Is it possible to love and be angry at a piece of art at the same time? These are the feelings that are vying for dominance after seeing Disney’s first foray into the Marvel archives: Big Hero 6.

My daughter and I saw it in 3-D in a theater where every seat was taken by people of color. Indian, Arabs, AAPI folks, African-Americans… I’ll type it again: In the sold out theater, every person there was a person of color. It was an astonishing sight and feeling. So much of the pre-film chatter were parents talking about “feeling comfortable” bringing their kids to see a film where the heroes “finally look, well, something like them.” This was the exact same reason that I brought my daughter… and the film looked cool as hell. And it was.

BH6 is an experience. It rises above your typical SF/Super Hero film and is a genuine work of art. The action takes place in the San Francisco/Tokyo hybrid megapolis of San Fransokyo and it is stellar. It has just the right mix of San Francisco architecture and high-end Japanese robo-sheen to make the city feel lived in. I’m not sure how this will play outside of the San Francisco Bay Area (where we live) but the city made the both of us long for this amalgamation. “Daddy? How can we live there?”BH6 is an experience. It rises above your typical SF/Super Hero film and is a genuine work of art. The action takes place in the San Francisco/Tokyo hybrid megalopolis of San Fransokyo and it is stellar. It has just the right mix of San Francisco architecture and high-end Japanese robo-sheen to make the city feel lived in. I’m not sure how this will play outside of the San Francisco Bay Area (where we live) but the city made the both of us long for this amalgamation. “Daddy? How can we live there?”

big-hero-6-immersedThe character designs were unique and each character had a very distinct look and character that made them individuals — even their fighting styles were individualized. It was such a pleasure to watch actual characters, and not just animated caricatures.

I was concerned that the film would veer off into Boom! Kapow! Splat! territory but there is so much heart in this film that the action set pieces were injected with much more jeopardy because you felt for this nascent super team. While the group did teeter toward central teenager/young adult casting, the filmmakers did a good job of anchoring them in personalities that were believable, given then context. Except for two of the characters. More on this later.

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In brief, Hiro Hamada (voiced with charm and vulnerability by Ryan Potter) a young robotics wiz is engaged in illegal robot fighting, while his brother Tadashi Hamada (a totally convincing portrayal by Daniel Henney) laments that his little brother doesn’t use his “big brain” for higher and nobler pursuits. I don’t want to give anything away, but there is a tragedy where Baymax (a wonderful robotic creation that is going to sell so many toys — voiced by the superb Scott Adsit) is introduced as a surrogate older brother for Hiro. This tragedy and the discovery of the villain using Hiro’s stolen tech spur Hiro to form a team to avenge his brother and to apprehend the (slightly unexpected) villain.

The team is comprised of Tadashi’s classmates from the robotics program at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. There is the hotshot Go-Go (Jamie Chung in a sassy enough performance), Honey-Lemon (Génesis Rodrîguez, the genius mother hen. The team is comprised of Tadashi’s classmates from the robotics program at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. There is the hotshot Go-Go (Jamie Chung in a sassy enough performance), Honey-Lemon (Génesis Rodrîguez, the genius mother hen). And then there are the last two. These two bothered me but for entirely different reasons.

fredzilla-big-hero-6-movie.0Fred (T.J. Miller on an overdose of Casey Kasem’s Shaggy) doesn’t attend the university, but is a university mascot. He gets so many lines, at times; I thought that he would become the new protagonist. He redeems himself through the pure joy expressed when he is in his hero identity.

This leaves us with Wasabi.
This leaves us with Wasabi.

Among the more athletic companions, Wasabi is hulking lumbering and takes up quite a bit of space. While everyone is enjoying being the hero identities Hiro created for them, Wasabi is overly cautious to the point of cowardice — the only character to act borderline anti-heroically and have most of the jokes landing on him. Did I even have to mention that he is the lone African-American character? Voiced by Damon Wayan’s Jr., Wasabi is so much the other. He is gigantic, while the others are small. He is cautious, while the others are swashbuckling… there is a very thrilling car chase where he is basically rendered a eunuch, by Go-Go, in the middle of some very intense action. It was so blatant and bothersome that I almost wanted to leave. I thought to myself, “This is Disney. They don’t know how to characterize black folks in any type of decent way” and I stayed. Holding the reality that this is how black folks are done, repeatedly, in film.

The villain’s motivation, while honorable, seemed a little tacked on, but when he is using Hiro’s tech, he is a sight to behold. There were a few kids that were having a difficult time because in 3-D, he was mad scary.

The villain’s motivation, while honorable, seemed a little tacked on, but when he is using Hiro’s tech, he is a sight to behold. There were a few kids that were having a difficult time because in 3-D, he was mad scary. This motivation involves the villain’s daughter, faulty teleportation technology, and the most beautifully rendered wormhole I’ve ever seen depicted on screen. When we entered, you could hear the entire audience gasp.

Please, please stay for the after credits sequence. Despite it involving Fred, it is classic. So very funny.

Sorry for the spotty review, but I do not want to spoil anything for potential viewers.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but with the “cooning alert” mentioned above.
Would I recommend it? Yes, but with the “cooning alert” mentioned above.

Will I see it again? Maybe. My wife wants to see it, and my daughter wants to see it again. And again.

