I may have mentioned before, but there is a part of me that has always been enamored with animation. I love the art form, and there was a time in my life before I accepted that I can't draw to save my life, that I really wanted to be an animator. Granted, I was a lot younger back then, and the thought of computer animation was barely a blip on the radar, but it was a dream. I still hold on to that child-like fascination with animation. To this day, I am a huge fan of all forms of animation, whether it is hand-drawn, stop-motion, or even the computer stuff, I love watching a picture come to life on the big screen.
When I heard that they were making a movie about an obscure Marvel title, and placing it in November, there was a part of me that worried that the executives making the movie decisions over Disney, might have just given up. This is the type of maneuver that tells me that they are either taking a huge chance, or they have truly come to believe that nothing they do can fail. This is not the type of film that panders to the casual comics fan, nor is it a movie that markets itself toward the hardcore fans. No, this is a title that went with a sort of shotgun appeal. It appeals to the masses, rather than the niche markets.
My knowledge of this team was almost non-existent, and considering I am a bit of a fan of comics, not knowing anything about the team was worrisome. For comparison, going into "Guardians of the Galaxy", I actually knew who the characters were, this movie... I couldn't have named a single character going into the film.
The film tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a boy genius that would fit in well with Amadeus Cho, Tony Stark, and the other big brains of the Marvel Universe. He starts out his journey, taking part in an illegal underground robot fight, pitting the most pathetic looking robot ever up against the reigning champion. Things springboard from this single event, and build up with the rather interesting city of San Fransokyo (It's the love child of San Francisco and Tokyo) serving as the backdrop of the whole ordeal.
It isn't too long into the movie that we are introduced to what may as well be the primary focus of the film, a balloon-like robot named Baymax. Baymax is a medical robot designed to be as non-threatening as possible. Also, designed to be insanely marketable. Baymax is the sort of character that one can almost instantly fall in love with. He's a single-minded character, operating only as he is programmed, which is to say as a medical robot. He operates only to ease suffering, and heal injuries. His simplicity serves to make him an endearing character. He wants to help people, and is there ever a more noble goal? His dedication to Hiro is pretty much the entire basis of the story.
Much like "Frozen" and "Wreck-it Ralph" before it, this movie is a film filled with a lot of heart. The two primary characters have a nice dynamic, and really makes for some occasionally very heart-felt moments. The moments between Hiro and Baymax range from very touching, to hilarious. Other characters are, on the most part, emotional foils rather than fully developed characters. The movie seems to have foregone character development on other characters to focus on the friendship between Hiro and Baymax.
The movie packs in some nice action sequences as well, giving each of the characters very distinct, very visual robotic enhancements, which makes them stand out in battle. These distinctions help to make the fights even more visually appealing, something that will help keep the kids attention.
When all is said and done, I have to recognize that this is a movie that has a primary audience that is still in primary school. As a kid's movie, I find it to be very successful. It offers up a vibrant world that merges the familiar with the extraordinary. It gives an almost believable superhero concept, taking a page out of the Iron Man playbook. In all honesty, I could see this as the first entry into a Marvel Animated Cinematic Universe., as it offers up an interesting world, and since it focuses on only a small portion of that world, there is room to expand. Barring that, I would not mind seeing if they could make a franchise out of this.
A few items of note, the movie has one of my favorite Stan Lee cameo's, as well as a somewhat amusing after credit scene that helps to expand the possibilities of a film franchise. One problem, is there is some story bits included during the credits, that help expand on the movie, and what happens after the whole thing is said and done, but for the younger kids this might be a bit of a turn off, since it requires reading. For the parents, it will be a turn off because you will have to suffer through the Fall Out Boy track that plays during these bits. Still, I would recommend sitting through to the end, just saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you're like me, and kinda wish that there was another Incredibles movie, this film might help fill that void in our life. While the characters don't have powers, they have super suits, and a thin veil of pseudo-science to make them seem almost probable.
IS IT THEATER WORTHY?: I think that is an unequivocal yes. Not only is it a fun film, it plays well on the big screen, and despite there being a number of small kids in the theater, not a single one was running around, or talking through the film. If it can keep the attention of the children, you know it's got to be worth something, right?
FINAL THOUGHTS: Two strong primary characters, and a handful of much less dynamic characters form a framework that, is ultimately really fun, and is going to be a definite addition to my Blu-Ray collection. If one can look past the occasional flaws, there is a real gem beneath it all. Very much worth the watch.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10