Even Superheroes are Underdogs

Watch a good superhero movie and you’ll notice that despite having all these super powers, the hero is always the underdogs. That’s the way stories work. In ordinary stories like “Rocky” or “Die Hard,” the hero may have special skills, but the villain is always more powerful. In superhero movies, that’s no different.

In “Iron Man,” the hero may have an armored suit, but the villain has a more advanced one. In “Iron Man 3,” the hero has to fight in a prototype armor suit that’s not quite debugged while the villain has natural powers. In “Wonder Woman,” the hero has super powers but she’s lost in the world of humans and she must battle against Ares, who is not only more knowledgable about the world, but also more powerful.

The key to any story isn hat the hero must be the underdog. What happens if the hero isn’t weaker than the villain? Then you get a boring story. After all, how exciting would it be to watch Iron Man defeat an ordinary robber? Would anyone watch a movie if Wonder Woman had to fight against a guy in a wheelchair, threatening her with a pen knife?

The basic structure of any story is that the hero must be weaker than the villain and the villain must be a super powerful version of the hero. Once you have a villain that’s more powerful than the hero, then the tension arises from watching the hero try to defeat the villain anyway. More importantly, the villain is the anti-hero in the sense that the hero could choose to become exactly like the villain if he or she chose to.

In “Star Wars,” Luke could become Darth Vader and is already heading down that path. In “Wonder Woman,” Wonder Woman could join forces with Ares and rule with her god-like powers. The best villain is always more powerful than the hero and represents the evil version of the hero. If the hero should become evil, he or she would become the villain.

Even in the most ordinary movies, the hero could become like the villain. In “The Edge of Seventeen,” the hero is a 17-year old girl trying to find love. The villain is mostly herself but also her mother. If the hero should grow up without changing, she risks becoming just like her mother.

In “Colossal,” the hero is an alcoholic, party girl who finds that she can control a monster in Korea. Yet the villain is also an alcoholic, partier who can control a monster in Korea as well. His controlling behavior mimics the hero’s own controlling behavior. By mirroring the hero, the villain helps make the hero see what he or she could become.

No matter how much power the hero has, the villain always has more. In “Fury,” the hero is part of a tank crew. The villain is an entire battalion of dreaded Nazi SS soldiers who are the most vicious and battle-tested soldiers in the German army. To make matters worse, the hero’s tank is alone and disabled. No matter how strong the hero might be, the villain is always stronger.

Pick any good movie and you’ll find that this is always the case. Avoid this basic structure and your story literally has no foundation to start from.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”Final-Draft-book”]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Story Structure

Previous article

The Climactic Battle