Top 5 Tension Killing Superpowers

Cody Fullbrook 

It’s hard to have high stakes drama when your supervillain’s powers make them virtually unstoppable, or your superhero has abilities that mean he or she can basically never be killed. Here’s five superpowers we’ve all seen in countless films that immediately suck all the dramatic tension out of the air.

5. Shapeshifting 

While very common amongst villains, possibly due to human’s intrinsic distrust of strangers, heroes such as Mr Fantastic and Plastic Man have the ability to morph their body into all sorts of shapes. This often evaporates tension since it can be practically impossible for them to be captured, encumbered or even hurt.

Characters like Mystique from X-Men can only attempt to vanish in a crowd, but Clayface, Sandman and others can do more than just look like other people/a pile of sand.  Their entire body can twist into virtually anything like clubs, swords and even crossbows, making it obvious why Spider-Man 3’s Sandman was portrayed as a tortured villain that was let go after the climax. There was no other choice. How could you defeat him?  Light him on fire and make reading glasses out of him?

4. Teleportation 

How can you stop something that can go anywhere, dodge any threat or effortlessly blink out of a room?  Try to get a grasp on the parameters of a fight in the Dragon Ball series where the fighters jot around the screen like steroidal hummingbirds.

Even considering Nightcrawler’s words in X2; “I have to be able to see where I am going, otherwise I could wind up inside a wall”, teleportation can save anyone from virtually any threat.  Nightcrawler and Azazel can even hold people and teleport with them so even their ability to heroically save others isn’t extremely arguable.

Contrary to Samuel L Jackson’s character in Jumper, these characters aren’t everywhere at once, but can nonetheless escape virtually all dangers. I’ve also never understood why these characters don’t just teleport their fist into an enemy’s head.  Similar to how in The Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore could conjure food out of thin air, but when he’s battling Voldemort, why doesn’t he just pop a turkey leg into his brain.

3. Super healing 

Logan made a smart decision in crippling Wolverine’s healing factor, to a point where the film’s climactic finale had it switch off completely.  But even though we can admit that Wolverine and Deadpool are awesome characters, it’s still tricky to understand the threat they’re in when they can simply heal themselves from any wound.

This isn’t like shape shifting or teleporting where, if you’ve been shot, you’re basically done for.  Any fight scene with super healers becomes a vague battle of physical attrition, as was the case in Deadpool as our wise cracking protagonist only getting mildly perturbed by a severed hand and knife in the head.  At least Wolverine was knocked out with a headshot in X2, even though when the same thing happened in Origins he just kept scowling.  Continuity…

2. Super Speed 

Similar to teleportation, however, super speed not only augments the placement of one’s body but also the force of its movement.  Why do you think The Flash can punch someone really fast, but Nightcrawler can’t?

The problem with Super Speed is that its potency makes its user practically invincible.  They can dodge anything, whether it’s running from an explosion or moving away from a bullet or fist.  It also grants them numerous abilities that many may consider their own separate powers such as flight, running on water or moving through walls.

1. Time travel 

I’m sure we all saw this coming, and just like the ability of clairvoyance, every writer knows to avoid it like Poison Ivy’s lips.

As soon as you have someone who can go anywhere and change any event, the story is over. The hero can simply go back in time and find a helpless version of the villain and kill them effortlessly, Terminator style.

Granted, movies like The Butterfly Effect portray time travel as a useless endeavour, but the conflict there arises due to its futility, not the ability itself.  It seems wisest thing to do with time travel stories is to simply place the power into a device (The Time Machine), a car (Back To The Future) or some kind of hot tub time machine.  I forget what movie that’s from.

Image courtesy of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Twentieth Century Fox

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