Earlier I posted about superpowers being a shortcut for creating interesting characters. After seeing Thor recently, I must say that superheroes become most interesting when they are not using their powers.  Since the comic books are such a huge world to themselves, I’m limiting my thoughts to the movie versions.


I saw Thor last week.  When Thor loses his god powers and becomes a mortal among humans, is when he is most entertaining. He’s still a viking, and vikings are cool, especially among scientists and pretty girls. Muscles aside, he’s charming and confident, and that makes him interesting. His vulnerability at that point also makes us have empathy towards him. To the audience, he is now more real.   Superpowers, while spectacular, push characters outside our world.  It’s when they come down to earth, like Thor, that we can experience their real “character.”

It is the same way with Robert Downy Jr. in Ironman. When he is Tony Stark, his cockiness and wit get laughs.  Pepper Potts treats him like a regular guy, which grounds him in reality.   It’s a formula that really works.  I have to say Bruce Wayne (Batman) never held my interest that much.

This is why The Incredibles is a great superhero story.   Their superpowers are constantly used for action and comedy, but it’s their situations that make them relatable.  As a family, they have all the same issues that regular families have.  The fact that society has rejected them and having to keep their nature secret is a pressure way beyond what normal families live with, and we see them dealing with it.  It all works together organically to create a rich story experience.


1 thought on “THOR”

  1. Most superheroes are cardboard cutouts because the focus is on the unimportant stuff… The McGuffin. Super powers don’t automatically make a character interesting. Specificity of personality does.

    Bogart is Bogart and Chaplin is Chaplin. They can be in just about any situation that fits their own internal logic and be interesting. It doesn’t matter if they can see through walls or bounce bullets off their chest. The vividness of their individuality is what makes them compelling.

    In The Incredibles, the family were so ordinary and archetypal, they became symbols of their characters… Generic dad, generic mom, generic kids… The only thing that made them truly unique was their superpowers, which put all the emphasis on the McGuffin. When the one specific and unique personality in the whole movie- Edna walked on the screen, she wiped the floor with everyone other character. It was impossible to care about any other character when she was on the screen.

    Had the emphasis been on creating specific personalities for the rest of the cast, we wouldn’t be talking about superpowers and details of the plot, we’d be talking about the characters and their particular motivations. The personalities would make the whole thing work, regardless of the situational details.

    Animation’s most deadly disease is archetypal characters. It was the internal rot that brought down Disney in the 70s, and it threatens to do the same today. We need to look to specific characters like Olive Oyl, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck for inspiration. And instead of building symbolic characters like Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver, we need to create individuals like Barney Fife, Fred Mertz and Miss Jane Hathaway. If the characters were more compelling, we wouldn’t be arguing things like “who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?”


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