Last Week’s WW: Plantser
Recently, there was a trailer released for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron Movie. While I don’t have any insight into the movie, I do have a few thoughts on writing characters that this trailer reminded me about.
If you’re unfamiliar with the plot: possible spoilers? But I doubt it.
From what I’ve read and seen in the trailer, the basic idea in this movie is that Tony Stark builds an army of Iron Man robots to police the world when he isn’t able to. This could turn out to be wrong, but like I said, it appears to be the plot. It looks like they take on a life of their own, sort of an evil JARVIS.
Now, while I don’t doubt that Black Widow, Eagle Eye, and probably even Captain America after his weak fighting skills in The Winter Soldier (I mean, that guy on the boat in the first scene gave him a challenge, and he was just some guy. No super powers or anything). But I don’t believe for a second that Thor or the Hulk couldn’t take down some Iron Man Bots.
Think about it. Thor is practically a god. The Hulk is widely considered to be the most powerful character in the Marvel Universe. They’ve defeated other god-like aliens and shut a portal to another universe. I think Thor even defeated evil itself in the second movie (I don’t remember that one well enough).
So, it makes me wonder why and how these robots would pose any kind of problem.
Which leads me to the point of this post: you can’t make your characters too powerful.
It’s a problem issue in Superman, and I may have mentioned it before. If your characters are indestructible, infallible, and/or infinitely powerful, then there is no villain or force that is up to the task of challenging them. The audience won’t believe that they are in any real trouble. It zaps the tension and the stakes from your story. The audience may even be bored.
If, possibly, you had a villain that was as or more powerful than a super-powered hero, then at least they are on an even playing field. But that’s tough. Again, I default to Superman. This time, his most recent incarnation. Think about how long that fight with Zod went on. After a while, it was like, I get it, they’re evenly matched… Yes, he eventually won, but I’m still not sure that I buy the scene as believable.
This principal should be related to non-superhero characters, as well. You can’t have your protagonist succeed in everything against all odds. At least, not easily. He can’t be the scientist, the mechanical engineer, who also moonlights as a doctor and took those pilot lessons that one time so of course he can land this commercial plane while shooting bad guys with a laser gun that he just invented.
There has to be some room for us to believe that the main character could lose. There has to be tension and stakes. We have to worry for them. Otherwise, what’s the point?