A Hippocratic Hero—- ‘Big Hero Six’

Perhaps you will remember Hippocrates (not to be confused with hypocrites), one of the fathers of medicine. Hippocrate’s motto was ‘do no harm’ and so promote health and well-being. There are not too many, indeed, I can hardly remember any super hero movies where violence, destruction, and death are NOT bathed in the rhetoric about glory, about self-sacrifice, indeed about a certain sort of heroism. This movie, Big Hero Six, is of a decidedly different ilk. It’s real hero is only partially the young man named Hiro, but the real scene stealer is his health robot Baymax. Baymax is quite specifically programed NOT to hurt people, not to do harm, indeed he is relentless until the person he is the caregiver for says ‘I am satisfied with my care’ at which point he shuts down for the time being. Baymax looks one part Pillsbury dough boy, one part Michelin man, and all things cuddly and sweet and life-affirming. O.K. so he needs to lose a little weight, or hot air, or both.

Not too many movies, even kids movies like Big Hero Six get heroism accomplished and in the same breath can say ‘no humans were really harmed or destroyed in the telling of this story’. In other words—- this is the rarest of rarities— a super hero film that even a pacifist could love, a film that chides Hiro when he tries to destroy another human life. This deserves a wow! I think Walt Disney would have been pleased.

In general I like the Pixar children’s films a bit better than the straight Disney ones but this short film, only an hour and 33 minutes (but coupled with an initial short subject on a dog who reconciles a human couple with parsley—- you have to see it to believe it) is excellent in several respects.

First of all it is kid friendly, adult funny, and visually spectacular. The animation capacities these days are so far advanced from the days of Toy Story I it’s not even believable. The story is of course timely as well because of its being based on the ‘geeks or nerds save the world through technology’ theme. Not surprisingly then the main characters are likeable but goofy and socially awkward brainiacs, well most of them. In fact, it is Baymax that seems the most normal and level headed, a nice little touch of irony.

The story line itself has some original elements, unlike some other kids film that are treading water (Ice Age 93) or retreading by now tired formulae (Madagascar IX). This is the one to take your kids to see over Thanksgiving, and then have a good conversation about : 1) what true heroism is; 2) what makes for health and well being; 3) why big brains without compassion and empathy are dangerous things. Of course the story is set in the future in a thinly disguised version of San Francisco (called San Fransokiyo). And interestingly there is a twist in the story towards the end that will likely surprise you.

In an age where our President has been pummeled and pilloried for trying to make health care available to one and all, it is refreshing to think of a time when everyone might have a Baymax to watch over them. I’m thinking a sequel is likely already in the works. In the meantime, somebody start a corporation called Baymax Care and start making those hugable robots!

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