Thoughts on BIG HERO 6 (Spoilers)
I got my latest Star Trek novel advances yesterday, two at once (the benefit of turning in the Book 3 copyedits and the Book 4 outline pretty much simultaneously), so I braved the sudden snowburst to deposit the checks and then I went to the nearby theater to see Big Hero 6, which has been getting rave reviews. It was either that or Interstellar, but that theater has apparently stopped showing Interstellar in 3D, so I’m considering other options for that film.
So anyway, BH6 was a lot of fun, a smart and well-made film with fun characters and a nice core story about Baymax helping Hiro recover from the loss of his brother, with help from his friends. It was very well-made with some gorgeous visuals, and yes, Baymax is a very fun and charming character. Hiro was cool too, and I like the movie’s “science is awesome” message, which hopefully will inspire a lot of kids. I particularly love Honey Lemon, who’s adorable and warm and funny, and who nicely subverts gender stereotypes by being both extremely girly and extremely smart and excited about science. Hopefully she and Go Go will serve as role models to get young girls interested in science and engineering, something we need more of.
The “San Fransokyo” setting was pretty cool too, and I loved the way the city got its power from wind-turbine blimps styled as Japanese lanterns. Both gorgeous and functional. Okay, it was never actually stated outright what those things were, but I’ve heard proposals to get power from that kind of high-altitude balloon-turbine, since the winds are stronger at altitude. It’s a great idea and the movie made it beautiful — although I’m not sure it’s wise to have those things hovering directly over the city, in case they break and fall down.
I do have some quibbles. Given that the original comic this was (very, very loosely) based on was set in Japan, I’m disappointed that we got so few Japanese characters in the supporting cast. I mean, we did get Hiro, Tadashi, and Go Go in the core cast, but aside from them, the only Asian characters I recall were the participants in the underground robot fight at the beginning. Aside from them, Wasabi was black and Honey was perhaps Latina (at least, her voice actress is), but otherwise the city seemed to have a pretty whitebread population as far as speaking characters went — Fred, Aunt Cass, Callaghan, Krei, Abigail, Heathcliff, the cop, the general, Stan Lee. (Yes, Stan Lee is in this movie. I’m astonished that I was the only person in my theater, cleanup crew excluded, who stuck around for the post-credits scene and saw his cameo. You’d think people would know by now to stick around for those.) It’s nice to see such a diverse core team, full points there — but the larger world they inhabited could’ve used more than a visual veneer of Tokyo-ness. The movie’s San Fransokyo is supposed to have a more prominent Asian presence than the real thing, but it actually has a higher percentage of Caucasians than the real city does and a fractionally smaller percentage of Asian characters; the main difference is that the film’s Asian characters seem to be exclusively Japanese (the only ambiguous one being the unnamed bot-fight ringmaster), when in the real San Francisco the largest ethnic minority is Chinese. It’s commendable that the movie tries to be more ethnically diverse than most American movies, but frustrating that even such a movie still ends up with slightly less diversity than the real United States, or certainly the real San Francisco — though at least it comes relatively close to reflecting reality for a change.
I also wish the supporting team had been developed more. Go Go, Wasabi, Honey, and Fred were fun, but pretty one-dimensional, defined by one character trait each. This was mainly Hiro and Baymax’s story, and the others were secondary to it. I think if you’re going to do a movie about the origin of a hero team, there should be more development of the full team. I also would’ve liked to see them do more science and creative problem-solving in the climactic battle. There was a bit of that, with them individually “finding a new angle” to deal with their dilemmas, but I would’ve liked to see them brainstorming as a team and applying scientific principles more.
And while the climax was effective in its way, I was hoping for more. The villain (called Yokai officially, though never named that onscreen) was driven by grief over the loss of his daughter, just as Hiro was driven by grief over Tadashi’s death. We saw in Act 2 how Hiro almost went down the same path as Yokai and gave into revenge, but Baymax and the others helped him heal himself instead. I was hoping the climax would come down to Hiro talking to Yokai and helping him find a better way of facing his own grief. I think that could’ve been more powerful and moving. Okay, the climax we got tugged at the heartstrings, but in a more superficial way, since it was obvious that Hiro would find Baymax’s chip in the rocket fist’s grip. So I feel the climax was more superficial than it could’ve been.
Maybe that’s my problem — I’ve been spoiled by the best of Pixar and I was hoping for more depth and complexity in a lot of ways. Maybe I should just set my bar lower. This film may not be quite as rich as I hoped, but it’s still well-made and a great deal of fun. It more than deserves a Baymax fist bump and “Bi-de-li-de-lih!” (Or however you spell that.) I am (mostly) satisfied with my care.