„Big Hero 6”, Disney’s very loose adaptation of a homonymous Marvel superhero comic, is not a particularly innovative animated film in most aspects. I would have certainly written it off as forgettable considering most of its plot and character development is fairly standard. There is only one small problem: I absolutely fell in love with Baymax, its puffy robot character, and I am currently searching the Internet trying to estimate the year when a real Baymax will be technologically possible- I’d really like one of my own. Future Baymax makers, I am placing my pre-order now.
Baymax embodies everything that is good about technological progress: the hope for a better world, where difficult things are made easier and the very fabric of society is improved through science. Of course, science can also bring on destruction and aid humans in causing even more pain to each other, but Baymax is literally designed to soothe pain: he is a „personal healthcare companion” robot, capable of diagnosing illness and administering treatment on the spot. Not just treatment of the chemical kind, either: his skills include giving warm hugs to provide emotional comfort. Pop culture is saturated with dystopias, but Baymax, all round shapes, no sharp angles or cold metal surfaces in sight, is a robot from a different future: one where innovation serves kindness.
In „Big Hero 6”, Baymax plays the role of a sidekick to our protagonist Hiro (sic), a boy genius on a mission to avenge a great personal loss. To this purpose, Hiro attempts to re-fashion Baymax into a warrior, teaching him battle moves and building him an armor. The film does not engage with the contradiction between Baymax’s reason for existing and Hiro’s plans for him as much as I would like it to, but it is definitely critical of violence and the emptiness of revenge, which ironically makes it more grown-up than a lot of the live-action superhero flicks aimed at an older audience.
Indeed, at its best, „Big Hero 6” does a pretty good impression of a more enlightened take on the futuristic story. While ethnic conflicts are in the news every day in the real world, Disney’s latest is set in „San Fransokyo”, and it has a diverse cast led by a Japanese-American protagonist. The film’s defining trait is its enthusiasm for innovation and knowledge- it could also be called quite accurately „Science is awesome: the movie”. Pop culture often satirizes scientists as weird and socially inept (which may discourage some kids from pursuing a career in science), but in „Big Hero 6” pretty much every character is a scientist, and most of them are also supportive, intelligent, well-adjusted human beings.
Sadly, at its worst, the film does fall quite easily into the trap of the standard superhero tropes, and its last third is just a succession of chases and battles, a very familiar thing for anybody who’s seen a modern animated movie. I really wish the screenwriters would have been more committed to the idea of an unconventional superhero team and made them truly, well, unconventional, instead of squeezing them into armors. I doubt that „Big Hero 6” will turn out to be a smash hit like Disney’s previous film „Frozen”, but that is really not the main thing we need to think about now. What we need to think about is: how long until we can have a real-life Baymax?