The latest and the greatest

I don’t generally watch movies, but when I do, I watch really good movies.

Big Hero 6: 9.5/10

Photo courtesy of Big Hero 6 Facebook
Photo courtesy of Big Hero 6 Facebook

This movie had been on my “to watch” list for quite a while now, courtesy of my brother, and I must confess – I’m disappointed that I only got around to watching it recently.

14-year-old, half-Asian Hiro Hamada gets thrown into what can only be described as a modern pastiche of Tony Stark meets Spider-Man superhero life. After enduring tragedy and grief, Hiro reluctantly crosses the threshold into this new world à la hero’s journey. Once he enters this realm however, Hiro blooms and comes into his own as an individual, a team member, and a family member.

My sassy cliché description of the movie is not an attempt to deter you. Trust me. It’s only my desperate attempt to not give anything away (just as the trailers didn’t) while making note of Disney’s usual film formula.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of Disney, and my stating that Disney follows a film formula is not a criticism. It’s an observation, and one that’s made with admiring, wide eyes.

Although Disney reuses a few standard story lines, they manage to keep making these stories better and better. Big Hero 6 was, in my opinion, one of Disney’s greatest thus far. Not only did they set the film in a very accurate depiction of reality, but they also succeeded in portraying incredibly believable friendship and family ties on screen.

I’ve welled up during my share of Disney movies, but Big Hero 6 was one of the few – if not the only one – that I felt truly earned my tears. Of course I’m going to water a bit with Rapunzel’s parents and when Anna sings to Elsa’s closed door out of sympathy, but Hiro was someone with whom I could genuinely empathize.

The film manages to include questions like “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?” and the statement “Those who suffer a loss require support from friends and loved ones” without an ounce of irony, and with an overwhelming amount of genuine love and care. Even though the pains and losses I have endured in my own life don’t quite compare to the scale of Hiro’s, the movie managed to touch on these moments so perfectly that it no longer mattered. What mattered in that moment was simply that I could feel for Hiro in a capacity far greater than I had anticipated when I first started the movie.

Disney treated all of the relationships within Big Hero 6 with this same level of care and devotion, which is ultimately what sealed my investment in the film. I didn’t just feel like I could empathize with Hiro; I actually felt that same intimate connection with each of his friends and family as well. This not-so-typical-Disney happy ending was definitely well-earned.

What If: 9/10

Photo courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes
Photo courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

Both Big Hero 6 and What If ended up being incredibly relevant movies to watch on Valentine’s Day weekend. While Big Hero 6 touched on all of my past and present feelings regarding love and friendship, What If really hit the nail on the head for all of my (more) recent romantic sentiments.

Perhaps the only thing worse than the disappointment of meeting someone who turns out to be the exact opposite of what you hoped for is the disappointment of meeting someone who is in a long-term relationship. When Wallace meets Chantry at his best friend’s house party, he opts for the “just friends” solution. The two did hit it off incredibly well, and who’s to say that men and women can’t be friends without sex getting in the way?

Although the marketing of What If packages it in a manner similar to that of (500) Days of Summer or other standard rom-coms, the film’s prominently featured relationships – between a man and a woman, between two men, between sisters – sets it on a different level.

Each character is, in essence, forced to pay their dues. Whenever any character makes a mistake, lashes out, or accuses others, they will eventually face the repercussions of their actions later. Drama ensues of course, but the way that each character is held accountable for their behavior allows the events onscreen to feel incredibly tangible and relevant.

Like with Big Hero 6, it was What If‘s intimate connection with reality that makes the film’s message – which I cannot give you without completely spoiling the ending, sorry – hit close to home. My (and many of my friends’, for that matter) current mental struggle of leaving the academic life to the “real world” of employment, adult life, and adult relationships no longer presents itself as an amorphous thought lingering somewhere in the corner of my mind. It is, apparently and thankfully, a widely felt experience among 20-somethings, and one that can be worked out and lead to as close to a “happy ending” as reality can give.

What If was a film that made me simultaneously look forward to my adult years after college and treasure the time I am currently spending at Berkeley. Watching Wallace and Chantry interact with each other and their friends helped me better understand how to appreciate the people around me and simply, how to be a good friend.

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