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If you missed out on seeing Disney’s first animated Marvel movie Big Hero 6, you let the nerdiest superhero team ever assembled pass you by. Big Hero 6 celebrates geekery in a way no other film has by simply amplifying the traits and abilities of the characters into their “superpowers.”
Superhero stories have among the most diverse characters in any genre of storytelling. A quick look at the bestselling section of your local comic book store reveals lawyers and soldiers, robots and aliens, billionaires and teenagers all leading the way to their villains’ destruction.
Among the ranks of these heroes, a few notable nerds arise. While Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are geniuses in their own right, they’re more readily defined by their raw intellect than by their love of Dungeons & Dragons. Peter Parker and Reed Richards are full-on nerds, whose superpowers came as a result of their geeky scientific pursuits, but their altered, superhuman state is what makes them heroes more than their memorization of every Weird Al and Tom Lehrer song lyric.
The heroes of Big Hero 6, however, are not super because of unknown cosmic forces or an accidental dose of radioactivity, but because the characters amplified their own natural abilities through fantastic mechanical and material engineering.
The main character, Hiro Hamada, is a 14-year-old robotics prodigy living in the futuristic world of San Fransokyo. He idolizes his brother, Tadashi, who is enrolled at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, the highest “nerd school” in all the land. Tadashi has been working tirelessly on a medical robot called Baymax, a robot whose only purpose is to help people.
After an event where Hiro shows off an impressive set of microbots he has developed in the hopes of attracting the institute’s attention, there is a fire. Hiro and his brother both escape, but Tadashi runs back into the building to save his professor and is killed in the attempt.
While slowly recovering from the intense grief of losing his only immediate family member, Hiro discovers the explosion that killed his brother may not have been an accident after all. He quickly realizes he can’t face the danger alone, and enlists the help of Baymax and his brother’s old friends.
Cue the “Gettin’ the Team Assembled” montage.
Tadashi’s friends take an immediate liking to Hiro and soon discover that the kid is gifted. Once he explains the conspiracy to them, they decide they have no choice but to help make things right. They each adapt an advanced technology they are working on in the lab into bona fide superpowers.
Equipped with zero-resistance rollerblades, a purse-sized chemistry factory, a fire-breathing suit, laser-induced plasma blades, and Baymax’s new armour, this team is ready to roll.
These nerd-vengers aren’t exactly an experienced crime-fighting force—after all, they’re laboratory scientists. But if there’s one thing laboratory scientists are good at, it’s learning from their mistakes, and it’s not long before they’re stopping the bad guy and saving the city like a real superhero team.
The greatest takeaway from this movie is that the superhero team is made up of people who would be called nerds in real life. And it’s not just that their alter egos are nerdy and mild-mannered until they hulk out or put on a supersuit. Their personalities shine through into their abilities directly, making it feel like each one of them is special just for being who they are, which is something geeky kids just don’t get to feel very often.
Big Hero 6 shows a generation of kids—and maybe a few adults—that if you’re into nerdy stuff like nanorobotics or magnetic levitation suspension you can become more than Q or Alfred if you want. You can be the hero.
A world-saving team called The Engineers is probably not coming to a theatre near you any time soon, but Big Hero 6 is a really great place to start.