I’ve got a friend who argues that superheroes are one of the few common bounds that connects the young and the old. I can’t really disagree with that. The eight-year-old little girl and the 80-year-old man can find a lot of common ground, as far as interests go, with the increasingly growing world of superhero movies. You’re just as likely to see one as you would the other on opening night of the latest Marvel movie, and it’s possible they’ll both love it equally (though, perhaps for different reasons). Still, there’s no denying that the modern crop of films to venerate the spandex-clad mutants and meta-humans populating our imaginations are often geared toward a slightly more grown-up crowd. Odd, really, when you consider that much of the world still regards comic books and their characters as belonging to the realm of children — or, at least, the childish.
That being said, there’s a lot about comic books and superheroes that do naturally appeal to children. Who among us didn’t dress up as Superman or Batman at least one year on Halloween? Kids didn’t just stop loving the superhero just because we grew up and demanded our movies to be dark and gritty. It was naturally only a matter of time before studios trained to translate the ubiquitous nature of superhero fever into something more suitable for the younger among us.
Enter Big Hero 6. The latest output resulting from the marriage of Marvel Comics and Disney, the film takes all that we know and love about the superhero boom and does what everyone feared when the Marvel/Disney union was announced: It Disneyfies it. And while the mere suggestion of such a concept might be met with disdain and disgust on message boards across the internet, Big Hero 6 achieves that goal in a way worthy of respect and reverence.
I’ve never read the original comic series, but Marvel purists shouldn’t walk into this movie expecting a straight forward adaptation. While the elements are still the same — a team of six unlikely heroes band together to fight evil in their city — they’ve been seriously toned down and, in some cases, re-imagined in a more kid-friendly way.
Admittedly, like most Disney movies, Big Hero 6 will resonate louder with children than it will with us as grown-ups. And that’s fine; we shouldn’t really expect any less from a film bearing the Disney logo. But, as ever, Disney has found a way to entertain the kids without boring the parents to death.
Big Hero 6 follows the coming-of-age of Hiro, a 14-year-old high school graduate and super-genius with a knack for building robots. Despite the insistence of his older brother (who’s also a genius with a knack for robotics), Hiro, like most 14-year-olds, is more content to just hang out then pursue any sort of higher academic achievement. Once he sees the inner workings of his brother’s university, however, Hiro is inspired to become more than he is.
Everything is going great until, tragically, his brother dies, which sends Hiro spiraling into grief and despondency. His funk is ended, however, thanks to some help from his brother’s friends a medical robot his brother built. Along the way, Hiro and company discover their passion for robotics can help them solve the mystery of his brother’s death — and, just like that, a new superhero team is born.
Though the adaptation may be Disneyfied, the results won’t only appeal to kids. True, it’s different from the source material — but in the hands of Don Hall and Chris Williams (both of whom are long time Disney workhorses), Big Hero 6 becomes the comic’s best possible movie adaptation. It may not be a part of the MCU, but all of the elements are in place to give us what we love about those movies anyway, especially when we consider how much of the proper Marvel movies are the result of digital animation. It even features a cameo from Stan “The Man” Lee, along with Marvel’s ever-popular after-credits stinger.
But even if the movie appeals to grown-ups, it definitely plays easier to children. What’s mind-blowing for them might be forgettable for adults, but it’s still enjoyable enough while you’re staring at the screen. That being said, there are some tense moments and darker themes (death, dying) that might make this one a bit much for the younger or highly emotional children out there.
Overall, though, the hilarious and exciting Big Hero 6 opens the doors to superhero saturation even wider than they were before. Disney may have found another way to milk the Marvel cash cow, and it might just be the sweet relief you need if your kiddo won’t stop watching Frozen over and over again. As my girlfriend’s eight-year-old son put it, “It’s the best Marvel movie I’ve ever seen and the best Disney movie I’ve ever seen.” That might be a bit higher than I’m willing to praise it, but that’s probably the point.