Superhero Power Creep

lead_960A few days ago I went to see Batman vs. Superman: A Movie Mostly Spoiled by Trailers. As the title suggests, the movie leads up to a fight between Batman and Superman, with one of the big questions throughout the movie being, “How can Batman possibly compete against Superman?”

Superman can fly. He’s incredibly strong. Bullets bounce off of him. He has heat-ray vision. Sure, he has one notable weakness–kryptonite–but without it, he’s nearly invincible.

This makes Superman both really fascinating and really boring.

It’s fascinating because I think we geeks like power creep. What’s better than a 12 foot giant? A 20 foot giant! What’s better than someone who can run faster than the speed of sound? Someone who can run faster than the speed of light! We love that stuff.

But…it doesn’t work cinematically. Particularly when two near-invincible forces fight each other. In both recent Superman movies, there are epic battle scenes where Superman (and General Zod, in the first movie) just punch each other a lot. For those punches to resonate with the audience, though, they need to matter, and they don’t. They don’t even hurt.

The solution to making those action scenes more interesting, in my opinion, is to give the invincible characters interesting choices. Save one or save many. Reveal your identity or remain anonymous. Team up with one person or the other. Chase the bad guy or run away. That kind of thing.

To Zack Snyder’s credit, he does give Superman a few interesting choice in between all of the meaningless punching. I’m looking forward to see how Marvel deals with this issue with Thor and Hulk in their next movies.

What do you think about superhero power creep?