I’m a parent and like any parent in our modern times, my wife and I let our kid watch entirely too much television. Although given how much TV I watched as a kid, that’s really not a symptom limited to the last ten-ish years. Anyway, because the TV is the Great Babysitter, we watch a ton of kids movies and watch a lot of the same kids movies over and over again to the point where I honestly think the true test of a kids movie is how many times a parent can stomach watching it or at least having it on in the background before finally giving in to the urge to drop the Blu-ray into the toaster and set it to dark – I’m looking at you Frozen! For me there are a select handful of movies that I have yet to get tired of – Moana, Tangled, Zootopia, and Big Hero 6 – the last of which is the subject of today’s review.
Now I’ve seen Big Hero 6 all the way through at least a dozen times and I’ve watched it in pieces more times than I care to remember, so why did I pick today to sit down and write a review on it? Well tonight my daughter picked it out to watch for our Daddy/Daughter Pizza & Movie night (my wife was out to dinner with a friend) and as the movie reached it’s climax, something struck me – the villain in Big Hero 6 is the only one that I can think of that actually gets what he wants after carrying out his big plan.
Before reading further, there will be full SPOILERS so if you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, hang on to this page, watch it, and come back!
Big Hero 6 follows boy genius Hiro Hamada as he struggles with depression following the death of his bother Tadashi, as he discovers that a masked villain has stolen his invention (microbots) and may be responsible for Tadashi’s death. As Hiro begins to investigate, he is joined by his friends who all don hi-tech super suits in an effort to fight the new threat.
Before we talk about the villain, let’s talk about our heroes because they’re all pretty cool, starting off with our main hero, Hiro. As I said above, Hiro is a robotics genius who graduated high school at 15 and got involved in the world of underground bot fighting. After getting arrested for betting on bot fighting (because not fighting isn’t illegal, but betting on it is), his brother Tadashi shows off the robotics lab at his college AKA “nerd school”. While at the school, Tadashi shows off what he has been working on – Baymax, an autonomous medical robot. Hiro immediately falls in love with the college but to attend, he has to come up with something to present at a the school’s fair driving him to create the microbots. Microbots are tiny little robots that swarm together and can be formed into any shape when being manipulated by your thoughts using a neuro-cranial transmitter.
Hiro, as a character, has a lot going for him – intelligent but young and brash and fueled by tragedy. That’s a lot for a writer to sink their teeth into and it is explored wonderfully throughout Big Hero 6. One of the most striking scenes in the entire movie, is when the masked villain is unmasked and revealed to be Professor Callaghan, mentor to Hiro, Tadashi, and all of their friends at the college. Feeling rightfully betrayed, Hiro removes the chip in Baymax that drives all of his medical programming, leaving only the “combat” chip in place and orders Baymax to kill Callaghan. This is Hiro at his absolute lowest. He has taken a machine that was designed to heal and turned it into a killing machine all to avenge his brother who created the machine in the first place. In this moment, his friends and teammates have to rally around Hiro to stop him from doing something he will regret and show him a better way. This moment, that caps off the second act of the movie, is mirrored in the third act when Professor Callaghan goes down a similar path.
Over the course of the movie we find out that Alistair Krei, CEO of a major corporation, was responsible for the death of Callaghan’s daughter, Abigail, when she was the test pilot for a new piece of tech. At the school fair, at which Hiro demonstrates his microbots, there was a fire and an explosion (that results in the death of Tadashi) and in order to escape, Callaghan used the mircobots to survive and then sees the microbots (combined with the anonymity provided by his own apparent death) as an opportunity for revenge on Krei. This brings us to the end of the third act and the climax of the movie in which Callaghan uses a benevolent machine to try and exact revenge on the person who cost him his daughter, mirroring Hiro’s action at the end of the second act. This fantastic writing as it not only shows how Hiro has risen above the need to avenge his brother but by setting it up so the two character arcs mirror each other, it make Callaghan a sympathetic villain and those are always the best villains.
