Young Hiro Hamada is a robotics genius, and lives with his brother Tadashi (Henney) and his aunt Cass (Rudolph) in San Fransokyo, a cool pastiche of (duh) San Francisco and Tokyo. He gets busted bot-fighting, and Tadashi, recognizing that he's been aimless and wasting his talents, takes him to "nerd school," the prestigious science university that he attends. There, he meets Wasabi (Wayans Jr.), Gogo (Chung), and Honey Lemon (Rodriguez), Tadashi's classmates and fellow scientists. They immediately embrace Hiro and show off their kickass research. Oh, also Fred (T. J. Miller), the layout superhero-obsessed slacker; not a student, but a friend of the group. Tadashi, too, shows him his project - a personal healthcare robot called Baymax (Adsit).
Hiro, desperate to attend the school, develops "microbots," tiny robots that, controlled en masse with a neural link, can build or form structures and stilts and whatever else. Tadashi's mentor, Callaghan (Cromwell) is impressed and admits Hiro, though millionaire obvious bad guy Alistair Krei (Tudyk) expresses interest. All looks well. Then the building explodes and Tadashi dies trying to save Callaghan.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Hiro, still coping with the loss of his brother, accidentally activates Baymax. He discovers, through a series of wacky mishaps, that a masked man has collected manufactured the microbots for some nefarious purpose. Realizing that the fire was deliberate, he fits Baymax with armor and tries to take down the masked man, but fails and is only saved by his friends (whom Baymax contacted to help Hiro deal with his grief). They, too, stand up for their friend, and use their inventions to become superpowered and go after the masked man!
This movie is really, really good. For one thing, the cast isn't entirely freaking white, and neither are the actors (Ryan Potter, f'rex, is half Japanese, much as the Hamada brothers are assumed to be; Daniel Henney is half Korean). The setting is a cool mixture of its component cultures. But really, man, the script. Hiro undergoes a real character arc, and although his friends don't really get their own side stories (except, weirdly, Fred), you get a sense of their personalities. I always liked, for instance, that when Hiro flies off the handle and tries to kill the masked man, and then comes to his senses later, it's Gogo (tough, no-nonsense) who hugs and comforts him. The implication, to me at least, was that Gogo has gone to some dark places, too.
I'm really looking forward to a sequel, and I'd love to learn a little history behind the supporting characters in the process.
My grade: A
Rewatch value: High
Next up: Guardians of the Galaxy