Meet Baymax. He’s an artificial intelligence created by Tadashi Hamada in San Frantokyo to help heal people, who becomes the pet project of Hamada’s younger brother, Hiro, after Hamada dies in a fire. Baymax provides much of the comedy in this one, but he also proves to be like the characters we’ve met in Short Circuit, A.I., and Pinnochio, who learns human tendencies and develops a soul.
The latest Disney movie is straight out of the Marvel Comics catalogue. (No, really, it is.) With a team of technology-induced superheroes rallying behind a fourteen-year-old, this one channels The Incredibles, Stargate, The Avengers, and some origin material that certainly puts it in the path of a franchise as well. Splashy, realistic animation and some dramatic scenes make for a solid combination that will pleased the kids (and this comic book-loving dad, too).
Hiro discovers that his brother’s death wasn’t accidental, and he revamps Baymax to be a warrior of sorts. Linking up with Hamada’s four inventor friends, they become the Big Hero 6. But the plot takes some interesting turns that most kids (and some adults) won’t see coming to create more drama than we’ve seen in plenty of the last decade’s Disney movies. The film also challenges us with some big issues, like grief, sacrifice, revenge, and heroism that may go over the heads of some kids, but could lead to interesting conversations with others. [It should also be noted that the short before Big Hero 6, “Feast,” touches on grief, relationships, and finding home in less than five minutes better than some movies, or sermons, do.]
The journey of Hiro is ultimately about recognizing that decade’s old Marvel axiom: “with great power comes great responsibility.” We meet Hiro battling street bots for fun and marginal cash; thanks to his brother’s insistence and his desire to fix himself while he’s grieving, he recognizes that he has powers he never imagined- and that’s not just what he can build. Hiro has leadership qualities and courage, and it’s when he’s pushed to extremes that he finds himself stepping up and making a difference.
I don’t know if Big Hero 6 was great, but it didn’t need to be. It was beautiful to watch, fun to laugh along with, and exciting enough to hold the audience’s attention. And, in what is a rarity these days, it was an excellent enough experience that the last sounds we heard as we left the theater were the cheers and claps of a delighted audience. Big Hero 6 knew what it was, and it succeeded and “I am satisfied with my care.”