Big Hero 6 Keeps The Superhero Hot Streak Going… And More!Posted: November 11, 2014
This has been a really good year for (Marvel-inspired) superhero films. Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-men: Days of Future Past were all good-to-fantastic, and each brought something new to the superhero genre. Big Hero 6 continues that trend nicely, by merging the whiz-bang fun of superhero films with the strong emotionality and beautiful animation that has marked Disney Animation’s recent rebirth. Short of being a musical (which I would’ve loved, btw) it combines these two sides wonderfully, and provides a film that should be an introductory superhero story for kids for a long time to come.
One thing that Big Hero 6 accomplishes that very few other superhero films do is demonstrating the importance of working together as a team. Even Avengers, for how much it did correctly, never really establishes how the team finds its rhythm: they get to the finale and suddenly Iron Man is bouncing his repulsor beams off Cap’s shield like they’ve been doing it for years (though really, that moment was AWESOME). Big Hero 6, on the other hand, shows how each member of the team gets so caught up in trying to be a hero and kick ass that they are not only less effective, but they actually get in each other’s way. Their initial clash with Mr. Kabuki (they never really name the villain’s alter-ego so I’m going with this sarcastic description from the cop) showcases some cool individual moments for each member of the team, but it all adds up to failure in the end because they aren’t working in concert. It’s a simple but effective point to make, and if that were the only focus of the film it would still make for solid storytelling. But Big Hero 6 has something deeper and more compelling on its mind, particularly in this scene.
This sequence is also really effective for the arc of Hiro, our protagonist. It’s the moment where he’s able to finally come face-to-face with the man who killed his brother, and in his anger and grief (which has been steadily building throughout the movie, in a very identifiable fashion) he commands the newly-badassified Baymax to destroy Mr. Kabuki. In doing this, he turns the cuddly and innocent Baymax into a rampaging, red-eyed killing machine, and the rest of the team has to scramble to stop him. This is perhaps the most effective denunciation of violent revenge I’ve seen in a superhero film, even compared to the serious-minded explorations of superheroism like The Dark Knight. At that moment, Baymax is an externalization of Hiro’s anger, and the transformation that the robot goes through drives home how destructive such anger can be, and how it can change anyone into a monster.
While the film plays off these classic superhero tropes in impressive ways, it also does much more beyond those genre-specific concerns. Besides the vigilante-specific grief commentary, the film as a whole is a great examination of pain and loss, and the importance of not shutting people out. The formation of the team is not just a superhero thing, but an externalization of Hiro’s friends coming together to help him through his loss. Even the arc of Mr. Kabuki is a mirror of Hiro’s, and it shows the wrong path that Hiro might go down without the help of Baymax and company. It handles the complexity of mourning and anger very gracefully, and makes Hiro effortlessly relatable while also making it clear where he’s going wrong, a very fine line that many movies can’t walk.
And on top of all that, the film is excitingly pro-science, and it makes the idea of solving problems critically and intelligently instead of with your fists look super-cool. It’s exciting to see the lab where everyone builds their tech, and to see Hiro’s experiments work. These are self-made heroes too, but without the agita of being a multibillionaire like Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne. They’re just kids who can make the things they make because they go to a really well-equipped school and who have embraced their own creativity. And while we’re on the progressive end of the political spectrum, lets also acknowledge how the team is not only culturally mixed but features two girls who are at least as excited about science as the boys (and whose gender is never even commented on outside of articles like this one).
One of the pseudo-downsides to a well-made movie (at least for the likes of me) is that there doesn’t always feel like there’s a lot to say about it. Right now Big Hero 6 is exactly that kind of movie, but even in writing this review it made me excited to go back and rewatch it so that I could more thoroughly appreciate all of the ways it came together the right way. There is something to be said for the fact that Disney Animation did things with this film that even the do-no-wrong crowd at Marvel Studios could learn a thing or two from. In the meantime, the only other thing I can say about this film: SEE IT!