I can’t lie, but this film is one of the ones I was looking forward to the most this fall. Of course, the makers of Frozen tag line in the trailer had something to do with it. The reality is the original trailer did nothing for me. It looked cute, but if you really want to get me interested in a movie give me a good trailer with good music. Despite my love for Frozen, the trailers didn’t grab me. Point in fact, I almost didn’t see it because of the trailers originally released – how sad would that have been? The use of Fall Out Boys, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” along with some intriguing animation got my eye in the first full trailer. Trailer 2 got me more, with Greek Fire’s “Top of the World”, more importantly it showed me this was a team thing rather than just a boy and his robot. Yes – I know this is based on a comic, but I haven’t read it so didn’t know. The music just sounded inspiring and I love a good heroic team effort. While not usually a fan of Four Colour hero stories, I do find the pure, good, heroism something that makes me smile. Then they released Trailer 3 (below) with New York Comic Con. I was sold. Fall Out Boys new song Immortals was just what I needed to seal the deal and really showed what the team aspect would be about.
So should you see the movie?
This movie is the exception to Jessica’s Film Writing Rule. I’ve often talked about how too many writers on a film tends to lead to a bad film. I happily acknowledge this as an exception. Now we have a story based on the comic by Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle. I paused writing this review long enough to peruse the power of Google. I will make a slight adjustment, a story based on and inspired by the comic. While the character names are more or less the same, the personalities and styles are incredibly different (more on that when I talk about the characters). The story was written by Don Hall and Jordan Roberts. Hall was the writer on Princess and the Frog and Tarzan, while Roberts had very few writing credits before. Their story was then adapted for a screenplay by Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, and Roberts himself. Baird has a screenplay credit on Monsters University and Monsters Inc. with Gerson.
I have to admit, I was surprised the writers weren’t involved in The Incredibles as the movie really does a good job of evoking that heroic transformation vibe. Now, I will not tell you the plot is anything complex or new. Point in fact the movie had nearly no surprises for me, yet it still kept me entertained and even drew laughs and tears when appropriate. Quite a few tears I should add. The simplicity of the story doesn’t take away from it, but because it mixes action and emotional beats really well for adults, younger audiences (under 6) may be bored until those action beats.
The directors may be a reason why the story has such as an emotional punch, even if it is simple. Story writer Don Hall with, the story writer of Mulan and Bolt, Chris Williams dual direct the film. Directing a live action film requires certain muscles, but animation has a different set of muscles it must use in addition. The physical impossibility of shots becomes irrelevant; while the actors body language and expressions become the realm of the animators.
From a cast perspective we the movie brings in a wide range of talent from different ages and realms of experience. Our Hero…Hiro Hamada, a boy genius, is voiced by young asian american actor Ryan Potter (Supah Ninjas). This character is probably one of the most accurate to his original incarnation with his brilliant mind and the de facto leader of the group. Jamie Chung (Once Upon a Time, Smallville) voices one of my favourite characters Go Go Tomago, speed freak, no nonsense snark, and specialist in magnetics. I wasn’t able to see much of her character from the quick research but she’s fairly on point and fairly snarky in the movie which instantly endears her to me. Honey Lemon, the groups chemist, is voiced by Genesis Rodriguez (Man on a Ledge, The Last Stand) and has the one of the biggest variations from the source. Gone is the blonde cheerleader physique and near exhibitionist clothing style replaced with an almost stereotypical nerd girl. I think this is primarily due to the Disney factor more than anything else, but I don’t find fault in it. In fact I kinda prefer this version. The next biggest change is Wasabi No Ginger, I am not kidding about the name, voiced by Damon Wayans Jr. (Let’s Be Cops, The Other Guys), changing him from a japanese chef, to a black dreadlocked inventor. Much like Go Go, I don’t have much to compare Fred to from the source, but TJ Miller (How to Train Your Dragon, and that horrific Transformers movie this year), but he does seem accurate as the non scientist in the group.
The supporting cast is also filled with named and known character actors, such as Maya Rudolph (SNL), Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Alan -Lead on the Wind- Tudyk (Firefly, Frozen), and James Cromwell (Secretariat, Star Trek: First Contact) .
From a technical perspective the art is fantastic. It still has a certain style to it which I appreciate. There use of light and shadow is probably some of the best I’ve seen with sunsets and skylines that border on photo realistic at times. From a character model perspective people like to rip hard on Frozen and Tangled for looking too much alike and as someone who studied computer animation for a bit when she was in college I understand why and don’t judge on that. If you have pre existing skeletons and muscle structures you can save time and money rather than creating new ones. THe movie has a job to create new ones as well (the full Big Hero 6 crew); so when background and secondary characters look like ones I’ve seen in other films I don’t mind as much. It was a bit distracting at first but I got over it.
There is a lot this movie does right and thats where my focus is. The movement through the film is some of the most dynamic I have seen in a film of this style. The flying sequences are up there with How to Train your Dragon. The camera tracking on some of the others, especially Go Go really has an energy of all its own that gets your heart pumping.
Now, I’ve talked about the characters and brought up race a few times in that. There’s a reason for it and it’s the best one of all – representation. The movie has this in spades with young characters who are scientists from multiple races and genders. This is why I don’t mind the change to Honey Lemon as it only increases the representation within the film giving young girls who feel dorky or nerdy someone to look up to – someone who is consistently strong in the movie. The changes to Wasabi while reducing one aspect of representation create another where there was none, giving young black kids someone (aside from the epic NDGT) to look up to and want to be like. Hiro also marks the first time in my recollection we have a Asian male lead in an american made production – that isn’t a martial artist. This is huge!
There is a huge problem with diversity in film in general, but superhero films specifically. Name the number of female superheroes we’ve had in film in the past decade? Black superheroes? While in this film we have two strong females and a strong black male character. What’s even better is that the movie doesn’t make a big deal out of it – though we need to. The movie SHOULDN’T make a big deal of it, because it should be a naturally accepted state. The characters are the characters defined by personality and skills – not their race or gender. They applied themselves, they weren’t born different, which allows people to identify themselves with these characters and lets them aspire to be these characters. The movie gives us an ideal world in this regard and it’s a world we should aspire to as well and if we can get Hollywood to keep making movies like this, the media can help bring us there.
Go. See. This.
Thats all. I don’t care who you are. What your age is (ok 6+ recommended).
Go. See. This.