The Shelf Is Half Full

An optimistic geek's blog on comic books, movies and professional wrestling.

Archive for the category “Disney”

New On The Shelf – Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is a 2014 CGI-animated superhero film directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams. It is the 54th film in the Disney Animated Canon and is very loosely inspired by the Marvel Comics series of the same name. The film tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a young scientific genius with a talent for building fighting robots, his interactions with his older brother Tadashi, Tadashi’s university friends, and a healthcare companion robot Tadashi designed named Baymax. Without giving any explicit spoilers away, Hiro eventually finds himself working alongside Baymax to stop a man in a Kabuki mask who is cooking up a nefarious plan that could hurt the citizens of San Fransokyo.

Yeah, that’s the name of the city. We’ve all got to live with it. Fortunately, the movie is about equally as good as that name is terrible. It is another hit in Disney’s recent list of successes such as Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen.

Big Hero 6

The focus of the film is on the relationship between Hiro and Baymax, and they are the characters I want to talk about most. However, I will take a moment to say that most of the supporting characters work for me. The heroes have enough personality to not be forgettable and the villain has a good enough backstory to give him some layers. I would have liked to have seen them develop these characters a little bit more, but for their roles they are good. I also appreciate that if one looks up the Marvel characters that Honey Lemon, GoGo, Wasabi and even Fred are based on, it is easy enough to see how they inspired their film counterparts. Tadashi is also a good addition to the story and the bond between Hiro and Tadashi feels real and natural, which isn’t as easy to accomplish as some might think.

Hiro is one of the more lead characters in a Disney film in quite some time, for me at least. Part of that is because Disney leads are usually young women, and most male leads tend to be a little older. The last young male lead in a Disney film was Jim Hawkins in 2002’s Treasure Planet, so this is really Disney Animation’s first go at this type of character in a generation. So do they pull it off? Pretty well in my opinion. Even though he’s absurdly intelligent, Hiro still comes across as a believable thirteen year old kid. I especially enjoy how utterly flawed he is as a human being. Frozen had two girls with communication issues and Wreck-It Ralph had a misunderstood but nice enough guy in the video game “villain” Ralph.

But Hiro is a brat. And that’s glorious.

BIG HERO 6

When I say he’s a brat, I mean this as a compliment to the writers. Hiro is stubborn and full of himself, he can be very moody, doesn’t listen very well, and often rushes into things without thinking of the consequences. All of this just makes him feel like a real teenager, and I think that kids will have an easy time relating to him. I enjoy that Disney was willing to present a character that has definite flaws but still has plenty of heart, brains and mental toughness that we can enjoy him and root for him. I’d like to see more of their characters presented this way; the more flaws a character has, the more human the character feels and the easier it is for an audience to relate to said character.

That said, the film is absolutely stolen by Baymax. The robot is one of my favorite characters from any movie in 2014 and managed to steal the crown of “most lovable” from Groot. It’s close, but Baymax wins. I want a Baymax. He may actually be Disney’s best supporting character since The Genie, and indeed, the relationship between Genie and Aladdin may be the best comparison for how Hiro and Baymax play off of each other. Hiro has serious problems that he has to address and Baymax is the only thing around with enough patience and empathy to really get to him and help him. He’s also insanely funny without trying to be. There is a lot of physical comedy that is mined from Baymax’s status as an enormous balloon.

Flying

Overall, Big Hero 6 is a movie I would grade as a B+. The main focus of the movie works very well, but the overall plot sometimes falters and the characters other than Hiro and Baymax, while colorful, are underwhelming. I personally preferred Disney’s last two efforts, but taking a small dip in quality here is much better than say, the bomb that Pocahontas was after the smashing successes of Aladdin and The Lion King. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a “good” movie; plenty of movies don’t even make it to that level. Kids will love it, and adults, especially parents with teenagers, will probably find plenty to like as well.

Advertisements

Always On My Shelf – The Lion King

“Always On My Shelf” was originally a tagline that I came up with for my review of The Princess Bride as a way to express my love for that movie and explain that I’ve watched it throughout my entire life and have never been bored with it. However, I feel the phrase nicely sums up my feelings on classic movies that have been in my possession pretty much all of my life. So I will be using it as a catch-all term for older movies while using “New On My Shelf” for more current releases.

