A couple of years ago, on a rainy Saturday evening, Sophie suggested that we watch a movie. Somewhat serendipitously, she chose a film called Big Hero 6. At first, I was hesitating. While superhero movies are often exciting and well funded, they also tend to be predictable and their characters one-dimensional. The last thing I expected on that rainy Saturday night was that I was about to meet my favorite superhero.
If you haven’t already seen the film, I suggest you stop reading to avoid spoilers.
Big Hero 6 is set in the fictional city of San Fransokyo in the near future. In particular, robot technology has advanced substantially, and university students are hard at work trying to develop prototypes. Big Hero 6’s lead protagonist is Hiro Hamada, a teenage physics and robotics prodigy admitted to university at 14. Hiro is a complex character who is coping with his older brother, Tadashi Hamada’s, unexpected death in a fire. Before his death, Tadashi, also a physics prodigy, was working on a most remarkable project.
I have to admit; I liked Baymax from the moment I met him. His gentle, curious, and informed personality are very different from the way most films portray robots. Throughout the film, Baymax maintains his curiosity and an awareness of his limitations. When Baymax doesn’t understand how to care for Hiro who was going through an emotional crisis, Baymax began his research.
In addition to pursuing intellectual knowledge, Baymax can quickly learn martial knowledge as well. Hiro uses Karate movies as a training tool, and Baymax displays immediate competence.
Near the end of the film, Baymax and Hiro are battling with a terrorist and Baymax is forced to sacrifice himself to save Hiro. The scene is remarkably emotional and I teared up. While Baymax’s body is destroyed, Baymax cleverly manages to remove his personality chip. Hiro then decides to rebuild Baymax's body, reinserts his personality chip, and Baymax is reincarnated. The film implies that in addition to Baymax’s reincarnation, Tadashi (who created Baymax) has also been reincarnated. The line between creator and creation is blurred.
The more I learn about robotics and advances in artificial intelligence, the more I believe that a creature like Baymax might become reality sooner than we think. If our future robots are gentle, curious, and informed, then they are going to help a lot of people.
What about you, who is your favorite superhero?