6 Realistic Changes That Would Improve Superhero Movies

#3. The Helicarrier Works

Not so much a big ship as a baby Star Destroyer.

This isn't just for the movies, this includes the comics and cartoons, even the video games, anywhere. The S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier is meant to be a mobile city of justice, a floating fortress of immediate retaliation, but its only function is being blown up by bad guys. The government would be better off funding "Freebird" encores in oil refineries. They could only cause more regular explosions in the sky if they moved Groundhog Day to the Fourth of July.

S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel don't bother with alarm clocks -- they just wait for the next detonation.

Just once, I want to see this immensity of ass-kickers actually kick ass. And not as a quick joke: I want the heroes to spend the whole movie finding big, bad villains, then blot out their sun and just win. Because the villain isn't an entire superpower with an insane military budget and a hardware fetish, and simply can't have anything on the scale of the helicarrier. That is the whole point of a helicarrier.

#2. Being Brilliant at Something Isn't Good Enough

Superheroes are often the greatest at something before they even get their powers. But you simply can't be good enough at some things to beat other things. It's full-contact rock-paper-scissors: The world's greatest backflipper can't evade even an average-to-middling automatic-weapon-user.

"Wow, chum, it's way easier from this side of these things!"

We should see heroes go up against things they actually can't beat with their current strategy, forcing them to learn and try new things, instead of brooding for the second act before trying the same thing harder. Wolverine already has a lot of problems, and charging into machine-gun fire shouldn't be "soaks up a few hits then starts stabbing everyone"; it should be "immediately collapses into a pile of shredded guts because his indestructible bones are no longer connected to the muscles required to run."

That motorbike should be painted Canadian red.

The flipside of this super paper-rock-scissors game is the nerfing all the best powers. The most famous recent example was Avengers, in which an old bodybuilder, a walking weapon of mass destruction, and an actual God are all evenly matched, because otherwise the story doesn't work. But the most blatant example is Professor X, the most powerful psychic in the world, versus long-range Uri Geller. We're told Magneto created a metal helmet that blocks psychic power. How long has telepathy been a shitty mobile-phone signal? And does he wear it all the time? Does it rust in the shower? Does he make all his stupid villainous mistakes because he can't get any sleep with his head inside his filthy, rusted-steel skull prison?

Sure, it's hard to write a screenplay where all the powers interact well. That's why screenwriting is a job.

#1. Dealing With Their Origin Stories

A bizarre accident gives someone incredible powers far beyond mortal humans, and incredible amnesia about how that happened. According to movies, people give less thought to updating their bodies than their iPhones.

Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images
"If I gain the majestic ability to soar like an eagle, will Flappy Bird still work?"

The origin is just an excuse to give someone powers, but including it as part of the story and then ignoring it just makes the hero look stupid. Daredevil gains incredible super-senses when he's blinded by toxic sludge, then uses them to throw sticks at people. Because that's obviously what you'd do with a functional cure for blindness.

"And I'll use a combination nunchuck-skipping-rope to make sure I don't look cool for you assholes who can look at things."

That stuff probably gives you the eyes of a hawk if you don't use it as a facial scrub, and as a lawyer even his civilian identity has the power to track down the toxic chemicals that blinded a child. And if Bruce Banner hadn't gotten himself blasted by his own bomb, making him the worst military researcher ever, the first time the military used it they would have turned an entire enemy city into indestructible hulks. Making him an even worse military researcher. Including the origin and then ignoring it means you spend the entire second act with the hero not merely dropping Chekov's gun, but actively unloading it and throwing it away.

Starting super-sequences with an origin story means wasting at least a third of every movie on a random non-super asshole, then the whole "zero to hero" arc -- one we've already seen about everything from boxing to bloody breakdancing -- and the movie finally ends at the point where it should have started: the superperson in the movie's title.

We've got movies about people who can film action scenes in our dreams and engage in slow-motion gunfights in computers, and those didn't need an entire movie of setup first. We didn't have unpowered characters expositing, "Hey, life would be cooler with an incredible technology that connects fictional ideas to reality." That's what movies are! We don't need a crappy explanation; we need a kickass story. Tell you what, you start a movie called Superman with an amazing man flying and kicking ass, and I bet we'll be able to puzzle it out. Especially when you're now rebooting stories you've already told. There are only so many times we can see a man discovering a new ability, shooting stuff across the room, then looking at his own hand and going, "Whoa!" before we realize that isn't exciting, it's masturbation.

"Maybe I shouldn't be doing this in public."

Beware the power of MAX GATLING in The Manliest Names in Movies, and mourn the loss of Comics Continuity Casualty: Lady Blackhawk.

See more things movies should be doing with 5 Superheroes Who Should Have Gotten Movies Before Ant-Man and The 4 Best Moments in the Worst Movies Ever Made.

Luke's website looks at Why Cyclops Should Be the Best Boyfriend of All Time, he tumbles, and he responds to every single tweet.

Always on the go but can't get enough of Cracked? We have an Android app and iOS reader for you to pick from so you never miss another article.

Recommended For Your Pleasure

Luke McKinney

  • Rss

More by Luke McKinney:

See More
To turn on reply notifications, click here


The Cracked Podcast

Choosing to "Like" Cracked has no side effects, so what's the worst that could happen?

The Weekly Hit List

Sit back... Relax... We'll do all the work.
Get a weekly update on the best at Cracked. Subscribe now!