Now that the Marvel Studio’s superhero-powerhouse-blockbuster-machine is fully up and running- since Disney’s 2009 acquisition – Disney has rummaged through the Marvel box to find a vehicle to Disneyfy. In doing so Disney leans into shot and essentially photobombs its own production.
Set in an excellently imagined hybrid of San Fransisco and Tokyo (San Fransokyo), Hiro – boy genius and robot inventor – must defeat a terrorist who killed his brother, with the aid of his brother’s last invention, Baymax.
Baymax provides the gooey inflatable Disney centre to the film. Along with Gerty in Moon (2009), Robot in Robot & Frank (2012), TARS and CASE in Interstellar (2014), Baymax is part of the kindly but cold anti-HALs who populate recent sci-fi pictures. As a medical robot his primary function is to heal Hiro of all wounds physical and emotional. Scott Adsit’s voice performance for the robot injects a soft, heart-breaking humour to the film. The relationship between Baymax and Hiro pure Disney, and the film is at its very best when it focuses on this. The animation is excellent (what else should we expect from Disney?), and is especially good at pulling a great physical performance out of the inflatable vinyl Baymax.
It’s a shame then that the film splinters against the strain of crow-barring a Marvel franchise into a Disney template. Disney’s take on the Marvel creation throws up some good ideas. The most positive element of the film is Hiro’s group of friends: a group of like-minded inventors who band together against the mysterious terrorist villain. They’re a good mix of creeds, genders, temperaments, and a solid tick for aspirational viewing for children. However, when things get a bit tougher, especially in later fight scenes, the blend of Marvel and Disney rattles uncomfortably like a piece of ice in a smoothie blender (I got a smoothie blender for Christmas. It looks at me from the shelf. Gathering dust. Gathering shame. Fassbender shame).
There’s an excellent Disney film in here somewhere, and elsewhere a serviceable young adult sci-fi. But together the film doesn’t do much other than provide a good spectacle. And this film houses the least pleasing Stan Lee cameo out of the lot. Booooo.