Disney, Marvel intertwine best of both worlds

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By Phil Brown, Reporter

While PG-rated animated flicks are generally not my first choice of film, there are definitely a few that stand up as works of art. Most notably, with films such as “Up” and“WALL-E,” Pixar somewhat routinely manages to release projects that are not only family-friendly, inspiring and obsessed over by children, but are works of emotional power and technical finesse.

It’s certainly possible to make an excellent animated film, one that holds its own as a piece of cinema and not just a vehicle for HappyMeal toys. But after the tiresome over saturation of animated movies like “Frozen,” “Tangled,” “Cars,”“Cars 2,” “Planes” and “Planes:Fire and Rescue,” it’s hard to buy a ticket to another Disney animation without a feeling of resignation.

Disney’s latest animated venture, however, provides some family history that lends a bit of intrigue to an otherwise fairly generic-sounding story. It’s the first child in the marriage of Disney and Marvel, the business deal that ended Marvel Studios’ independence and handed its vast treasure troves of intellectual property to the giant media conglomerate.
The remarkable success of Marvel as an independent movie studio in this young century, most notably “Spider Man,” “Iron Man,” “The Avengers,” etc., demands a certain respect for its upcoming projects.
“Big Hero 6,” the newborn franchise poised to spawn a million action figures and video game tieins, is a unique blend of elements we’ve come to expect from both Marvel and Disney Animation. It’s not particularly hard to spot the features of its parents in the film. It’s a Marvel-sized story: a sweeping epic, literally swooping from building to building and metaphorically from tragedy to triumph. It has the misfortune to inherit the same heavy-handed emphasis on action and hyperactive pacing of its Marvel forebears.
On the Disney side, the emotional connection is found, epitomized in the character of Baymax, the robot.Cute and cuddly to a fault, Baymax is the primary vehicle for Disney’s emotional story. But the film also suffers from typical Disney blemishes: manipulative storytelling, clumsy foreshadowing and a sheen of the saccharine.
It’s a mixed bag, to be sure, and a decidedly mixed viewing experience. But there are some really great elements to it, most notably the setting: San Fransokyo. The city is absolutely beautiful and viewers are treated to every angle of it.
It’s certainly disappointing that the studio watered down the Japanese setting and characters into a sort of halfway compromise nearing total Americanization, but that’s to be expected from Disney anyway.
The film features some diversity, though, with an Asian-American character and actor occupying the lead role, setting and name changes aside.
“Big Hero 6” achieves some moments of joy and wonder, from flights in rose-colored skies over a shining city to the unfathomable
interior of a wormhole to the sleepy atmosphere of a sunny attic bedroom.
“Big Hero 6” achieves with its setting and technical artistry what it can’t quite muster in the story department: near perfection. As it stands, though, it’s a pretty decent family flick and I suppose that’s the only thing anyone shelling out for it would be after.

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