Big Hero 6, an animated Disney movie, is one of the most derivative flicks I’ve seen in 2014. It openly plagiarizes from Terminator 2, The Incredibles, Wall-E, The Avengers, and many different animated Japanese serials; the imaginative qualities come not from the introduction of new elements but the appropriation of many different works which fit together into a single coherent vision.
The experimental filmmaker, Harun Farocki, subscribed to this idea when he said, “One need not look for new, as yet unseen images, but one must work with existing ones in such a way that they become new.”
The central storyline, to which the movie devotes most of its time, is about the relationship between Hiro, a child prodigy who innovated “microbots” (mechanical building blocks which can be used to build anything without a construction crew), and Baymax, a healthcare service robot that was created by Hiro’s late brother.
Big Hero 6 is an origin story of a clan of superheros, a standard coming of age tale, a fable on the risks of violence with the innovation of new technologies, a tragedy about a boy’s loss of his parents and later his brother, a clash of good against evil, as evil tries to seek revenge for a past wrong, and a heartfelt look at a blooming friendship between a programmed robot and a pubescent boy.
Among all these plotlines, the story takes time to create a world where criminals gather to fight and bet on fights between little mechanical robots. It’s a monstrous movie that extends itself farther than just the elements in the previous, prodigious sentence.
The film doesn’t care; it is always shooting for the highest emotional affect and the biggest laughs in almost every sequence. Some work, but others don’t. It’s undoubtedly way too much on almost every level, but in the realm of feeble animated children’s films, it can be forgiven for allowing its ambitions to exceed its grasp.
We live in an affluent society where cinema is being mass-produced at a staggering rate; new stories, filmic techniques, and stylistic choices are extremely rare. Big Hero 6 tries to be something different by melding together varying inspirations and stuffing as much into its visual palette and inoffensive storytelling as possible.
If the elements weren’t so well appropriated into the creation of a new world or genre-blending story it would have felt like theft. Instead, Big Hero 6 feels like a gift from a studio that remakes the same princess movies over and over again. You’ve seen everything before, but never assembled in this way.