[This review is chock-a-block with spoilers, by the way, and since you might not have seen it, and it's fairly recent, I want to warn that I'm basically going to tell you the entire plot in this review.]
I want to be clear about a few things before I get into the details of this movie. First up, I love it. I fucking love it. There are few movies that, in my opinion, can live in the space between sentimentality and playfulness, but Big Hero 6 finds that sweet spot and builds a house there. It builds its little house, gets married, settles down, raises kids in that little space and when they're off at college, their friends are all like, "yo dawg, where's your hometown?" and the kids will respond with pride "the space between sentimentality and playfulness."
The key to it, I think, is how the story places the characters on the back leg from the very beginning, but their response to it is always optimistic. In a different movie, after the characters undergo some sort of hardship, they have the freedom to behave all emo-y.
The characters in Big Hero 6 though have zero moments of respite and happiness throughout the entire film, yet at no point does anybody seem all that sad. It's the type of thing that seems like it would be caused by extremely poor writing, but instead it gives the impression that these characters are positive enough to overcome their troubles (after a time) while still remaining relatable. The movie opens with mention that our protagonist -- Hiro -- lost his parents when he was a baby, and then he loses his older brother, and then he loses his motivation, and then he loses his best friend. It's fucking sad shit, and yet the tone of the film is...well, take a look at some promotional material:
|Hurray! We're orphans!|
Again, just to be clear, it's not the characters don't have hardships and don't express that pain, it's that they don't dwell on it. The main trauma, more urgent and more present throughout the film, is the loss of Hiro's older brother. After watching the movie several times already, I can tell you that the older's brother name isn't mentioned in more than 3 scenes after he dies, but his presence is constantly felt, and that keeps the wound fresh, rather than the protagonist constantly rehashing a "I miss my big bro, frowny face emoticon" mantra.
The robot, Baymax, was built by the older brother, and the older brother is the one that brought all the characters together. It is his actions that set the events of the movie in motion, and so you're not allowed to ever forget about him, even if he is not directly spoken of. What is present for the audience must be more so for the characters, and so you know that even though Hiro is going "Golly gee, we're going to be superheroes" you know that in his head, he's finishing that sentence with "because my brother is dead and I'm alone".
The movie is entirely about pain and loss, and how to deal with that. Events in the film lead the characters to form a superhero team, but they do it as a way to cope with the loss of their friend/brother, and as a way to help Hiro cope. The secret in the movie is that Hiro is in a deep, deep depression, and everybody knows it. We only ever see the events of the film through Hiro's perspective (which is one of the best ways to make any movie) and so there was probably a scene where the older brother's friends got together and talked about how they're going to do their best to help Hiro. They walk up to him and go "Heyyyy buddyyyy how's it going?" and when he wants to play with robots they go "Yeah guyyyy whatever you want" and when he wants to fight crime, they go "Ok big guy, you're the boss". It's all a big, kind-intentioned ruse that ends up saving the city they live in.
This is a beautiful way to do a plot and establish characters, which in and of itself is worthy of praise, but on top of that, this is just a well-done, fun-ass movie. Not only that, but it's a well-done, fun-ass comic book movie. *Record scratch*. Say what? This movie was based on a Marvel comic? Fuck yes it was, idiot, and they adapted it in the best possible way. They took a few broad details, and instead of trying to perfectly copy it onto the medium of film, focused on creating their own world and own style for the characters to occupy.
The voice work here needs a kind word as well. Scott Adsit, widely known as the world's most loveable loser, does the voice for Baymax and it's awfully fucking good considering he has to talk like a robot and still express emotions and provide humor. I liked how one character pronounces Hiro's name Japanese-style, while not being Japanese herself, and the Japanese characters pronounce his name American-style. That's a tiny detail that tells you a lot about the strict, rule-based personality of the character and the world these characters inhabit. Kewl shit.
In all, I can't even think of anything bad about this film. Pretty close to being perfect.