My first review is an animated Disney superhero movie – who’s surprised?
If you haven’t seen this one yet, you should. It’s still in theaters, and it’s great. Big Hero 6, directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, is based on a lesser-known Marvel comic that Disney dug up and reinvented. Ryan Potter and Daniel Henney lend their voices as brothers Hiro and Tadashi Hamada, who are half-Japanese-half-Caucasian American (Potter and Henney are themselves of mixed heritage) living with their aunt in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo. While the brothers’ mixed background is implied, both Hamada parents are deceased and never shown. I suppose actually depicting an AMWF couple on screen would have been too much awesome for one movie…sigh.
Superhero is one of my favorite genres. Unfortunately, it’s also a genre that habitually fails the Bechdel test, Deggans rule, etc., even in the rare cases when the women or minorities are among the superheroes themselves (#ChoForBatman). Big Hero 6 bucks this trend. The team includes not just one, but two female superheroes who, like their male counterparts, are STEM research students at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology who use their skills to invent superhuman powers for themselves. Along with a huggable robot named Baymax, adorably voiced by Scott Adsit, the team attempts to apprehend the villain responsible for Tadashi’s death. The women fight alongside the men and (gasp!) actually shout tactical instructions to one another on occasion.
Big Hero 6 doesn’t exactly smash the patriarchy – all exploration of emotional depth is assumed by male characters, primarily through Hiro, Tadashi, the villain, and even Baymax. However, the film does include diverse representations of womanhood, from the traditionally “feminine” Honey Lemon to the more “badass” Go Go (who actually uses the phrase “woman up” in one wonderful scene to encourage Hiro), without implying that either woman is more or less capable than the other or any other character. If the film struggles with the Bechdel test, however, it passes the Deggans rule with ease. The team is composed of African-American, Korean-American, Hispanic-American, and Japanese-American individuals. The lone white male member of the Big Hero 6 team, whose life goal is to become a fire-breathing lizard, is not a science student but rather a somewhat dim-witted “science enthusiast” who serves primarily as comic relief.
When’s the last time we got all that from Marvel?