Domo Arigato, Big Hero Six.

Big_Hero_6_film_posterI am a huge fan of CGI movies like The Incredibles and now Big Hero Six, as well as a big fan of Live Action/CGI movies like The Avengers and every other superhero movie out now. Why? A couple of reasons, but the first is the CGI, whether the cartoony CGI of Big Hero Six, or the “virtual” CGI of The Avengers allows Hollywood to at last give us superheroes and epic superhero action that looks as real as the rest of the movie, that doesn’t break your feeling that what you are watching is real. For me the “breakthrough” movie was Hancock.

Will-Smith-as-Hancock-hancock-1703785-1200-800Hancock used a combination of CGI and good old-fashioned FX to make a Superman-analogue look real and fight real; the real-estate wrecking fight between Hancock and his “ex” was viscerally believable. Of course then the script had to completely go off the rails…but the action was believable. And this is important to me, not because I like watching titans fight with real-world consequences and not look fake doing it (although that’s nice too), but because for me to buy into the movie emotionally requires my disbelief remaining, well, in suspension.

Of course Big Hero Six–and The Incredibles before it–is not “real” in the live-action sense, but the amazing CGI here is turned to the job of giving us an incredibly detailed world that nonetheless has the feel of the best four-color superhero comics. Here the CGI wizards give us awesome fight-scenes that are cinematic in the true sense of the word, and at the same time feels real enough to keep me inside the movie from opening scene to final credits. And all of that wizardry allows me to say this:

Big Hero Six is one of the best superhero movies to-date. And it did it without being in any way original.

Well, in one way original; in the creation of San Fransokyo. The part of my mind not sucked into the movie was spinning madly throughout–and afterward–trying to imagine the kind of alternate history that could result in San Fransokyo, the ultimate West-meets-East city. Did massive and focused immigration result in San Francisco’s Little Tokyo metastasizing to swallow the city? And what year was it? Ultimate high-tech says at least a decade in the future, but fashions were present-day.

Regardless, I loved the complete fusion of cultures, to the extent that Hiro comes from Japanese-English family. He is raised by his purely American aunt since his parents are dead, in their apartments above her very American coffee shop–which has a Japanese lucky-cat over the door. Signage throughout the city is a mix of English and Japanese, and to add a nice touch it’s spring and blossoming cherry trees are everywhere; it’s Hanami. And all of this is simply a cool backstop for the gleeful homage the movie makes to Japanese anime themes, a West-meets-East mashup of superhero themes, a great origin story.

Best of all, it did it without wallowing in stereotypes. Well, BH6 couldn’t avoid all stereotypes (I’ll leave it to you to spot them), but it nicely subverted most of them; the superteam that assembled around Hiro felt fresh and fun.

BIG-HERO-6-POSTERSA total homage to Japanese cinema superheroes.

And, just like the CGI wizardry, the lack of clumsy stereotyping kept me in the movie, which brings me to my final observation. WARNING: SPOILERS.
















Okay, you were warned; if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re going to get a couple of twists spoiled here.

For all that the superscience-driven powers and action is completely four-color and cinematic, the story was real in the only way that matters; it was Hiro’s literal Hero’s Journey, a pure and moving iteration of the Monomyth. Each step of the way, Hiro acted and responded to events like the boy he is, in heartbreaking circumstances. His quest for justice feels real, and so does the circle of family and friends who rally around him to bring the man responsible for his brother’s death to justice. As a bonus, the master-villain of the piece–the man responsible for the tragedy–is himself a man driven by a quest for justice. This makes him both Hiro’s foe and his foil, adding another layer of emotional depth to the story. Because everyone concerned acted in ways that were true, even the witty banter and visual humor didn’t detract from the drama of the story.

Was Big Hero Six perfect? Well, no. I thought the character of Fred felt dropped-in from another movie, and in the end the revelation that he was the son of another science-superhero (who was never referenced in elsewhere in the movie) felt like a forced joke. But no story is perfect, and BH6 mixed humor and heart to raise the kind of spirit I try and infuse my own stories (with imperfect success).

So if you haven’t seen it yet, but you’re reading this blog because you like my books, go see it now. It’s not just a kid’s show. It’s not a joky story about a big balloon robot.Well, okay it is–at least Baymax provides the warm heart of the story, but it’s also so much more. You’ll certainly laugh, you may cry, you’ll want to see it again, and you’ll want to make San Fransokyo real.

Big Hero Six has so far generated 600+ fanfic pieces and counting. ‘Nuff said.


About George

I am a reasonably successful self-published author ("successful" means I can pay the bills and am highly rated in my Amazon category), former financial advisor (writing is more fun), and have something in common with Mitt Romney and Donny Osmond. Guess.
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4 Responses to Domo Arigato, Big Hero Six.

  1. Louis Launer says:

    George: I am in 100 percent agreement with you regarding Big Hero Six. I echo all of your thoughts on the series (and the spoilers). As for Hancock, the elements were there. Yet, I found Will Smith portraying the character as =very= unhappy. Will Smith reminded me of a more extreme Night Thrasher (from New Warriors) who was rather cynical and angry with the world and as a leader of a super team, it surprised me that Night Thrasher kept his leadership of the team as long as he did. But I wanted to see Will Smith as Hancock earn some sort of kindness a little earlier in the film compared to what came out.

    I appreciate your critique of characters. All good stories we write are very character driven. Keep up the good work and keep writing.

  2. Here is a bit from the Big Hero Six Wiki : The filmmakers’ idea was that San Fransokyo is based in a parallel universe in which San Francisco was largely rebuilt by Japanese immigrants in the aftermath of the devastating 1906 earthquake, although this premise is never actually stated in the film.[55] To create San Fransokyo as a detailed digital simulation of an entire city, Disney purchased the actual assessor data for the entire city and county of San Francisco.[51] The final city contains over 83,000 buildings and 100,000 vehicles.[51]production deadlines.[7]

    I thought one of the most original parts of the movie was the Soft Robot. awww soft and squishy!!! looooooves 😀

  3. Sarah says:

    Just thought you should know: robots like Baymax have been in the works for a LONG time. The robots are called “RIBA” and in my opinion, are a lot scarier looking than soft and cuddly Baymax. Some of them look like giant teddy bears with robot arms.

    P.S.- I agree with your analysis of Fred…I think the only reason he was there was to bring the Super Hero idea into the story (while Hiro likes Bot-Battles, he isn’t shown as having an interest in superheroes. However, what’s confusing to me is why Fred is at the school. When we are introduced to Fred, he tells us that he’s not a student at the Tech school. Is he allowed to hang out there because his parents fund the school? Then, why don’t any of the other scientists know he’s rich? I think they needed to spend more time on him.

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