Lately, it seems like Pixar has been stuck in a rut of endless sequels and dubious choices (with Inside Out one of the few bright spots) while the Disney animation department has turned out the sort of films we really expect from Pixar. Which is certainly the case here.
What makes this even more interesting is the presence of Marvel Comics, who took one of their lesser titles and turned it into this charming spin on Japanese Anime and Superhero comics. Mind you, from all the summaries, it doesn’t have anything in common with the original beyond the names, but when someone creates a film this entertaining, who cares?
In fact, many of the elements are more archetypal than merely familiar: we have the genius hero, Hiro, who stops wasting his talents and launches into an investigation into a mysterious theft tied to the death of his brother in a fire. We have the villain, who, [Warning: Spoiler! like the movie version of Norman Osborn, becomes the hero’s mentor]. There’s a team of superheroes with a rather interesting assortment of powers (in proper Manga style, they are, of course, given to them by their super suits).
But part of the fun is that these trappings are often presented to us as a joke – most notably, Fred’s ancestral manor complete with obsequious manservant handling all the “Alfred” jobs and a mysterious wealthy father off on the family’s private island.
All this is set against the stunning background of San Fransokyo, a wild (and extremely detailed) hybrid of Tokyo and San Francisco, complete with cable cars and Pagodas. I particularly liked the hundreds of balloon wind turbines which float high above the city which very much like the real world invention Altaeros Energies is pioneering.
But don’t forget to stick around for the credits. Not only – as in some of Miyazaki’s films – does the credit sequences give us a few hints about what’s going to happen to our heroes next, but there is also the expected after-the-credits scene (like those in the other Marvel movies), which reveals a big obvious-yet-surprising secret – and manages to squeeze in that Stan Lee Cameo we’ve all been expecting.