take them.