While I would never recommend a film only because of its message or its themes, when a movie can entertain and inspire in equal measure, I consider it a tremendous bonus. That's the case with “Big Hero 6,” which opens in theaters everywhere this weekend. It is a fun, sweet, occasionally very silly superhero story that mixes equal parts Disney Feature Animation and Marvel Comics to excellent effect. It is also, unabashedly, a film that celebrates the virtues of being smart.
It amazes me that we should have to reinforce that idea at all. It should be a given at this point that there is something admirable about genuine intellectual curiosity, and it should be exciting on a cultural level when we make major breakthroughs in science. Instead, there seems to be a cultural divide, and it seems to be getting wider, in which there are people who are defiantly proud to be stupid. We have a mainstream where every opinion, no matter how stupid, is given equal weight, and we pretend that it's all about opinion instead of fact.
One of the other things I find progressive and encouraging about “Big Hero 6” is that the female members of the superhero team are not treated as secondary, and they aren't relegated to simply being potential love interests for the guys on the team. In fact, that never comes up. There's no sense at all that any of these people have that on their minds. They're too busy making major technological breakthroughs and doing the right thing to help someone they love.
Go Go (Jamie Chung) is the most physically adept member of the team, with some wicked cool tech, and Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) is a chemical wizard who can improvise complicated reactions on the fly. Both of them play key roles in the ultimate success of the team, and both of them end up playing crucial roles in the way things ultimately play out. Because the film doesn't pat itself on the back for the way it treats these two characters, it may not even stand out to some people. But “Big Hero 6” is both smart and inclusive, and those are things that are worth celebrating in film today if you ask me.
The ladies behind those characters are also both very smart and very charming. I've interviewed Genesis Rodriguez a few times, and I like that she seems like she is challenging interviewers to keep her interest in a conversation. There's something flinty and even antagonistic about Rodriguez, and I think it's great. Chung came out of reality television, and she's been slowly working to show that she's a credible actress. I last spoke to her about “The Man With The Iron Fists,” and when I first spoke to her on the set of “Sucker Punch,” she was so grateful, so determined to earn her place on that set. Talking to the two of them about the roles they played, I was struck by how passionate they are and how seriously they take the idea that the work they do will be seen by young people and might influence them.
Even better than the idea that “Big Hero 6” celebrates science and being smart? It's not the only film this weekend to do so.
“Big Hero 6” is in theaters everywhere today.