Saturday, November 8, 2014

Big Hero 6 and Grief

Today I wanted to write more for my Nanowrimo story and I am pretty far ahead but I still want to keep up the pace. However, I'm a little distracted thinking about a movie I say yesterday namely Big Hero 6.

When I first saw a teaser trailer for this film a little while ago, I already determined I wanted to see it. Cartoons, Superheros, Asian Inspired Setting, Cute robots -- sign me up! Generally, when I decide to see a movie, I will watch little or read little about it until it comes out so I went into the movie generally not sure what to expect outside cartoon, Asian-inspired Setting, and cute robots.

I wouldn't say it is a perfect movie but it is a very good movie and what I really liked about it far outweighed the bad. The colors were so rich, the characters were fun and interesting, the fight scenes were fun, and there were so many heart-warming scenes revolving around Baymax (seriously, Christmas is coming followed by my birthday. I want one. Make it happen, people!). I found myself disappointed when it ended because it ended, even though it ended on a good note in my opinion.


However, there was one aspect of the movie that I really liked and tugged at my heartstrings (I cried twice) and the more I think about it, the more I find Big Hero 6 addressed this issue extremely well for a superhero/family film. And that ties to the issue of grief.

Spoilers for Big Hero 6 below.

In my attempt to block out information about this film before seeing it, I did read somewhere that Hiro's older brother, Tadashi, dies. It did make me pause in my enthusiasm only for a few moments because well, as many of my friends know that in 2013, I lost my older brother suddenly to cancer. It has been such a rough ride recovering from that and while I am a lot better than I used to be, even opening up a lot more about it, it is still something that visits me during unexpected moments.

While Tadashi's death itself did not touch me deeply when it happened because I knew it was (I felt one of the movie's weak spots was the overuse of dramatic irony in the scenes with Tadashi in the beginning), Hiro's reactions to the whole thing, especially at the climax, really got to me. I cried so hard, I had to take my glasses off. It was at the climax did I realize this movie was more than just beating bad guys -- it was about recovering from grief and loss, about how to best remember those who are no longer with us. Yeah, Big Hero 6 follows the Hero's Journey Formula to a T and the movie is about Hiro's coming of age but those were all incidental.

It is Tadashi's death that sets the plot into motion and in someways gets Hiro motivated. I heard some girls talking in the bathroom after the movie about this. One didn't want Tadashi to die. The other said he had to or else the plot wouldn't happen. And she's right. Tadashi is Hiro's Uncle Ben except unlike Peter Parker, it took him a lot longer to figure out the lessons Tadashi was trying to teach Hiro. Uncle Ben wanted Peter to understand great power comes great responsibility. Tadashi wanted Hiro to use his potential for good things. 

But I am going to say something controversial here -- I think Big Hero 6 deals with that better than Spiderman. Peter is sad about Uncle Ben's death and feels guilty for their last conversation but after a few moments he is like, "Yeah. Yeah. With Great Power DOES Come Great Responsibility." With Hiro, it takes the entire movie to get there. It is part of his journey to become a superhero. I think part of it has to do with age. Peter is an older teenager when he gains his abilities. Hiro is 14 when the events begin to happen. But still. Sometimes I feel like superhero stories kind of cheapen deaths of loved ones to get heroes going.

This is another thing that I feel Big Hero 6 does right. Tadashi dies and Hiro doesn't get moving -- at least not at first. He doesn't get moving until he accidentally activates Baymax. And Baymax acts like Hiro's Threshhold Figure in the Hero's Journey, pushing him to the call to adventure. When Hiro realizes his brother probably died because someone set the fire to steal Hiro's prototype, that is when he begins to get angry and works with the kids at the Nerd School to capture Silent Sparrow.

Baymax as a character is also interesting. He is a medical bot that Tadashi created. When Hiro activates him, Baymax reads about grief and everything he does is to make Hiro better. It is like Baymax is a ghost of the deceased trying to comfort those left behind. It is the last bit of Tadashi that exists. Notice that when Hiro is happy, Baymax says, "I am glad the treatment is working!" even when Baymax didn't do something direct -- almost as if the events that transpire were part of his plan all along.

This brings me to the first scene that got me teary-eyed. When Hiro is bent on revenge now that they discovered the true identity of Silent Sparrow, he tries to remove Baymax's program that prevents Baymax from harming others. Baymax will not let him remove it and instead shows pictures of Tadashi working on Baymax who states how much he couldn't wait to show Hiro and how much Baymax would make a difference in the world. Hiro sees this and realizes that removing that part of Baymax, he is dishonoring Tadashi's memory.

Hiro had to be reminded of this. I know that revenge stories are common so this isn't new. Person wants revenge and has to be reminded if this what they really want and all that. But I really liked how this happened and that scene was so touching. As I said, Baymax is almost like Tadashi's ghost. It was as if Tadashi was reminding Hiro to make something of himself like he did at the beginning of the film.

However, the scene that had me crying hard (and to be frank, the entire audience) was when Hiro had to leave Baymax in the portal. Baymax tells Hiro to say the deactivation words. Hiro won't. He begins to cry hard that he wouldn't leave Baymax. At this point, Hiro got a little teary at the show Baymax shows him of Tadashi but he didn't just cry as hard as he is at this moment. Hiro doesn't want to let go of Baymax but he has to. He has to, to live.

I know a lot of people talked about how this scene got them so sad due to the bond Hiro and Baymax develop throughout the movie. Hiro now sees Baymax beyond just a bot he can use. But, I read the scene a little differently -- projecting my own experience no doubt. Hiro didn't want to let go of Baymax because of the bond, sure, but also because that is all he physically had left of his brother. To let go of Baymax was letting go of Tadashi all over again.

The day my brother died, my mother asked me how I felt. I was numb but there was a troubling thought that crossed my mind. I told her that I wouldn't be making any new memories with him. All I had was memories. And what if I forgot them? Then part of him disappears until I have nothing left of him. That thought terrified me, terrified me and made me sad. Watching that scene from Big Hero 6 caused me to recall those feelings.

When the movie ends, Hiro finds the Baymax program Tadashi made so Baymax lived on -- maybe not the one that Tadashi made but Tadashi's inspiration lived on in Hiro. In the end, Hiro learns the lessons Tadashi was trying to teach him at the beginning. He realizes he is not alone and eventually you have to let go.

I just want to say, I really didn't like how they handled Tadashi's death but the recovery from Hiro was just extremely well done. It was by far the narrative's strength.

As I left the movie theater, I got thinking about what my brother would have wanted for me like what Tadashi wanted for Hiro. And all I could think of was my brother thought I was an awesome person. Maybe I should start seeing myself through my brother's eyes.

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