Going back to Hiro, I’ve struggled to determine his contribution to the team of heroes since he doesn’t really have his own signature weapon or any distinction to his super suit. He really just attaches to Baymax (who has wings and a jet pack and karate skills and a rocket punch) and rides around on him like a kid playing piggy back. After all the times that I’ve watched this movie, I’ve realized that this is an incredibly shortsighted view of Hiro. Yes, what I said about him is true but a cool, stylized weapon or special power isn’t what he brings to the team, it’s his intelligence and leadership skills that make him and his team great. In that battle at the end of the second act, all of our heroes are just players on a team who can’t even come up with a plan of attack but in the climax of the film, in the final battle Hiro is the one that gives them that plan, gives them a direction, and rallies the team to defeat Callaghan.
As for the rest of the Big Hero 6 team – Wasabi, Honey Lemon, GoGo, and Fred – Fred and Honey Lemon are most definitely the stand outs but for much different reasons. It is very easy to over look the true nature of what Honey Lemon is doing in this movie. Her weapon is this purse that she pulls small orbs from that she can then throw to satisfy different needs – smoke bomb, explosive, create a hard protective shell, etc. – and while that is cool on it’s own, it over looks the best part. On the side of her purse is a touch screen featuring the periodic table of elements. Whenever she needs to create a new orb to handle the task at hand, she inputs a chemical formula to create exactly what she needs. Let me rephrase that – she, in the middle of a battle, runs chemistry calculations in her head, formulates the exact chemical reaction she needs, and punches it up on her purse of doom. Holy crap, that is super cool and completely glossed over in the movie.
Next up is Fred. Fred is impeccably voiced by none other than T.J. Miller, of Deadpool and Silicon Valley fame. I haven’t seen much of Miller’s filmography but he is becoming one of my favorite comedic personalities. In Big Hero 6, Fred is the non-scientist character who hangs around the scientist characters in the hopes of a lab accident turning him into some sort of monster or super hero. Of course, Fred achieves his dream of being a super hero, with out a disfiguring lab accident, along with the rest of the group and the way in which his character acts is just so joyous and pure. He is every little boy and girl that has grown up wishing to be a comic book hero and he has been granted his wish and you can feel that joy and pureness of spirit come through in Miller’s voice work. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen Big Hero 6, go back and revisit it, if for no other reason that to listen to Miller’s dialogue.
Wasabi and GoGo do each get some moments to shine – specifically when GoGo takes over driving duties in the car chase scene and when Wasabi is almost crushed by the shipping container as well as many other great comedic moments – but I just don’t feel that either of these characters are quite as strong as the others.
Now, as I said in my intro, something struck me about this film and that is that the villain, Professor Callaghan, actually gets what he wants by the end of the movie. He is driven by the grief of losing his daughter and, rightfully, blames Alistair Krei for not pulling the plug on an experiment when it was clear that it might not go as planned and in his inaction, Abigail Callaghan died or at least seemed to. The experiment was designed to test transportation technology by transporting a manned capsule from one portal to another, with Abigail as the pilot. Of course the experiment goes sideways and Abigail is lost in the “subspace” or whatever dimension exists between the two portals. To exact his revenge, Callaghan wants to kill Krei by sending him into that same subspace just like his daughter was, so he gets the portal, takes it to Krei Tech HQ and with the help of the microbots, tries to carry out his plan. He is, of course, stopped by our team of heroes but that’s where it gets interesting.
After Callaghan is defeated, Baymax senses a life sign inside the portal. Realizing that it’s Abigail in suspended animation in her capsule, Baymax and Hiro go in and retrieve her. Later on, we see a paramedic talking to Abigail so we know she is alive and well, which brings me around to my point – Callaghan may have set out to get revenge on Krei but what he really wanted was his daughter back, he even says exactly that at one point, and even though he did the wrong things for the wrong reasons, he got exactly what he wanted. By the time the end credits roll, we, the audience, know and Callaghan knows that Abigail is alive and thus, for once, the villain actually kind of wins the day (even if he was “defeated”). Callaghan may be going off to prison for the rest of his life but you can be damn sure that he doesn’t care because he knows that his daughter is alive and safe. It’s a brave move by a Disney movie to kinda, sorta justify the actions of the main antagonist (and frankly that may be why its kind of glossed over in the film).
In the end, Big Hero 6 is a fantastic movie that I don’t think I will tire of anytime soon and is well worth rewatching if its been a while since you’ve seen it. In my opinion, this film earned its Academy Award for Best Animated Feature back in 2015.
Be sure to Like, Follow, and Subscribe to WildeBeard Reviews on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WordPress!
Until next time, Thank You for reading and…
SEE YOU AT THE CINEMA!