Big Hero 6
Rated PG, 102 minutes
Fair Value of Big Hero 6: $14.50. It’s a well-engineered re-application of the general formula of The Incredibles, albeit with a theme of engineering grad students dealing with the grief process.
How Drunk Must You Be to Endure this film? Maybe half a margarita. Disney’s a professional franchise engineering firm. With this film we see that they have completed the process of digesting and assimilating both Pixar and Marvel. I predict that Pixar will be folded as a firm in about 15 years- they’re winding down the existing Pixar franchises, and Disney’s now reverse engineered the techniques, and also is ensuring that all the talent is steered into the Disney team first.
The MIT Competitive Robot and Superheroics Team: Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a teenage prodigy who’s spending his days in the underground robot fighting circuits of San Fransokyo. His straight arrow brother Tadashi (Daniel Henny) decides to give him a tour of his school, the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. It’s as amazing as you might expect a superheroic version of the MIT student labs to be, and Hiro is hooked. He sets out to win an award to get a scholarship grant and early admission to the school by impressing Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell). To that end, Hiro develops modular microbots- sort of a network of small robot Gorilla Grips that can assemble into larger forms.
Unfortunately, a fire breaks out at the science fair. In the aftermath of that disaster, Hiro activates Baymax (Scott Adsit), the michelin man-like super-polymer medical robot that Tadashi was developing. Pretty soon, with the aid of Tadashi’s SFIT friends, Hiro is ready to set out on superheroics and find out who was responsible for the arson of the school.
Polishing the Obscure Titles: What does Big Hero 6 have in common with Guardians of the Galaxy? They’re both big hits, and they’re both derived from obscure and unpopular Marvel superhero lines. It’s actually a solid strategy- short comic runs give you a starting basis, but the lack of popularity means that you don’t have writers feeling overwhelmed or obligated to the existing canon of the comic book. Guardians of the Galaxy started out in 1969 as a Marvel counterpoint to DC’s Legion of Superheroes, the core concept of each being ‘the intergalactic super heroes of the far future’. That got transformed into the 2014 Guardians, whose theme was ‘lovable intergalactic rogues’. Similarly, Big Hero 6 got started in 1998 as ‘Japan’s answer to the Avengers/ Marvel’s attempt to do anime’. But it works a lot better when it instead becomes “What if there was an entire team of Tony Starks and Reed Richards working together?”. It makes me wonder if we will see a Power Pack or a Damage Control movie in the glut of superhero films to come in the next ten years.
Earlier this year, I lamented that there weren’t a lot of children’s movies that would make children want to become engineering students. Well, it’s turned out that 2014 is a banner year for that sub-category of children’s cinema.
We’re reaching a point where studio film-making really shouldn’t be called an art form but really just a marketing project, the application of compiled psychology. If The Incredibles was a treatise upon actualizing your talents regardless of social opinion, Big Hero 6 is an exploration of the different reactions and strategies for dealing with grief and personal loss. Basically every scene is depicting a different reaction to grief, and the script pivots between constructive behaviors and destructive behaviors.
The Real Super-power is maturity: It’s with that basic structure that Big Hero Six is one of the best messages for children, in multiple ways. First, it teaches that the route to heroism is through study and science, rather than riches or accident. Secondly, the entire movie is a showcase of useful and harmful reactions to the loss of a loved one. While I myself may not particularly want to see this film, this film slides firmly into second place after Cosmos as a choice for filler classes in my teaching schedule. I recommend this film for parents and teachers alike, as it is a great film for inculcating a hunger for science.