Sigh… thus is the experience of an AfroGeek.

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14 thoughts on “Big Hero 6 aka Why They Do the Brotha Like That?

  1. As this is an issue I don’t have much experience with, my opinion can be taken with a grain of salt. But I read this before watching the movie so I had Wasabi’s character in mind throughout. I actually thought he was generally refreshing and not overly distasteful. He is a black nerd character despite his athletic appearance. He follows the letter of the law, but when things got hairy at the end, he was able to hold his own right along with everyone else. I think most black superhero teammates tend to be along the lines of a Samuel L. Jackson BAMF which Wasabi was definitely not.

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  2. The Wasabi character wasn’t that bad. While his panic scene during the car chase may have been a bit over the top, it was inline with a character that was possibly OCD and had a thing with living within the rules and doing everything in the book. He wouldn’t be able to function when thrown into a situation like that. But like what BubbaWheat said, Wasabi later stepped up when it counted. It was cool seen a big black guy who was a total brilliant nerd, who just happened to be a bit OCD.

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  3. This movie suffers from compulsory race bending.
    Do not take this as an insult, I do enjoy a movie with characters from different races (I’m Mexican and my skin tone is between bronze and chocolate) but Wasabi was originally a recless Japanese samurai. And a chef. While Fredzilla was an Ainu, an ethnic group that has been ostracized in Japan since t despite being Asian and being living in the country for thousands of years, they are deemed “filthy and savage”, a group is ostracized for being different, and yet Disney denies his otherness by changing him into a token white guy. Also, he transforms into a giant red dragon in the comic

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  4. Don’t worry about Wasabi. I think its a eww change in what we are normally use too. The whole black people should be ghetto is a bit overrated. And technically yes Wasabi would be a totally suave person, but its only in those situations that its overly dramatic, something we haven’t seen yet. He isn’t the only one who was against this. Go Go and Honey Lemon were against it too. Especially Honey, who I believe is one of the most fragile (Hiro being the other, but he has Baymax). Go Go agrees only because she feels it was for Tadashi, not for Hiro. Yes, Go Go is a bit on the thrill ride, but she points out the obvious and was just as scared as Wasabi was.

    And technically they’re not all white. Hiro and Tadashi are half Japanese (the other half is pretty obvious), Honey Lemon is Hispanic (we all don’t look like Salma Hayek and sound like Sofia Vergara. There is such a thing as a pale Hispanic), and Go Go is Korean. Leaving whitey Fred (who, when you do some research is actually an English major who has been in some charity events.) What I would like to see – if they make the choice of making a part 2 – is showing more of each member’s background (like their family). It would be hilarious to see that Wasabi’s family have a very different mindset than he has.

    I guess what Disney is trying to do is avoiding racial stereotypes and going for something totally new. And for those who complain about the sudden change in powers as well, I think they want the story to tie in somehow. The fact that two of the older big hero 6 members (Sunfire and silver samurai I think, correct me if I’m wrong) are associated with the X-Men. On top of that, I read somewhere that they use to be associated with S.H.I.E.L.D., who made this group in Japan. Obviously they can’t use either of those for their movie: copyright! So I think they wanted to make something new (and probably better) for this technically unpopular Marvel comic. When I say unpopular I don’t mean that a lot of people hate it, I mean that its not as mainstream as let’s say Spider-Man. All in all, I still think they did a hell of a job for this comic. And I wonder if they would pick another underrated comic to shed some light on..

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  5. How should we be depicted in media? Gangsters? No thank you. Beings of perfection? On some levels, that’s even worse.

    I like Wasabi. He’s far and away my favorite character in the movie. He has an obvious, REAL character flaw in his OCD. A flaw that actually affects him when it counts, as opposed to things like “oh, he has a bad attitude, that’s his flaw”. No, he has a mental weakness. He’s made REAL. Does it emasculate him? Yes, weaknesses can do that. Does it detract from a well-constructed character? Not a chance.

    At the end of the day, you’re upset because the character you wanted to connect with the most wasn’t manly. To which I say “why do you have to connect with the black guy? Is the asskicking Korean girl not good enough?”

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    1. Please don’t presume to know why I am upset about the character. I think he was a poorly develop character and it was too on the nose when the tried to contrast his big stature with his ridiculously overblown emasculation. You make tons of assumptions. Never once did I mention that I did not connect to any of the other characters. Most of the other characters were written and presented better than Wasabi. You need to really be mindful of how you project.

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      1. I finally got around to watching this film and as soon as I finished I searched for articles that echoed my feelings about Wasabi. While I was initially thrilled about the ethnic diversity of the cast, my heart sank when I realized Wasabi was going to end up fulfilling the stereotype of the terrified black man. He wailed like a little girl when he thought he was going to die (something the Wayne’s family excels at), he was rendered useless during the car chase, and he made sure everyone knew he was afraid of heights. Many people are familiar with the black character dying first in horror and sci-fi, but many viewers are still strangers to the giant black man reeling in bug-eyed terror to make the all of the other characters look that much more heroic.

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  6. Cheerfully exhorting imagination, creativity and bravery in children while demonstrating none of those virtues itself, “The Hero of Color City” proves to be a dispiritingly colorless feature-length babysitter.

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