To those of you who have been trying for a few years to get me to watch Big Hero 6 (2014), I am sorry it took me so long. To one person in particular, assuming this person reads this review, I particularly apologize I never watched it with you. And, maddeningly, with Hollywood not releasing anything new this week, I had a weekend where the cinematic world was my oyster. Another friend of mine suggested today’s film earlier this week as we labored away painting the interior of his new house. Okay, okay, so I have now watched it. It was . . . pretty good, nothing special (in my opinion, anyway) but worth the time. Chalk it up as my latent lack of being thrilled by the majority of Disney titles.
Somehow I did not notice this right away, but Big Hero 6 takes place in a sort of alternate robot future where the cities of San Francisco and Tokyo have merged. In it, our teenaged main character Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) competes in underground (and illegal) robot fights with his diminutive automaton. Given that there is gambling involved, you might think I am describing a Fast and Furious movie. Thankfully, I am not. When his robot wins, his competitor is none too pleased and threatens Hiro with physical violence. That is when his older brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney) comes to his rescue. As a mentor to his younger sibling, Tadashi attempts to divert Hiro’s prodigious genius (the kid apparently graduated high school at thirteen) towards other pursuits. This desire is shared by their Aunt Cass (voiced by Maya Rudolph), their guardian. Hey, this is Disney and dead parents are a thing. In order to get Hiro interested in college, Tadashi brings the teenager to what the kid refers to as the “nerd lab,” which is where Tadashi spends most of his time studying at the San Fransokyo (Disney’s combination word for San Francisco and Tokyo) Institute of Technology (SFIT). Instead of being bored, Hiro is geeked (pun intended) by the amazing technology on which his older brother and his colleagues are working. This is also where Hiro is introduced to Tadashi’s pet project, Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit, and honesty I thought they were saying “Betamax” the entire movie), an inflatable nurse droid that Tadashi hopes will help many people. Hiro comes away from his visit determined to get into this school. In order to do so, he comes up with a set of mini-bots that he can control with his mind. His presentation overawes two interested parties. The first is the businessman Alistair Krei (voiced by Alan Tudyk), who offers Hiro a fortune for the kid’s wonder devices. The other is Professor Robert Callaghan (voiced by James Cromwell) of SFIT, who offers Hiro enrollment at the school. Hiro opts for the latter because it is the fulfillment of his dream, but as he is leaving a fire breaks out in the building where he had given his presentation. Believing that Callaghan is still in the building, Tadashi attempts to go back inside and save him, but dies in an explosion. Hiro is devastated. However, Tadashi had basically left Baymax to Hiro, and the robot serves as a reminder of all he had done for his younger sibling. Baymax also helps Hiro track down a mysterious figure who apparently has stolen Hiro’s mini-bot technology and is using it for sinister purposes. Or at least we suppose it is sinister given that this person tries to kill Hiro and Baymax upon their discovery. With the help of Baymax and Tadashi’s friends from SFIT, and some gadget enhancements developed by Hiro, they are able to track this shadowy person down to an island. The initial thought they had is that it was Krei behind the theft, seeking to take what had been denied him. However, it turns out, after the team comes across a video of an experiment that had taken place there, that the person behind the mask is Callaghan. Apparently he had been working with Krei on a teleportation device, and his daughter had been a test pilot for it. When an accident seemingly cost her life, Callaghan blamed Krei. Seeing the person also responsible for Tadashi’s death makes Hiro want to kill Callaghan, but he is stopped by his friends. Having come close again, they are able to discover Callaghan once more, this time about to destroy Krei’s new corporate headquarters by reactivating the teleportation device and sucking everyone into the vortex beyond. Of course, Hiro and company are able to stop Callaghan. In the process, though, he and Baymax find out that Callaghan’s daughter is still alive inside the machine. In bringing her back, Baymax sacrifices himself to push her and Hiro back through the portal. Not all is lost, however, as Hiro was able to retrieve Baymax’s behavior chip and rebuild the android.
So, yeah, Big Hero 6 has all the good lessons a Catholic could want in a film. Baymax’s sacrificial act is Christ-like, even if it is ultimately slightly ruined by him simply being rebuilt. Part of what makes a sacrifice momentous is that there is no coming back from it, although Jesus did promise to return, and that is something for which us Christians wait for in hopeful anticipation. But for the many martyrs along the way, the only resurrection that will come for them will be at the Second Coming. In other words, it is not as simple as putting a few parts back together. Oh well. This is not a huge bone of contention. The other death that Hiro must truly come to terms with is Tadashi’s. Because he is a teenager and thus immature, his first reaction on learning the truth of his brother’s death is to seek revenge. But a video programmed into Baymax of Tadashi talking about all he hopes with his creation teaches Hiro a valuable lesson. The Bible is pretty clear on how we should not seek vengeance. For one thing, it takes away the opportunity for redemption, and that is something we should all be able to experience no matter the circumstances. It is not an easy path, however, particularly on a personal level. Hiro understands the error of his actions when he sees how Baymax is designed to help people, not destroy. Yet, it takes him risking his own life and in the process bringing his enemy’s daughter seemingly back from the dead in order for such a lesson to truly take hold. There are so many similar opportunities for us on a daily basis to redeem ourselves. They may not always work the way we want, or be the simple option we long to take, but they all ultimately lead us closer to God.
As great as this concept is, I have to say that I did not find Big Hero 6 to be particularly original. I am sure I have discussed these concepts in other films. It is not that I dislike the film for being unoriginal. It was fine. It was also predictable. I kind of figured that it is actually Callaghan controlling the mini-bots, not Krei, long before it is revealed. The film is also full of other Disney troupes, some of which I already covered. I mean, are not all the Disney princesses orphans? Still, I would take standard stories like this any day over the majority of the dreck Hollywood pumps out on a daily basis. Hence, it gets an unreserved recommendation from this reviewer.