The Review/Short Read/

Hump Day Movie: Big Hero 6

An animated superhero film that sheds light on grief

by
Aug 2, 2016

It’s a big week for superhero films. The arms race between Marvel and DC will take a decisive turn based on the box office performance of David Ayers’ Suicide Squad, a film that will either herald in a newly competitive DC Cinematic Universe, or will signal the very public death of “heroes who brood.” One needs only to look at the recent trailer for Justice League to see evidence of this tonal shift: Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is poised and quippy, Ezra Miller’s Flash is charmingly befuddled. Hell, even Ben Affleck seems like he is having fun for the first time since Gigli.

Finally, the demi-gods who populate the DC Universe seem to be having a bit of a laugh. While DC characters are gods who find themselves in everyday situations, Marvel characters are everyday people who are imbued with godlike powers and have to deal with their consequences. The drama is the human struggle of what happens when a hero becomes something more.

For a deeply charming take on this theme, you should relax with a copy of Don Hall and Chris Williams’ Big Hero 6. Based on the comic of the same name, the film follows Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter), a 14 year old robotics genius in the futuristic city of “San Fransokyo.” Hiro idolizes his older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), who is a robotics student at San Fransokyo Tech, who is working on a healthcare robot named Baymax (voiced by 30 Rock’s incomparable Scott Adsit). When a fire breaks out in the robotics lab, Tadashi is killed in an explosion trying to rescue his mentor, Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell, totally George Sibley from Six Feet Under).

Hiro reactivates Baymax weeks later, who leads him to discover a villain in a Kabuki mask who is using a technology which looks suspiciously like something that Hiro was working on prior to the explosion that killed his brother. Hiro outfits Baymax with very rad samurai-inspired armour, teaches him karate and decides to form a superhero team with his deceased brother’s friends to fight this Kabuki-inspired terror. The group sciences the hell out of a variety of problems, and hunts down the man in the multicoloured mask.

Using their exceptional intelligence, the group is able to elevate themselves into something more. Big Hero 6 is a masterclass in grief and the legacy that we leave when we’re gone. Adsit’s Baymax is both the legacy and the surrogate of Hiro’s older brother. He is the vessel through which Hiro is able to come to terms with the death of his brother, healing himself while also forming a bond with his grieving friends. The best superhero movies are not about the world ending, or monsters destroying the very fabric of the universe. They’re about elevating the minutiae of everyday life, showing the ways in which people can grow and learn and fail in exceptional circumstances. Big Hero 6 is a beautiful film wearing samurai armour. It’s the superhero film we still deserve.

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