What hero blockbusters can learn from Hiro’s journey
By Adam Tatelman, Senior Columnist
Everyone wants to be Batman. The bleak and brooding Batman Begins may have saved the Bat-franchise from the abysmal Batman & Robin, but its tone and style have since been aped incessantly by directors who seem to think that comic book movies can’t be relevant or profitable unless they are “dark.”
I think this is born from some imaginary stigma that regards the source material as childish garbage. As a result, the Spider-Man reboots cast Peter Parker as an immature James Dean wannabe, and Man of Steel somehow makes Superman—a blue tights-clad Moses-like figure—depressing and funereal.
For me, intentionally campy films like The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy get it. They understand that monotone movies fail dramatically because nothing contrasts the moroseness. Comic books have always been silly. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, a successful transition from comedy to tragedy makes the drama all the more effective because it is unexpected. This is why, in my eyes, Disney’s latest animated sensation, Big Hero 6, towers over Hollywood’s super-elite—its emotional core is poignant and affecting, even though the premise of the film is high-concept and kid-friendly.
With a title like Big Hero 6,you could be forgiven for thinking the film is yet another case of pandering fodder aimed exclusively at children too young to be critical. You’d also be utterly, undeniably wrong. In this supposed kid’s movie, youngHiro Hamada deals with survivor’s guilt after the death of his brother Tadashi. In his depression, Hiro latches on to Baymax, the robot medic Tadashi built before his death. Understanding Hiro’s wounds aren’t physical, Baymax agrees to seek justice for Tadashi to bring Hiro closure and help him back to his friends and family. However, Hiro’s obsession with punishing the guilty party drives him to a chilling snap-decision—one made all the more tragic when we discover the villain is motivated by a similar loss. There is real emotion in this animated world, none of it presented in a way that condescends to a younger audience. It’s the film’s ability to balance laughs and tears that sells it all.
Big Hero 6 is a crystallization of everything wonderful about the superhero genre that’s missing from the frowning, snarling, ultimately shallow competition. Not because it’s faithful to the source material (spoiler: it’s not), but rather because—unlike so many other super-flicks—it is not ashamed to be a comic book movie.