I would be lying if I said I didn’t come out of Big Hero 6 grinning like a fool. I wanted a cute, fun watch and that’s what I got—with some surprises. Gogo was certainly refreshingly sassy and ornery without a need to prove her anti-femininity—the moment when she cradles the devastated Hiro in her arms without it seeming even slightly out of character is a great one. The “strong female character” (a trope that is incredibly problematic) has been waiting a long time for a manifestation who can be both overly dominating and charmingly loving.
The aunt is incredible, just great. The fairly blatant mispronunciation of the Japanese names by almost everyone other than Honey Lemon (and is she trying too hard?) is somewhere between fascinatingly charming and truly bizarre. Visually, it’s a gorgeous film. The flight scene with Hiro and Baymax is definitely enough to rival the most beautiful dragon aerials in How to Train Your Dragon 2.
And, of course, the fist-bump was somehow, bizarrely, impenetrably entertaining. But there are still inherent problems with the narrative.
Why does Hiro need to go to university if he’s smarter than all of the other students combined? The fact that he single-handedly enriches their research so that it’s immediately accessible and functional feels a little too reminiscent of the prodigal male saviour—just, this time, he’s not white. I was waiting for Big Hero 6 to take on a little Mystery Men– flavour, for each of the characters to throw in their own talents to create super suits that represented their individuality. Instead, they became cronies immediately. This was particularly disconcerting for me, more so than the lacklustre “who dunnit” mystery that takes up the first half of the film. The attempted bildungsroman about a boy who learns to rely on other people falls short, and instead we’re left with a story about a boy and his fighting robot that turns into a story about a boy and his healing robot.
The film would have benefited from a main character who was fallible in ways other than depression, especially when that depression was so easily dealt with through the most clichéd of ableist suggestions: “Just get out of bed already.” Hiro at the start is charming, confrontational, and motivated. Hiro at the end is normalized and, honestly, still a narcissist. Just not a criminal narcissist.
Then there’s the fact that the entire plot hinged on a character who only appeared halfway through the film and never had a speaking line.
At the end of it all, it felt like the best-developed character died within the first half hour of the film, like the characters who had individuality were soon rendered obsolete or deranged, and like the plot was designed for some socially defined concept of ten-year-olds (who, I insist, are much smarter than media producers give them credit for). Cute, fun, and worth a night at the movies? Absolutely.
But, unfortunately, probably not more than that.
-contributed by Kerrie McCreadie