Disney’s Big Hero 6 is a work of fusion—not only because it’s set in a pan-Pacific technopolis called San Fransokyo, but also in the way it seems to want to surgically implant the plush heart of a Pixar movie into the lumbering mechanical body of a Marvel property. Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) is a wayward boy genius who gives up back-alley bot-fighting for more purposeful scientific research with his brother. But when that brother is killed in a freak explosion, all Hiro is left with is a bottomless well of grief and his sibling’s masterwork invention, a robotic ”health care companion” named Baymax. This inflatable golem of empathy is at the center of Disney’s marketing for the film, and for good reason—with his adorable naïveté and perfectly deadpan line readings courtesy of 30 Rock‘s Scott Adsit, he bounces away with the whole movie.
The initial scenes between these two are among Hero‘s best, but the film starts gearing up early for the third-act climax, a smash-and-fly destructathon that will be familiar to anyone who has seen a blockbuster, superhero or otherwise, in the past 10 years. Hiro, Baymax, and four research buddies equip themselves as tech-assisted warriors to take on a masked supervillain controlling millions of tiny swarming microbots and a giant threatening portal to another dimension. All this kicks up a lot of narrative detritus, but the story knows when to pull back. Hiro’s sadness over his brother’s passing isn’t just treated as a one-and-done origin story—it infuses every decision and emotional junction in the film. Baymax, programmed to be tender and nonviolent, is a wonderful antidote to the countless big-screen superprotagonists who walk away from the moral ramifications of their collateral damage like they do from big explosions: without looking back. At times, Big Hero 6 gets a little too noisy for its own good, but that never manages to drown out its many quieter charms. B+