Brehm Critic Kevin Nye has already written a great review of Big Hero 6 for our website. I encourage you to read it. I agree with everything he writes. So why am I adding an Alternate Take? Mrs. Davidson’s fifth graders at Otay Elementary (the class my wife leads) asked me to see and review this film specifically for them. I am happy to do so, and I’d love to hear what they all think of the movie, too. If they see it, maybe they can write their own reviews on their classroom blogs.
There’s a new hero in town. He looks more like a marshmallow than a muscle man most of the time, and his real power is his ability to heal not to hurt. He is Baymax, a medical robot built by Tadashi Hamada, the older brother of Big Hero 6’s main character Hiro Hamada. Baymax inflates to life whenever a person says, “Ow,” and won’t stop helping until he knows the person is “satisfied with their care.” His insistence on helping puts Baymax at odds, in the beginning, with Hiro, as Hiro excels at building and battling with tiny robots of his own design. Baymax would rather apply band-aids than punches, and he only agrees to help Hiro hunt down the story’s villain once he believe doing so will ease Hiro’s emotional state.
Big Hero 6 is terrific fun. It’s easily my favorite animated film of the year. It’s jokes are not pop-culture references. They are visual and audible gags. Baymax is an ungainly robot. His girth gets in his way, and this is consistently funny. If this was simply an awkwardly running fat joke, it would be insulting and get old, but Baymax’s inelegant anatomy is funny when he’s deflated too.
Big Hero 6’s story is also tightly written, making it quickly moving and exciting to the end. There are no detours here. None of the scenes are superfluous. The jokes come within the action of the plot and not as stand-alone scenes featuring only the supporting characters. Every moment matters.
The setting, a futuristic mixing of San Francisco and Tokyo—“San Fransokyo,” as they call it in the film—where most residents seem to be involved in building unbelievable technology (not unlike our present San Francisco and Tokyo when you think about it), is constantly delightful. It’s the kind of place where you never know what’s going to happen next, because anything is possible. I wish I could go there, walk the streets, and spend more time exploring this melting pot of a city.
Good stories have characters with clear goals. They have to make choices to accomplish those goals. In great stories, it’s often difficult for the character and the audience to know which choice is the right choice. When you are watching a movie or reading a book, ask yourself, “If I was in that character’s shoes, what would I do?” In good stories, it’s often difficult to answer that question until the end. Big Hero 6 is full of these kinds of choices.
Most movies like this are about characters who discover their special abilities and use them to fight evil. Big Hero 6’s characters already know they are special and that they can do amazing things. They just have to learn how to best use their abilities to accomplish the most good.
The tension in Big Hero 6 comes from Hiro’s desire to destroy the film’s villain and Baymax’s programming (and desire) to not hurt any human. Hiro does all he can to turn Baymax into a fighting robot like the ones he builds in the beginning of the film, and Baymax steadfastly refuses to be made into a killer.
Big Hero 6 asks the questions, “Which is more heroic: to harm or to heal? Which kind of power is greater: physical strength or empathy?” Baymax does the most good when he is allowed to empathize with others. Empathy is the ability to recognize and respond to another person’s emotional state. Baymax excels at this. It’s the reason he was made. Hiro has to learn to do the same if he’s ever going to be the kind of hero that is truly super.
You might also find these reviews of Big Hero 6 helpful:
Decent Films Guide
Tinsel (Rebecca Cusey)