While I will eventually be reviewing movies that are directed more at an adult crowd, I thought it would be fitting for my second review with this tagline to be another film that was a childhood favorite. This particular movie was requested by my childhood self so often that I am sure my poor mother could recite the entire script from memory. And if you’re somebody like me who grew up in the 1990’s, you’ve probably had a similar experience as this was the most commercially successful animated movie of all time when it was released in theaters in 1994.

Lion King

The Lion King is an epic Shakespearan adventure and political drama that is simplified in terms that children can understand. If that analysis seems far-fetched or pretentious than I suggest reading a plot synopsis of Hamlet. Or actually viewing the play. Regardless, The Lion King uses talking lions and other animals to play Shakespearean tropes and it does so very successful. The main character is a young lion prince named Simba who is eagerly dreaming of the day when he will become King of the Pridelands (Africa). His father King Mufasa, voiced by James Earl Jones, tries to teach him how to be a responsible king with mixed results.

This review is about to become very spoiler heavy, but honestly this film has existed for over two decades at this point and if you haven’t seen it then you really have nobody to blame but yourself. This isn’t some obscure cult hit like The Princess Bride, this is the Frozen of its time, a massive blockbuster feature that is considered to be a staple of childhood entertainment. So spoilers are just going to happen.

The villain of the movie is Mufasa’s jealous and conniving brother Scar, voiced by Jeremy Irons. Scar is one of the first bad guys that I remember having a lot of affection for because he was just so entertaining that I enjoyed having him on screen. He’s got a dry and sharp wit that is often self-depreciating and serves as a way to distract from what an intelligent schemer he is. He murders Mufasa in a scene that traumatized a generation of children and somehow convinces a heartbroken Simba that it is his fault and not Scar’s. Simba runs away from the Pridelands in a self-imposed banishment, surviving his treacherous uncle’s attempts to have him murdered by hyenas.

Still Sad

You know, I almost feel bad for including that picture. Isn’t it just soul crushing? How did I ever survive something like this?

Okay, so the young Simba runs away across a desert and nearly dies and then is rescued by a warthog named Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) and a meerkat named Timon (Nathan Lane). This duo serves as both comic relief and life guidance for Simba, who grows up (changing voice actors from Jonathan Taylor Thomas to Mathew Broderick) embracing their motto of “Hakuna Matata”. It means “No worries”. For the rest of your days.

I know you have that stuck in your head now. You’re welcome.

Anyway the rest of the movie is fairly predictable as Simba eventually gets convinced to return to the Pridelands and oust Scar as dictator. Not that this is easy mind you. It takes his childhood friend and romantic interest Nala (Moira Kelly), a baboon that fills the “wise old sage” trope named Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) and a visit from the lion afterlife by Mufasa to get him going. But he eventually goes back and embraces his destiny as the one true king and there’s this big fight and Scar gets eaten by hyenas and everyone else is happy.

Hakuna Matata

The Lion King is honestly a difficult movie for me to review because it’s so tied into my childhood and I love every second of it like it is part of my family. I’m older now and I look at Simba and know he’s kind of a bland character that really needs to be kicked in the butt a bit too much to be a hero. That’s a problem. If I’m super honest, I have to admit that Elton John’s songs just don’t hold up to the work that Alan Menken and Howard Mashman did on earlier Disney movies like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. I also know that Beauty and the Beast is a far superior film all around. That’s the best Disney animated classic of all time.

But this movie is probably one I will always love and the one that will always be my sentimental favorite. I can’t help it. It was just so epic and fresh and honestly, there’s still no other animated film quite like it. I can’t think of a movie that feels quite the same way. It’s unique and I think that’s why it holds up. And while the protagonist is a bit on the bland side, the supporting cast is a huge ensemble of memorable, funny and lovable characters. Or characters you love to hate in the case of Scar.

The Lion King is a flawed classic. That’s about as objective as I’m going to get. But it is definitely a classic and if you haven’t seen it in a long time, I really encourage you to watch it again. It’s a film that deserves to be experienced again and again.

And if Disney ever releases this from their vault again you can be sure I’m never letting anybody else steal it. It’s staying on my shelf for good this time.

Post Navigation