CINEMA by Symeon J. ThompsonNews Weekly
The heroism of healing: plus robots: Big Hero 6
, May 9, 2015
Big Hero 6 is a beautifully made animated film from Disney about the heroism of helping others. It is a heartwarming movie about choices, persistence and the power of loss. And it picked up the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for its clever playing with stories and abundance of heart. It has just been released on DVD and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Big Hero 6 is set in the futuristic city of San Fansokyo, a fusion of San Franciso and Tokyo, where blimps adorn the sky and paper lanterns hang from streetcars, reminding the viewer of the delicate cartoons of the Japanese Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki, famous for Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.
Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a robotics prodigy who graduated from high school when he was 13. He spends his time hustling illegal underground robot fights, from which his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) often has to rescue him when things go awry. The brothers have been raised by their aunt, Cass (Maya Rudolph), since the death of their parents.
Tadashi is a student at San Fransokyo’s Institute of Technology, or “nerd school”, as Hiro calls it. In a clever effort to get his brother to use his potential, Tadashi takes him to visit the school. Here Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends and classmates: Fred (T.J. Miller) a comic book fan and the school mascot, Go Go (Jamie Chung), a young woman obsessed with speed and making faster and faster bikes, Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr), slightly neurotic with an interest in lasers, and Honey Lemon (Génesis Rodríguez), a young lady keen on exotic chemistry.
Hiro also meets Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell), the head of the robotics program at the school, and a founding figure in robotics, who is an inspiration to him.
It is while there that Tadashi introduced Hiro to his own project: Baymax (Scott Adsit), an inflatable all-in-one health-care assistant whose only focus is helping people.
Hiro is now desperate to get in to “nerd school”, but to do so he needs a project to impress Professor Callaghan. After a number of dead ends he comes up with an awesome project: microbots that can reassemble themselves into anything, controlled with the mind via a headband controller. He unveils the project at the science fair to much acclaim, and is offered a place at the university.
Hiro, Tadashi and their friends have just gone outside to celebrate, when a freak fire breaks out. Tadashi rushes back inside to rescue Professor Callaghan but is killed in the explosion.
Grief stricken, Hiro retreats from his newfound friends until he accidentally restarts Baymax. Baymax, in his desire to heal Hiro, starts seeking out answers, leading Hiro to an abandoned factory where a kabuki-mask wearing villain is using Hiro’s microbots for his own, unknown purposes. This gives Hiro a new mission – find who was responsible for the death of his brother and bring them to justice.
To do this, he refits Baymax as a warrior, and works with his friends to turn their unique skills and interests into tech-driven superpowers.
Big Hero 6 is beautiful and delicate and touching. It is also an intense film, exploring reactions to grief and loss and showing the natural end of using revenge as a means to cope. It emphasises how we need others to cope with loss and hard times and how we need to use our talents to make the world a better place.
It shows that sometimes we need to “reboot our souls”, as Thomas L. McDonald of the Patheos blog, God and the Machine, writes about the terrifying impact that depression can have. This reboot comes about through inaction and rest, much like a computer restarting, to rebuild ourselves to the point where we can do something more.
The characters are very different from their Marvel comic book inspiration, which is a darker and more adult-oriented series, but still with the focus on grief and loss as a spur to action.
Baymax, in particular, has changed from a shape-shifting dragon to a walking talking marshmallow, in one of the most inspired reinventions. Baymax is arguably the hero of the film, a being entirely dedicated to helping and programmed to do no harm. His blobby, oversized, inflatable body is a cause for mirth in itself.
As an added bonus, the DVD comes with the animated short Feast , about a dog’s relationship with his owner told entirely from the dog’s perspective and through the medium of meals. It is a beautiful little gem in itself, much like the Pixar shorts, and shows that Disney, in buying out Pixar, has been revitalised, much like Rome being civilised by its conquest of Greece.
P.S. Make sure you watch the post-credits sequence, or else you will miss out.
Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA).