Yes, yes, they’re not actually microscopic so technically they should be called “macrobots”. Well done Nit, you’re living your life to the fullest. Hiro’s demonstration goes down a treat and Callaghan offers him a place in his school, but Hiro is also approached by Alistair Krei, a smarmy businessman who wants Hiro to sell him his tech for, get this, MONEY.
Tadashi tells his brother how proud he is of him but they’re little moment gets cut short when a fire breaks out on campus. Tadashi runs into the blaze to save Professor Callaghan who was still inside. Tadashi goes in…and doesn’t come back out again.
Hiro, I’m genuinely sorry for your loss but this is a Disney movie AND a Marvel movie, there’s no way you were getting through this without a mentor figure dying.
With Tadashi and Callaghan both dead (riiiiiiiiiight) Hiro falls into a deep depression despite the best efforts of Cass and Tadashi’s friends to bring him out of his funk. But when he drops his battlebot on his foot he accidentally activates Baymax who diagnoses his emotional state as puberty. Before Hiro can deactivate Baymax he finds one of his micrcobots which is still active despite the fact that all the others were destroyed in the fire so that’s weird. The two follow the mircobot to an abandoned warehouse (how many times in movies do you see warehouses that are actually being used?) and find vats and vats of Hiro’s microbots that have been mass produced. They also meet this guy:
So this guy is Yokai, our villain (even though he never gets called that in the movie). My opinion on Yokai as a Big Bad is basically this: Good look, not much else. Yokai is part of a larger problem with villains in Marvel’s screen offerings, namely that, with the exception of the odd Loki or Kingpin, the villains tend to not be that interesting.
But you know what? I don’t tend to get too worried about it because it’s a actually a sign of how much superhero movies have improved over the last few decades. I mean it. The reason why villains in modern Marvel movies tend to feel a little under-cooked is because those movies are far more interested in the heroes and what makes them tick. I remember the days when the heroes were inevitably bland ciphers playing second fiddle to the villains and I don’t much care to revisit them, thank you very much.
Anyway, Yokai attacks and Baymax and Hiro only barely escape with their lives. Baymax’s battery starts to run low which gives us Drunk Baymax, a gift from the beneficent comedy gods.
Hiro gets Baymax back in his charger and Baymax notices that Tadashi is gone. Hiro sadly tells him what happened and Baymax is confused.
“Tadashi was a young man in excellent health, he should have lived a long life.”
“Yeah. He should have.”
Baymax is a hell of a riddle to ponder. Is he actually an intelligent being, or is he just an incredibly sophisticated tool programmed so well that he appears to be sentient? Or, does he start out as the latter and over time become the former? Doing things like petting the cat purely because he wants to would seem to indicate that he has desires and wants beyond what he was programmed for, but again this might just be a behaviour Tadashi programmed him with to make him more appealing. We also never see Baymax do anything that contradicts his programming (with one possible exception that I’ll get to) which would be a pretty clear sign that he’s something more than just a bunch of ones and zeroes. For example, the vast majority of human beings have a very strong aversion to killing other human beings. However, we can disregard this programming if the situation is dire enough. We can consciously over-ride our programming whereas a machine cannot. We never see Baymax do that (or do we?) so the mystery remains unsolved.
Anyway, Baymax sees that Hiro is in pain but can’t diagnose anything physically wrong with him. So, acting on his programming, he starts downloading information on mental health from the internet, although it honestly looks more like he’s downloading the ENTIRE internet.
Hiro realises that the man in the mask was probably behind the fire that killed Tadashi and vows to bring him in. Baymax decides to help Hiro, reasoning that it will help his recovery. Hiro builds some armour for Baymax and downloads a load of martial arts movies into his brain.
They return to Yokai’s lair on the docks looking to kick some Kabuki-masked butt but find the warehouse abandoned just like every other warehouse in the history of ever. But then they see Yokai emerging from the ocean hauling a massive piece of machinery. Wasabe, Fred, Hiro and Gogo show up at the docks looking for Hiro because Baymax and all six get attacked by Yokai who chases them through the streets of San Fransokyo. There’s actually a very interesting little moment where he appears over them with a massive crate raised over his head to throw at them but he doesn’t. But then Honey takes a photograph of Yokai and he gives this disappointed little head tilt as if to say “Well, I’ve got to kill you now genius.” They manage to escape by driving Wasabi’s van into the sea and almost drowning and Hiro says that they need a place to lie low. Fred says “I know a place and it was at this point that I realised that Fred’s character design is basically a human Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
It turns out that Fred lives in a palatial mansion complete with a butler named Heathcliff (we love Heathcliff). We also see a picture of Fred’s father who looks oddly familiar.
The team crash in Fred’s nerd-cave and spit-ball ideas as to who Yokai could be. Fred thinks that it’s Alistair Kreis because he’s a wealthy industrialist who wanted Hiro’s tech and also there’s only like two other adult characters still alive in this thing and it’s probably not Heathcliff or Aunt Cass. Also, he has a “K” in his name. Always a bad sign. Hiro doesn’t buy it but says they need to find out who Yokai really is. Fortunately, Baymax scanned Yokai so he has all his unique medical data which Hiro can use to track him and jeez Baymax, who taught you data privacy ethics, the NSA?
Anyway, this is a superhero movie and we’ve gone quite long enough without superheroes so Hiro upgrades all his friends with superpowers based on their research prjects. GoGo gets super speed using anti-magnetic wheels, Wasabi gets laser claws, Honey gets…the ability to pull…stuff…out of her…purse…I dunno, Honey’s power sucks. Oh, and they stick Fred in a monster costume and turn Baymax into a Sentinel.
You know, it occurs to me that Yokai may be one of the most outmatched villains in the whole canon? I mean, he thinks he’s up against one fourteen year old boy and the Stay-Puft marshmallow man and then turns around to find that the kid has gone and turned his friends into human weapons of mass destruction and is now coming for his head. You really do not want to fuck with Hiro.
By updating Baymax’s scanner, Hiro is able to track Yokai to an abandoned island off the coast of San Fransokyo. The team head over there and find the remains of Project Starling, an attempt to create teleportation. Looking through the research logs, the team finds that Alistair Kreis was behind the experiment which was cancelled by the military after a test pilot was lost in the portal. The team reasons that Kreis is using the microbots to take back his equipment and renew his experiments, meaning that Yokai is in fact Kreis.
Yokai then attacks, flinging a massive piece of debris that is only stopped by Baymax.
The team and Yokai face off and suffer the worst defeat of any superhero team since Chuck Austen destroyed the X-Men. Hiro, however, manages to knock Yokai’s mask off, revealing that he is in fact…OLD MAN WITHERS!
No, in fact, Yokai turns out to be, of course, obviously, never even a doubt: Professor Callaghan!
Ha! Suck it Walt!
Well anyway. Hiro is understandably shocked to see Callaghan still alive. He tearfully tells Callaghan that Tadashi died trying to save him but Callaghan simply sneers “That was HIS mistake!”.
And what Hiro does next? Hoo boy.
Hiro orders Baymax to kill Callaghan, and when he refuses, Hiro removes Baymax’s medical chip, essentially brainwashing him, and turning him into a mindless killing machine. As Baymax stalks a now powerless and clearly terrified Callaghan, the rest of the Six try desperately to stop Baymax from killing him. It’s actually kind of remarkable that the most emotionally fraught and tense action scene in the whole movie is our heroes trying to save the villain. I love it, though. I love that these are proper old school, “We do not kill. Period.” superheroes. Anyway, Honey Lemon manages to re-insert Baymax’s chip and he returns to normal. Baymax’s first line after the chip is re-instered is:”My healthcare protocol has been violated.” which seems pretty bland but Scott Adsit manages to give the line a sense of lost innocence that is just heart-breaking. But what about Hiro? I’ve been thinking about this, and I can’t actually think of a single Disney canon hero who has ever done something so morally reprehensible and I’m coming up blank.
Now here comes the bit I was talking about earlier. Hiro, furious at his friends for stopping him from straight up murdering a dude, orders Baymax to scan for Callaghan but Baymax says that his scanner is no longer operable. The big question for me is, is Baymax lying here? If he is, then that’s probably as good proof as you’re going to get that Baymax is sentient. He knows what Hiro is planning, so he has decided to lie to protect his own purpose as a care-giver and also Hiro. But it’s not clear cut. He might not be lying. The scanner might really just not be working. Anyway, Hiro and Baymax fly off, leaving the rest of the Six on the island and back home Hiro tries to fix the scanner. Baymax refuses to let Hiro remove his medical chip, asking again and again “Is this what Tadashi would have wanted?” until Hiro finally breaks down sobbing “Tadashi’s gone!”
Baymax replies “Tadashi is here.” and plays footage for him of Tadashi working on building Baymax, from the early frustration and failure to the final ebullient joy when he at last succeeding in creating him. Finally realising just how close he came to forever tainting his brother’s legacy, Hiro tearfully apologises to Baymax. The rest of the six show up (Heathcliff flew them off the island in the family chopper) and they’re reconciled. Honey shows Hiro some footage they found on the island that shows that Callaghan’s daughter was the pilot who went missing in the portal and that Callaghan blames Kreis for her death. Callaghan is using Hiro’s microbots to enact revenge on Kreis so they hurry to Kreis Corp to stop him.
The Six arrive as Callaghan has activated the portal over Kreis building with the goal of sucking everything he built into it. Hiro pleads with Callaghan that revenge won’t bring his daughter back and almost gets through to him but then Kreis has to open his big stupid mouth and offers him anything he wants, money, power all that he has, everything that he asks for and more…
This tips Callaghan off the deep end and he and the Six must kung fu fight. Something interesting that Ms Mouse noticed about this movie is that Callaghan and Hiro use the microbots very differently. Hiro doesn’t need to gesture when he controls them and the constructs he makes are elegant and intricate, whereas Callaghan uses broad handgestures to control the bots and tends to use crude, blunt shapes. Hiro uses them as a scalpel, but for Callaghen they’re a club. Anyway, Hiro is able to beat Callaghan by getting the microbots sucked into the portal, leaving him defenceless. But he doesn’t hurt him, explaining to Callaghan that “Our programming prevents us from harming a living being.”
The portal’s still active though and they’re all about to clear the are when Baymax detects live signs from inside it. Realising that Callaghan’s daughter is inside the portal and is still alive, Hiro and Baymax fly in to save her only to discover too late that the portal leads directly into…
They find the pod where Callaghan’s daughter is in suspended animation and make their way back to the portal but Baymax is damaged saving Hiro from some floating debris and his jet boosters are smashed. Baymax tells Hiro that he can get them both to safety if Hiro will allow him to sacrifice himself by blasting them into the portal with his rocket fist. I actually kind of hate this scene but it is such a goddamn cheat. Both voice actors play it absolutely beautiful and it is genuinely heart-breaking. But at the same time, you know there is no way Disney would allow a character as marketable as Baymax to stay dead. It’s galling especially since this is a movie that has dealt with with the irrevocable nature of death and grief in a very mature and sympathetic way up until now. For them to pull the tired old “Oh no he’s dead, oh wait he’s not” trope this late in the game just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not to mention, it just doesn’t make any sense. See, After Hiro gets back to Earth he find that Baymax placed his chip in the rocket fist which allows Hiro to rebuild him when he gets back to Earth. That doesn’t make any sense for two reasons; firstly, taking out his medical chip should have caused Baymax to revert to his red-eyed, killer-Baymax mode. And secondly WHY NOT JUST TELL HIRO “LOOK, HERE’S MY CHIP YOU CAN JUST REBUILD ME AIN’T NO THANG”?! Sure, it’s good for jerking the audience’s heart-strings, but it doesn’t make sense for the character to act that way.
Well anyway, Hiro tearfully says “I am satisfied with my care.” and Baymax blasts them back to earth while he spends an eternity floating amongst the pink elephants and Brazilian parrots. Hiro rebuilds Baymax and now all of San Fransokyo wants to know who these new heroes could possibly be despite the fact that they use their civilian names as their superhero names and one of them is constantly seen in the company of a robot.
And so the movie ends with Hiro and Baymax dedicating themselves to making the world a better place by punching people.
TO BE CONTINUED